Nordest Studio: Driftnote Interview
Story and original photography for Nordest Studio’s artist feature series.
Honest art is a process of vulnerability, but when you’re an artist immersed in new technology, it also requires a certain awareness that your mediums are in constantly flux. Perhaps there’s no one better to handle the drifty nature of this kind of art than Driftnote. Originally from Venezuela, Driftnote spent many years moving through several cities across Canada before landing in Toronto. He’s hardly ever in one place for long both physically and artistically. He's best known for his interactive sound instalments which have been widely admired at the AGO and the Canadian Museum of Nature. From filmmaking to three-dimensional visual art, there is nothing static about Driftnote’s work.
Did you parents support your artistic curiosities growing up?
My parents never supported my art. (laughs) To this day, they have no idea what I do. I was very shy in high school and somewhat isolated. I would just go home for lunch and play guitar. Each day has just taken me to where I am now.
Let’s talk about the name ‘Drifnote’. Where did that persona emerge from?
It’s a musical note and a written note. Something that drifts is constantly in motion and that’s kind of like my work now. I don’t remain static. I also give myself a lot of space so I can move around and explore. I’m guided by the process. I might render something and then maybe the light or the colour might make me think of something else then I’ll change the piece.
Your art encompasses not only music, but so many other mediums including virtual reality. So, how do you describe what you do?
How much time do you have? To sum it up, I am a multidisciplinary or multimedia artist. I started with music, so I went to school for music and began with jazz. Through music I got into computers by making music on computers, which led to putting on shows then learning about lights, projections, and video. Most recently, my art is autobiographical. I’m trying to document my experiences, so that someone like my daughter can look through my work when she’s 30 and get a sense of what I was thinking about or understand my opinions. That’s really important to me in my work.
I’ve seen you react differently to each medium you work in. You’re most open in sharing your visual work but hesitant when it comes to music. Can you talk about that?
It’s really vulnerable to share your art work. You don’t really know who’s reading it or how it’s being read. You’re putting a huge part of yourself out there and you know that people are going to critique it.
Is vulnerability necessary for truly creative and meaningful work?
Definitely. It’s really personal. I’m not trying to make pretty things for the sake of aesthetics. As an artist, you know some of the history of the people who have come before you and the people who are making art currently. So, that’s terrifying, because you have the weight of history on you. I feel responsible. Am I contributing anything or am I being redundant? I think of art as a dialogue and wanting to be able to contribute to the conversation.
Some artists get a little embarrassed when they look back on their past work — it’s like experiencing an art hangover. Do you ever feel the same way?
Yeah. All the time. Sometimes I don’t look at something for a while. If I write a song, I won’t listen to it for years. That’s why I release projects under different personas. When I was making music, I had about five different names that I used. It also allowed me to not be tied to a brand per se. What I’m doing right now is Driftnote which has more to do with visual art, but that could change.
What motivates you to keep putting yourself out there?
You’re invisible if you don’t speak.