This week, we would like you to meet sound and installation artist, Ryan Edwards of MASARY Studios! Ryan’s work has been described as one that focuses on intersection of interactivity, sound and light.
What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
I started in the arts as a drummer, which just seemed like a fun thing to do as a kid. I joined the school band in 6th grade. When I got a chance to play jazz as an early teenager, I was just lit up. Playing for dancers at a big band jazz dance sealed the deal. I knew why I was on the planet from then forward. I loved making people dance. That love of dance as a musician led me down the road of West African drum and dance, and then to composition for ballet and contemporary dance styles, as well as film. I have always been interested in my music being useful, impactful and in response to something. The work itself being in a real-time dialogue with another media has always been exciting. I think there is a bit of a line from those origins to what I do now, co-directing an inter-disciplinary arts and performance studio.
What specifically drew you to light and sound installations? What do you find to be your biggest challenge when working with less tangible mediums?
Light and sound installations are a natural extension of my love for music and dance. I just branched out and started thinking of that core roots relationship in broader and broader terms.
What are some of the challenges faced with these mediums?
It’s harder to explain it to my parents, that’s for sure. But also, even though this sector or presentation is growing, it is still a challenege to relate to and discuss the work with some presenters. Not everyone has a vocabulary for presenting sound and light-based works, so there is sometimes a bit of extra work to explain how to present what we do, so that it can be presented well.
How does the architecture or environment of each performance location influence/inform your works? Is a specific “venue” considered from the beginning of the creative process, or is it selected later on to fit a creative vision (or something else)?
Some of our works are designed to be somewhat tour-able in the sense that have a built-in flexibility to adapt to a site. Most of our work would also fall into the “public art” category, so that also sets the terms of the presentation. Typically, the community, the presenter, the site, the attendees, the ambient light and sounds, etc., are all ultimately a part of the work. A piece like Sound Sculpture has a repeatability. But the work is not “finished” until people play with it, until it is live and and lit and sounding in a space. And that space, those people experiencing it are what complete it. So it is not only site-specific, but also site-co-created.
Other large-scale works we create are actually inspired by the site and created in response to a commission that asks us to relate to the environment in a certain way. This could be a bridge, a ball park, a city square or the facade of an historic building. We often are looking at these elements and teasing out rhythms, concepts, shapes, stories and finding a suitable way to present these, in the context of the commission and the presenters vision for the community.
How do you protect your work?
I have not dealt with copright but I have applied for and was granted a patent for a “location-aware musical instrument” for our work Sound Sculpture. It was recommended to me by a few colleagues. So I approached the Arts and Business Council and its partner Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in Boston, where I live. I was referred to an attorney who explained the basics of patents to me, and gave me some resource tips on how to learn about the process and do myown art research.
That was a fun process. After the attorney and I had completed the patent search, he crafted the application documents. The process was extremely interesting and enriching, and the support by the attorney was humbling. This guy was so smart, and so dedicated to the project, and learned about what I had created more intimately than anyone had up to that point. Ultimately, we were successful in getting the patent and that has been an extremely positive affirmation to my work and the piece itself.
In what ways do you find that technology enhances your creativity?
Typically, technology is very helpful. The affordability of high-lumen projectors (increasingly on 110v power!) has made what we do much more accessible – not just to us but to bring this type of work to many more sites, festivals and events. Our ability to genuinely work across media and communicate, create and share languages is greatly impacted by fast computing, custom and commercial software, and affordable networking solutions. There are times that making tech-based work seems like a drag, and the technology gets in the way. But that usually means we are barking up the wrong tree and should try a different angle. Ask for more help, find another approach or tool, etc.
What advice would you give to other creators in the performance-installation realm?
The biggest advice is to stay with it if you really want to do this work and offer something to the world. The old adage is true that it takes years to get good at something, to refine and understand your craft. Unfortunately, the art world does not generally remunerate us while we are figuring it out. So we have to be creative and stay strong, keep developing and investing, experimenting and growing.
Also, in this field, the work should ultimately be simple. It is so easy to layer on the tech, the lofty artists’ statements and the self-importance of a complicated project. But in the end, we typically want people to connect with the essence of the work, rather than the technology or the work itself, unless that is the intention.
What do you hope that the public takes away from your work?I always hope people connect with something. That they have a feeling through that connection they make to our art.
Photographer: Adam DeTour