Bass Structures – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Bass _1 "48 Hz" Oil and Acrylic on Plexiglas, 24" x 24" 2011

Bass _1 “48 Hz” Oil and Acrylic on Plexiglas, 24″ x 24″ 2011

Briefly describe the work you do.

We harness the power of sound to arrange paint on canvas.  This is done through a visual and audial experience, in which Bass Structures will sometimes collaborate with musicians and/or other sound artists.   The paintings then, are a visual record of that experience.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

We met at the Milwauee Institute of Art and Design and started working together in 2010.  We went through a year of research and development before our first show of frequency based studies.  It has been a wild ride since.  We are both painters, sculptors, and musicians with an eclectic taste for life.  

The Wassilys (our music composing robots) only talk in bleeps and waoums, but we imagine that they have lovely things to say about their short lives.  

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

The thing that is really unique about Bass Structures is that the WAY that the work is created.  So, we try to include the audience in that process as much as possible.  The majority of our new paintings have been made in a gallery or collaborative setting with musicians.  The rest are results of our solitary “studio practice” of equipment creation and other various experimentations.

Bass_2  "Still from the creation of 38 Hertz,"  Oil and Acrylic on Plexiglas, 24" x 24" 2012

Bass_2 “Still from the creation of 38 Hertz,” Oil and Acrylic on Plexiglas, 24″ x 24″ 2012

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

Pseudo Scientist/Inventors.  We both thought that a pursuit of fine art would involve painting on stretched canvas in the studio, and had absolutely no idea we would end up messing with physics and programming robots.  

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can? 

Art creation has been synonymous with sleep deprivation since we were both studying at MIAD. So, our answer is going to have to be “that magic time somewhere between midnight and sunrise.” This is when all of the course changing ideas have come around.  But really, any time of the day or night is enjoyable. 

Bass_3 Still from the creation of 34 Hertz", Oil and Acrylic on Plexiglas 24” x 24” 2012

Bass_3 Still from the creation of 34 Hertz”, Oil and Acrylic on Plexiglas 24” x 24” 2012

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

In the last 4 years we have gone through 9 separate sound transferring systems, over a dozen materials used as the “canvas,” and we’re not entirely sure how many combinations of paint and particles have been experimented with to form the imagery.  We have collaborated with a wide variety of bands and musical sources ranging from classical to heavy metal.  We’ve used atmospheric sound sources and constant sources (i.e. Hertz wavelengths), and we have programed music composing robots (something we call the Wassily Collective).  We are constantly searching for something new.  Throughout this, though, there has been the striking constant of fractal like forms.  We take this to mean that sound has a shape, and all of our variables are merely distortions.

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

All of our friends and family have been extremely supportive and helpful in this.  This phenomenon that we are capturing has a way of sparking some very deep philosophical discussions, which is very fulfilling and is a great inspiration in our search for distortion.  We owe a lot to Ernst Chladni, who is credited as the pioneer in studying the effect of sound on the physical world.  Something that is broadly referred to as cymatics.  We have affinity with contemporaries such as Evan Grant, Sonic Water Laboratory, Bartholomäus Traubeck, Neil Harbisson, and John Mueller.

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

Astronauts.  In part, because we want to test Bass Structures in zero gravity… we may be working on trying to convince NASA to have us be their first Artist in Residence that actually goes into space….


collin_and_emmanuelBass Structures: the Mark of Sound is a collaborative body of work between artists Emmanuel Fritz and  Collin Schipper. They use sound to arrange paint into geometric and/or fractal-like patterns.  This happens in both the pigments and the 3-dimensional space that the paint occupies.  The patterns are subject to several factors.  The note/frequency that is pulsing through the system reacts uniquely to the types of materials used in the process. The chemical make up of the paint and surface, the shape of that surface, as well as environmental factors of temperature/humidity/etc… all have a part in the equation that makes the piece what it is.

Started as an observational exploration of the effects of sound on materials, this body of work is based on research surrounding cymatics. They have made the decision to keep a portion of our portfolio dedicated to this observation.  However, they have also begun to go beyond observing/recording the effect of a single note over time.  They create experimental music using frequency generated sounds, instrumental sculptures, and self programed synths; as well as collaborations with other musicians and musical groups, to observe what their sounds look like. 

From the opening reception at Var Gallery and Studios 2013

From the opening reception at Var Gallery and Studios 2013

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 

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