Artist Candas Sisman Reinvents Reality By Shifting The Way We Think About Digital Data

The Turkish digital artist discusses a new language born of digital and physical mergers.


We recently stumbled across the work of digital artist Candas Sisman and were smitten by his ability to enliven physical matter with digital life in order to arrive at what he refers to as a “hybrid reality.” Sisman plays the middleman between the two, strongly believing that in present-day they can no longer be perceived as separate. This notion is central to his work, which extends across motion graphics, electroacoustic music, digital installation art, generative art, and music visualization.

The Turkish-native creates works that appear simple and pure, yet almost always represent highly complex structures and data. Whether he is visualizing data invisible to the human eye or reinterpreting tangible sculptures that marry science and art, Sisman’s pieces are visual treats and immersive experiences that enchant the audience.

We connected with Sisman over email to learn more about the motivations behind his work and his vision for today's "hybrid reality."

The Creators Project: It's clear you're interested in investigating the relationship between the physical and digital. How do you see the relationship between the two?

Candas Sisman: It’s absolutely true. My interest in them is manifold. Firstly, I want to question the frameworks we draw with concepts. I try to demolish the walls of two different realities we call digital and physical so that they can feed off of each other and generate a hybrid reality, because I think that we cannot perceive any concept separately from others, and that everything we know balances each other out into either existence or destruction. Generally, my outlook is based on not taking a specific side. That is to say, there is always a feeling of being stuck in the middle. Because I think this way, I can have the most objective and the widest perspective.

Another reason is that I think these two definitions intermingle as a natural part of evolution. At this point, we need to ask ourselves whether evolution should necessarily follow a physical and organic path. That is to say, should it follow life as we know it? When we look back in history, it is obvious from what kind of life forms we evolved. Therefore, I feel our perception of life will eventually change too, because what we call evolution is a phenomenon that perpetually renews itself. I cannot foresee its form, but this process is definitely going to be molded by technology since every day we witness that the physical and the digital intermingle. I think the relationship between the physical and the digital is a very current topic. That’s why I try to explore it.  

What about your interest in visualizing data?

My interest in data visualization stems from my wish to convert physically imperceptible phenomena and situations into perceptible ones. As we know, human biology can only perceive certain frequency intervals in nature. So, there is a lot that we cannot perceive around us. One of the reasons that makes data visualization important is because it goes beyond that. Another reason is that it can show us events in an objective way just like looking at a picture as a whole. I think this is very important, because events or situations can be better understood only from a wide perspective. Data visualization is a nice tool for that.

I also have a criticism about data visualization. It is nice to show what exists, but to me, this method is too scientific. At this point, I prefer to present data after I interpret it according to my own viewpoint. I want to add my own input as an artist. It is a delicate matter to balance whether data visualization is more of an art than science. 

My research topics and data usually have a vague start. I try to leave it open-ended so that it finds its own form in time rather than determining a goal or theme at the start and go from there. That is to say, my creative process starts without a specific destination, as is the case with an engineer or positivist scientist. First, the language I want to use materializes in my mind. Then, this language generates its own conceptual infrastructure. I see forming the language and then meaning around it as more organic than creating sense first to fit the language later. The vagueness I mentioned earlier involves a lot of subconscious data that I accumulated over time. They exist in a nebula anyway. What I evolve into is determined by my instantaneous choices.  

Your work stretches across digital art, animation, performing arts, and motion graphics. What do multi-disciplinary practices add to your work?

One of my priorities is to manipulate people’s perception, and produce work that appeals to different ways of perceiving at the same time. Therefore, one of the most important reasons for me to use different disciplines is to be able to address different senses. Just like in synesthesia, I wonder  how sound feels as a visual or how a visual can be perceived as the wind. Using different disciplines enables this kind of exploration. 

Another reason is that I also wish to remain in the limbo as far as disciplines are concerned. This way, I can make many different disciplines interact with each other, which presents a vital opportunity in my search for a new language. Actually, why I use different disciplines is also related to the times we live in. We live amidst a chaos of very intense information and possibilities.  We have a very eclectic lifestyle in our creative processes and our lifestyle. What we basically do is to combine different possibilities to produce mixed varieties, that is to mix or make them up. Now, only our choices, that is, which colors we want to use matter. I don’t believe in creating something from scratch. At this point, the fact that contemporary artists use different disciplines is actually quite related to the society and the age we live in. 

In FLUX, you reinterpret sculptor İlhan Koman's work in a digital medium. Can you tell us a little bit more about this project? What compelled you to do this?

FLUX started when I got invited to join the İlhan Koman exhibition to be opened in Plato Art Gallery in 2010. İlhan Koman is one of the artists I like the most and feel close to in the history of Turkish art. So, it made me very happy to be invited to such a project. FLUX developed by digitally simulating İlhan Koman’s works and adding my own interpretation. I re-simulated some of his work (like Pi, 3D Moebius) [usind] their creative logic in a digital medium, and thus I transferred physical structures into a quantitative setting. I tried to create the interpretation and aesthetic in the quantitative setting as well, and generate an audiovisual language.  

Besides these, I produced a conceptual flow for myself, too. As you can see in FLUX, the beginning is with a very minimal object, a circle. This object gradually morphs into a more complicated structure. At the end of the process, it goes back to a minimal structure, namely a line. Here, we have a simple-complex-simple flow. This formula is very important for me. I can observe this process or formula in many things in life. If I need to give a specific example, when we are born, we perceive our environment and events very simply with the limited knowledge and experience we have. In youth, however, we go through a chaotic experience due to environmental factors, our own experiences and knowledge. After this period, in old age, we look at situations again rather simply thanks to our experiences and choices. This process can be found in human history, biology, the structure of the cosmos, art history and psychology. Also, another important feature of this formula is that it is cyclical. I see the cyclical nature of things as a very basic building block. Therefore, FLUX starts minimally and ends minimally. 

In your audiovisual piece EFF-LUX, you visualize the music of Lithuanian composer Egidija Medekšaitė. What was it like to collaborate with Medekšaitė?

Actually, it was a delightful project for me, because I had the opportunity to work with a contemporary composer like Egidija for the first time. The production process was really very short, but the duration of animation was rather long. I can say I produced a 20 min. animation in three days. This was a painful but performative process for me. Under normal circumstances, storyboard etc. need to be prepared beforehand, but I created the whole setting in an improvisational way, and that took me beyond what I had imagined. Another characteristic of EFF-LUX is that, musically speaking, it had a repetitive acoustic structure. Until this project, I had usually created volatile and digital sound compositions. At this point, interpreting acoustic sounds together with digital visuals and describing long processes with repetitions was a nice problem for me, because this way, I got an organic structure. Eventually, we had a meditative experience. 

Can we expect more of these collaborative efforts from you in the future? Any dream collaborations, living or dead?

I am only at the beginning. So,  I will engage in many different collaborations in the upcoming period. If you ask me about who I dream of collaborating with, I can count many names: artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Carsten Nikolai, Anish Kapoor, Ryoichi Kurokawa, Anti VJ, Pe Lang, Tokujin Yoshioka, Tristan Perich, Antoni Tapies, Ryoji Ikeda, Thomas McIntosh, Ai Weiwei and musicians like Arvo Pärt, Aphex Twin, Autechre, Raz Mesinai, Chemirani Trio, Ensemble Modern, Mauricio Kagel.

In some of your pieces, sound plays a significant role. For example, NOISEFLOOR is a data sculpture comprising plexiglass, foam, animation and sound. How does the accompanying audio relate to the physical component of the installation?

Sound and music matter to me a lot. I see sound as a completely different language and communication tool. To me, it is a very natural and pure communication tool isolated from the concepts imposed on and taught to us. It appeals to more people’s sensibilities. Since I try to create a different language in my work, sound has a distinct place in it. I generally think of sound first and then sight to establish that relationship. Especially, if I design a moving visual, I time it according to the sounds I imagine in my mind. Sound is key for me to distance myself as much as possible from a conceptual way of thinking and approach an emotional way of thinking.

In NOISEFLOOR, I zoomed a sound I recorded with a microphone in a quiet environment 1/10.000 per second in a digital setting. It is an audiovisual installation I designed out of the emerging frequency structure in 3D, plus the animation and sound frequency I juxtaposed onto this form. What I wanted to express in this work is that silence cannot exist. I tried to make visible the basic sounds in the most quiet environments (the rotation of the Earth, the sound of the atmosphere, other environmental sounds) and invisible frequencies.  

Another reason I use sound as an important component in my work is that I want many different precepts to be felt as one--just like in synesthesia.


Are you working on new projects at the moment?

Sure, naturally there are always new projects. At NOHlab (a multidisiplinary studio Sisman founded with his friend Deniz Kader in 2011), we are working on an audiovisual series for the fashion giant Chanel next year. Also, right now, we are developing a generative visual software for DJ Markus Schulz from Miami. We will release this software as a NOS visual engine in the forthcoming months. Additionally, we have a short film project that involves the ABB robot, projection mapping, and a performer. The projects are collective ones. Besides these, I work on my personal art projects. The project that excites me most is one that I prepare for a collective exhibition in Istanbul. I will create a spatial installation in a container in this project.

To check out Sisman’s most recent personal art project SYN-Phon, visit the artist’s website