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NEoN interview with Matthew Collings

NEoN are always curious to learn more about our collection of artists on a more personal level. They regularly have to cram packed lives full of creative performances, exciting commissions and adventurous tours exhibiting their latest pieces of work. We’ve recently caught up with with Matthew Collings for a chat about his experience producing ‘HeartBeater’ for NEoN and the lead up to the festival.

[NEoN] Can you give us some background about yourself any training/education you have in this area and some of your first major successes?

[Matthew Collings] I lived in Iceland for 6 years, where I was lucky enough to work with some amazing artists, like Ben Frost and Valgeir Sigurdsson from the Bedroom Community Label. Since then I studied Digital Composition and Performance at Edinburgh University and have worked freelance with sound for the last year. My work has been exhibited at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Burning Man Festival (USA) and I was part of a performance in the National Museum of Scotland this summer, which was a unique opportunity.

We are very pleased to have you back for your second consecutive year. What interested you in coming back?

I think Neon is a really interesting festival, and it’s great to be working outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow. This is an exciting project for me, working specifically with a venue and with one of my close collaborators, Erik Parr.

What do you personally hope to achieve or experience at NEoN this year
and what else are you looking forward to seeing?

I’m looking forward to seeing the light/sound work on the side of the University building. I love work like this which is public and gets this kind of art into a more generalised space, outside of galleries. I hope people find our piece inspiring a rich, immersive experience.

Can you give us a taster/overview of what you are going to be presenting at NeoN?

HeartBeater is an audio-visual installation which creates a reactive environment. The public shape this environment through their movements, which manipulate a rich sonic and visual world. I hope this will be an uplifting and exciting experience for people, rather than something focused on technology itself. I always want to try and dissolve the use of technology in my work, so that it becomes unnoticeable, even though it is integral to how the piece is created.

Can you explain to us how you think your exhibition pieces ties in with this years NEoN themes of movement between virtual and reality environments?

Without movement, nothing happens. You have to move to interact with the piece. I’m really interested in physicality in sound and with technology, as we all spend too much time sitting static behind machines and using very minimal movements. I want to feel sound, and feel like I’m affecting it.

What inspired your latest piece of work?

HeartBeater is a development on ‘MeloDEE’, a piece I showed at Neon last year. This used gaming controllers to create a triangular space which dancers interacted with. The choreography explored and fed off this sound world I had designed, and vice-versa. I love this idea of exploration in this kind of world; it’s almost childlike, and non-intellectual, more like ‘standing here and doing this sounds really odd/interesting/exciting’.

The installation is a fascinating example of combining digital technology with meditation; can you describe the experience the installation creates and how this is different from traditional meditation practises?

The sonic and visual space is designed so people will explore it, and that this will reward them by doing so; almost like going to an abstract space which pulls you deeper into another state. A lot of my favourite sound/music has this immersive transcendent quality.

What effects do you think your exhibition will have on participant’s mental state and physical wellbeing?

I’m hoping that this immersive exploration or sound and visuals will leave people refreshed, no matter what their age or background, like they have escaped into something completely separate from reality and come back again.

What is the significance of having multiply controllers as apposed to one? And what interactions do you expect to observe between multiple users?

Using multiple controllers makes it possible for a number of people to be involved in the work at the same time. I find this really rewarding to see, as so much of what I do involves me sitting on my own at a computer, which is strangely de-humanizing…I hope people find it a fun as well as a reflective experience interacting with the work.

The participants are provided with music, which they can physically manipulate, what is this music like and what are some of the resulting effects they can create?

I wouldn’t say that all of the sound is ‘music’ as such, but a lot of it has recognisable musical qualities. I’m interested in that grey area, and having ‘music’ collapse into pure sound and vice-versa.

Similar to the previous question, you have chosen water to visualise the participants’ movement. Why have you chosen water specifically?

This was a theme suggested by the Nilupul center, as they are exploring this in their own work. As this will be a permanent installation as will remain there after Neon, we wanted to present them with something they could use in the future for further work and events with the community.

What would be your advice to someone wishing to follow your example?

Be bold with your ideas and have faith in them, try to develop your own voice as much as possible, and work extremely hard.

Make sure you catch the live performance of Heartbeater  at the Nilupul foundation on Thursday 8th November, cheese and wine reception from 7pm!

Tickets:  Available below

Online Ticketing for Heartbeater powered by Eventbrite


Thu 8th, 7.30 pm – 9pm
Nilupul Foundation
Reform Street