2F4F on a new era of blending sound and visual

All too often, the music industry isolates the visual component of music creation from its sonic counterpart, reducing it to mere promotional use as is evidenced by the prevalence of the video clip format. In light of Brussels-based audio-visual label 2F4F’s recently-launched residency for The Word Radio—a yearlong programme that’ll see them create a visual narrative to accompagny the radio’s many planned live broadcasts and events—we sit down with Daya Halle (1992) and Katia Lecomte (1991) to discuss going against the preconceived codes of both the music industry and the contemporary art scene.

Visuals 2F4F (c)

How would you describe your label?

Daya: Traditionally, in the music industry, the track always comes first and foremost before the music video. Our idea behind 2F4F is to find a process that doesn’t dissociate one from the other, and where both are constructed at the same time. What I find really interesting is that this process can be applied to any medium: it doesn’t have to be electronic music and its complimentary video; it can be any sound material that can be constructed together with the visual aspect, be it the body, theatre, sculpture, or typography. It’s about finding that connection.

Your centres of interest are quite varied. What are your backgrounds?

Katia: I studied video and sound at the Fine Arts of Nancy for four years. I then became an Erasmus exchange student in animation at La Cambre for half a year and ended up doing a Master’s in animation at ERG.

Daya: I studied communication for two years in France and did a few internships for music label and theatres, which made me realise that communication wasn’t quite the direction I wanted to take. So, I moved to Brussels to study graphic design at ERG and specialised in video and serigraphy.

How and when did the project get started?

Katia: We both had the same idea of launching an audio-visual label before we even met. We heard of each other through many common friends and decided to meet up, and it’s been about a year since we started working together.

Daya: The hardest part of creating our label was to define it— both as a label as well as an audio-visual project. We wanted to create a platform that brings various artists and projects together, but we didn’t yet know how to classify and showcase them—per project, per artist or per medium?

Katia: We didn’t want to fall into the trap of becoming visual artists who simply work for a sound artist or vice versa. Instead, we wanted to see real collaborations happen, which is why we decided to classify the label per project rather than per artist.

2F4F stands for 2 Files 4 Free—why the name?

Katia: Our label is about connecting two artists, mediums or materials—sound and visual, for instance. In our view, what matters most is the process behind this collaboration, from its documentation to its production; its development and reuse. In that sense, our approach is very similar to that of a free, open source file which is accessible and modifiable with a password.

What do you intend to share with the public by emphasising the process and collaboration, rather than the oeuvre itself?

Katia: For one, videography doesn’t carry the same notion of uniqueness a painting does. A video is a digital file one can share with another via USB stick or WeTransfer. There’s a completely different approach to it.

Daya: We try to offer something that’s not static by finding ways to reuse and develop it further. So, instead of creating one final piece, what we produce can be reused and modified by other artists.

Katia: Which goes against a more traditional oeuvre’s aura.

Daya: This also resonates in our website where one project leads to an artist, who then leads you to another artist and project, and so on. Like an infinite cloud.

So in a way you’re going against the codes and formats of traditional art.

Katia: The problem we have with plastic and contemporary arts is that they’re all about codes, codes and more codes. Huge aesthetic codes. We’re precisely anti-“TV on a pedestal”, which we used to encounter all the time during our studies. I’m pretty sure this traumatised us! We have a lot to say through our personal work, as well as that of other artists manipulating sonic and visual materials. It’s our way of going against these codes, because sometimes they don’t really make any sense. You could have a video which is amazing, but is presented as something so inaccessible that eventually the visual work gets lost on its way. I believe you can take a project much further with more simple things.

Daya: The idea is also to show that art is not only about aesthetics. In fact, it’s rather easy to create something beautiful, as long as you have a kind of sensibility. Our aim is to make people think. Some art exhibitions for example are so obscure that no one really knows what’s going on, so we want to be generous with our audience by offering them an interactive experience where they can ask themselves questions.

The problem we have with plastic and contemporary arts is that they’re all about codes, codes and more codes. Huge aesthetic codes. We’re precisely anti-“TV on a pedestal”.

You stated on your Facebook page that “if documentation becomes a work of art, the promotional aspect of the creative product won’t be perverted”. Could you elaborate on this?

Katia: I wrote this at the very beginning of 2F4F. I must have been very inspired! What I tried to express is that what matters to us is not producing something finished, but rather the process and collaboration involved. So if we attach as much importance to the documentation of the artist and the project—be it a zine or a tape—the object itself should also be considered as a part of the process. Let’s imagine we organise a residence with several artists before releasing a DVD with hundreds of files that were produced during this residence. Instead of being sold as a promotional material, this DVD could be handed out to other artists for free, who then can take these files and rework them. As such, the DVD becomes a form of documentation as well as a key component of the project.

Can you give us an example where you applied this methodology?

Katia: When Geoid Color Circle released their album Never Ever Disco, we produced a tape for their track Down By Enclosure as well as a music video. When purchasing the tape, you receive a little kit with a folder featuring a visual from the video and a link to it.

Daya: There are also pieces of the materials we used in the music video.

Katia: It’s a first step in what we’re aiming at—however in retrospect, I think we should take it further.

So how are you going to make these collaborations happen within your label?

Katia: We’ve started contacting audio and visual artists, and have three projects confirmed already.

Daya: We can make collaborations happen in many different ways: artists can come to us with their own projects to work with us, or we put them in touch with another artist; we could send guidelines to artists; or we could find venues for artists who have already got a finished product under their belt. Each case is unique, and our idea is to extend our label to all mediums and types of artists.

I guess you take different directions depending on who you work with. But how would you describe your visual identity so far?

Daya: One of the reasons why we work well together is because we have quite different visual backgrounds. Our aesthetics are different, but complementary. So if we’re working on a video or poster, I’ll start and Katia will finish it off, or vice versa. Besides, we work with a wide variety of materials, from digital to analogue. We also do a lot of abstract work, but while always creating things that people can recognise themselves in.

Katia: We often hear there’s a quirky side to our work. Let’s take the music video we made together for Geoid Color Circle for example, which was our closest collaboration so far. People told us it’s both beautiful and disturbing at the same time. It’s hard to describe ourselves but I’d say there’s something organic to what we create.

Daya: I think 2F4F is a byword for organic. We work with a lot of different materials, which we then film. We start from something real, but then rework the image so many times with different methods that the audience doesn’t know what’s in front of them anymore.

You worked on The Word Turns Ten party at C12 as well as other parties. Is nightlife an environment you want to explore further?

Katia: It’s true that both Daya and I are already involved in the local nightlife scene through our friends, the collectives we work with and as music producers ourselves. I find scenography in nightlife to be important and there’s a lot to experiment with, even if people tend to stick to the same format.

Daya: We’ve both done quite a bit of VJing at parties, but to be fair, we’re over it. Clubs always stick to this frontal format—a crowd facing a DJ, with some random video projections in the background. I sometimes had to create visuals for people I hadn’t even exchanged ideas with. Some VJs work with prerecorded projects playing on loop during the party, but the main idea is to come prepared with a database of videos that’s mixed live, according to the music and its kicks. It’s like a DJ set in itself. The downside to this is that it’s done by yourself at home, rather than together with the DJ. I think this format feels forced and that’s exactly what we’re going against. We want to create an immersive experience that’s been constructed together with the DJ instead. Otherwise there’s no point, really.

2F4F just started a one-year visual residency at The Word Radio in January. They handled the scenography for our party at CIVA for Museum Night Fever, as they’ll be for Psst Mademoiselle’s first anniversary bash at Beursschouwburg on Friday 8th March, as well as some video work for our BOUGE B’s afterparty at deSingel on Saturday 16th March.