Company Post


Founded by Noemi Schipfer and Takami Nakamoto creative studio NONOTAK has been captivating and fascinating audiences the world over with their iconic light and sound installations and performances since 2011. Drawing from their respective backgrounds as visual artist and architect/musician the duo capitalize on Schipfer’s artistry with kinetic visuals and geometric illustration and Nakamoto’s mastery of light, sound and space to create sumptuous, holistic experiences that are much, much more than the sum of their parts. We are very pleased to share with our readers this candid look into the ideas, inspirations, processes and experiments that go into making NONOTAK a creative force in the contemporary art world and a precious part of our TouchDesigner community.

Derivative: You recently exhibited a solo show in Cannes, can you tell us a bit about it? 

Tak: Indeed, "HORIZONS" is the name of the solo show still running in Cannes which is curated by Cineum Cannes. The location we are exhibiting at is a complex with both cinemas and exhibition spaces and the interesting part of this project is the fact we have both setup permanent installations within the cinema and a solo exhibition at the ground level, being two separate projects. That way the audience can both encounter our work while going to the movies or by visiting our solo exhibition."HORIZONS" is composed of a brand new installation called "Highway" which is a 16m long horizontal light linescape.Sound and light are travelling together, making the audience feel like they are contemplating.  

Noemi: Yes we are presenting two installations and a few audiovisual pieces.The solo exhibition format is something that is interesting, because it’s not only about one installation, but the relationship between a few pieces and how you bring them into a narration. It’s fun to expand our aesthetic into a journey.

Derivative: How did NONOTAK begin and what were you doing before that?   

Tak: I am a former architect even though I've always been in various bands as a guitar player since I was in high school. I liked modifying sounds I recorded from my guitars and already embraced the potential of sampling back at that time, even though I didn't realize that was going to be a fundamental part of my creative process later on. When NONOTAK started I was working in a Parisian architecture studio, working on auditorium projects. I liked architecture but couldn't stand the feeling of not being sovereign of my own work. If politicians changed minds overnight, it was something that I had to adapt to no matter what, even though each project's drawings took years to be complete, sometimes power made you change your work and I was really unfortunate since I considered architecture as an abstract form of expression, at least not political. Also sitting on a desk almost every day was something I tried to avoid at all cost, and this is where Noemi and I thought about leaving everything and put together our collaboration NONOTAK.

It wasn't an easy path and shouldn't be, but we have been learning so much from our experiences and getting inspired by every project we are working on. This whole journey of research about light, sound and space has been so unique.  

Noemi: I’ve always been sensitive to everything that is visual and loved to draw as far as I remember. As a child I felt that I had advantages in drawing/painting and I always wanted to be an artist.

We first met when we were in high school.

For the high school degree you need to pick up two foreign languages and because we were both already bilingual in Japanese from our parents we attend that advanced course that was common for all Parisians who had chosen Japanese for the degree. We met back during summer holidays in Tokyo when Tak was studying architecture and I graduated from art school. At that time I was freelancing in illustration and developing a drawing style around lines and visual illusion through patterns. I also had a big interest in animation, photography and videos. Right before NONOTAK I wanted to be a film director and was having fun experimenting with cameras and making some short movies. Most of the medium I was working on was “2 dimensional” and it was really inspiring to listen to Tak’s approach on architecture and space.

Tak also had a band where he was the guitarist and the main composer. I used to follow them on several shows to film their live performance.The first official project we worked on together was a mural painting in the entrance of a building in Paris from the architecture studio Tak was working in at that time. We had a lot of fun working on that project and we wanted to do more together. This first project was mainly visual and Tak wanted to design the space itself and incorporated the notion of sound in our future work. Right before summer 2012 there was an open call for an exhibition project at Palais de Tokyo, which is an exhibition space in Paris and a place I loved to hang out when I was younger. We decided to take that opportunity to develop our new installation.

We spent all our summer 2012 confined in a dark studio trying to make our first installation, learning technically how to link audio with visual, how to do video mapping and programming the piece.

We pretty much learn everything from the internet. It happened that we misunderstood the purpose of the open call and we never got any response but at least we learned a lot and had a new piece we wanted to present to the world. 

Derivative: You come from different backgrounds of art, illustration and architecture. These backgrounds are very evident in your work in the sense of how you are always creating these very strong and complete sound/visual/graphic/architectural environments and spaces. How did you migrate from your individual work to your joint work as NONOTAK?  

Tak: We think that even though it might seem like art, illustration or architecture are individual forms of art, we consider that we are merging our knowledge, skills and inspiration into one project that is NONOTAK. But it is not because I have an architecture background that I consider myself an experienced architect or anything. It is like I have been through my past individual work in order to serve the experiences into this project NONOTAK, so I have something to bring to the equation.

One of the main transitions we had to go through was again, learning.

Learning new ways to express ourselves and get the precision we are looking for when it comes to connecting all the elements together.  

Noemi: I guess what led us to work together was the fact that we have common taste in terms of aesthetic, so when it comes to making some choice in the creative process it's always been pretty easy and obvious between us. I’m pretty radical when it comes to the visual style I want to develop, but I’m really open to expanding that aesthetic using different mediums, touching different fields, and expanding in different contexts.

As an artist I never wanted to be a specialist in one medium, but more developing a style that can unfold in different creative domains.

When we started NONOTAK, we were just really obsessed with creating this first piece, and we put our entire time and all the little money we had to buy gear etc. We wanted to find a place to exhibit the installation but at that time we had no idea it would be our job or that we would travel the world with our work. 

Derivative: How did you first encounter TouchDesigner and how does it fit into your art practice? Has it changed the way you think about and make your work and if so can you give us some examples? 

Noemi: I’m not coming from a programming background so I’ve always been a software user. I used different softwares for visuals and TouchDesigner is the one that gives me the most freedom. You start with nothing and you build little by little your own architecture. Instead of building everything by text, you have a visual interface that helps understanding what you are doing. TouchDesigner makes my workflow much faster and flexible. We program most of our installation when we are on tour, during the setting up right before the opening. It’s the only time we have the real set up in front of us considering the scale and production of our pieces.

The link with the sound is very crucial in our work, so you need to be clever in how you build the visual architecture of your project to have the maximum perspectives to be creative.

In TouchDesigner I use a lot of TOPs, which are the most straight forward 2d elements. It could sound really basic from a programming perspective and I guess sometimes there is a more clever way to achieve what I’m doing but I have a lot of fun that way. Also when we have more complex projects involving motors and kinetic elements, we collaborate with developers and it feels great to exchange and build a patch on the same software together.   

Derivative: How do you work together – what is that process? I imagine it’s not always the same in the sense of what inspires a piece or a direction or inquiry… and then do you think about sound and visual and I guess the performative environment at the same time?  

Tak: We usually work in small scale models. They could be physical models or 3d models. That helps us really see the idea come into shape and see proportions and scales. It is also a nice moment to get into more technical details, especially the ones we don't want to be visible. Then we would start working on the setup. No matter if it is an installation or a performance, the way we approach the connection between my system and Noemi's system is crucial.

It will also inspire us on getting closer to making our idea an "instrument" by taking important decisions that will make all of it possible.

Once we are comfortable with the workflow and the "audiovisual instrument" hooked up, we will start creating, testing, and of course evolving through time since the setup allows flexibility. In that sense we feel like TD is bringing us more options to achieve a goal. Which also brings us more creative freedom to find the way we feel the most creatively free. The reason why we address so much importance in putting together a setup that works flawlessly is also because it is something we don't wanna deal with while we are creating, programming and giving the installation or performance a soul. 

Noemi: First, we think together on the concept of the installation in the artistic aspect of it. When we are deciding on the concept it already gives us some ideas on the different effects we want to achieve or the programming. Tak has some sound material in Ableton and I prepare some basic visual presets specific to the project to start. Then we connect our computer together by midi and we build the narration together.

That’s why it’s pretty important to be flexible and fast, because we want to be able to change everything at the moment and to be precise on the connection with the sound and the visuals.  

Most of our visual programming is pretty simple and minimalistic, it’s more about how you bring them into a narration and how you project them into a space or on a certain material.   

Derivative:  Tell us a bit please about your favourite works and if you could explain a bit about the making of and how TouchDesigner was used useful.

Noemi: ECLIPSE is the first project I made in TouchDesigner was our performance. I was pretty scared :) TouchDesigner is really great because you build the architecture of your project from the beginning but at the same time this is what makes it a bit intimidating as well when you have no programming language background. I would like to give a special thanks to Matthew Ragan because I learned TouchDesigner from his great tutorials. ECLIPSE performance is a really standard set up with one large led screen background.

We came up with this one in order to be able to perform at mainstream festivals where you have no time to have a specific change over and just be able to share the same set up with multiple artists. Because one screen is so standard, the video content itself is what makes the art piece. For this project we obviously wanted to have strong bold white solid to play with our silhouettes and make the screen look like it is a light source, but at the same time develop more subtitles visuals with lines and optical illusion that could remind me of my initial illustration work.  It’s a project I really like because it can fit any screen and can adapt easily to any ratio in a few clicks. 

MOON was first designed as a site specific installation for the opening of the Aranya Art Center, a new building from the Architect Neri&Hu in China and exhibition commissioned by Output. The space has a strong character, a huge cylinder and it was important for us to keep the feel of that volume. When you were looking up that cylinder, you were seeing the sky as a circle shape. We wanted to have the floor as a reflection of that sky so we came up with this idea of having one circular led floor on the ground. The fact that they were a sort of mini arena in the architecture was perfect, so you can enjoy the piece with some step back in a more contemplative way, but also experiment by going literally on top of it.

It gives a really different feel to the piece when you are on top of it. The light patterns moving right above your feet triggers your balance/gravity system. In terms of visuals we wanted to have something that reminded of water, like a lake at the bottom of the cylinder, reflecting what is happening in the sky above  using minimalistic shapes to achieve that liquid illusion. The second version of MOON is visible right now at Riyadh Noor Festival in Saudi Arabia until December 3rd 2022.

COLLAPSE is a project where I’m pretty happy I had TouchDesigner. We were commissioned by Interval Festival in Nizhny Novgorod in Russia for a brand new installation and long story short because of COVID restrictions, we missed 2 flights and had to travel part of Russia by taxi and arrive on site 2 days before the opening.

We literally had one day to discover the set up and only one night to program the entire installation from scratch.

The main idea was to have 20 walls of 2mx2m led screens, all on both sides in order to play with the direction of the lights and shadows. Luckily I was on TouchDesigner, so Tak was able to work on Ableton and triggering visuals from TD while I was working building the next composition in the same file. Regarding the small amount of time we had I was pretty happy about the result. Sometimes having small timing gives you the necessity to make decisions fast and go directly to the goal. It helps choose only the best.   

Derivative: How is your work evolving over time? 

Tak: We have been creating light installations for a decade now, seeking simple set ups that generate complex and wide possibilities of expressions.

I feel like the more we experiment more we seek even simpler looking setups, to push our approach even further. 

We also tend to work on bigger scale projects with a more long term approach with the people we collaborate with.  

Noemi: At the beginning we were really focused on touring one installation (DAYDREAM) and one performance (LATE SPECULATION) and it was already a lot for us because everythings was new. With experience and touring we had the chance to have people trusting in us for new work and site specific installations, so we enjoy making something new each time we could and get excited about risks. Also, I don’t know if it’s a fact that we get older, but we tend more and more to be sensitive to really slow motion rather than speedy ones.  

Derivative: For those aspiring to a career in our fields do you have any advice?  

Tak: This field is evolving all the time and being able to adapt rapidly and in a way that serves your own approach of visual expression is something that is going to be fundamental in my own point of view. But on a more important note, one thing that made NONOTAK part of our career might be the fact that we never associated this project with the notion of "job" "career" or "income".

It was just an obsessive habit of creating pieces with lights and sounds involved, trying to practice and experiment, in order to know more about it. 

I don't think we were able to even explain what we were trying to do when we did our first steps into the project, and we never cared. We felt pretty lonely in this but none of this mattered because we were just learning more about light. It's only later, when we realized that we never looked back that we realized it was becoming a career in our life.  

Noemi: Time is really precious. If you have an idea and you want to see it for real, go for it even if it’s not clear how you will be able to achieve it. If you don’t start you will never learn how to. Put your energy/time in your artwork like you have no choice.    

Derivative: What do you like to do when not making this type of art? 

Tak: I like the outdoors. I like mobility, and I like night in general, when Noemi is more of a day person. I like to ride in Paris at night, this might be the moment I actually embrace the fact that I live in Paris, weirdly. I also like to make stuff in general, not necessarily linked to our art but most of the time, linked to precision and light. Making things with my hands in general is something I always liked. 

Noemi: I like to tattoo. I started tattooing in 2016. With NONOTAK I’m a lot on the computer and I was missing working with my “hands” directly. It’s also a fun and interesting way to meet really different people.This is really recent but I also started going to ballet class this year. It’s much more difficult than I thought to be honest but it’s fun to use your body as a source of motion. I like the fact that you need to make it look beautiful and effortless, something that is actually really hard and needs a lot of strength to achieve.  

Derivative: What is next on your horizons? What do you want to make/do/explore next? 

Tak: We are preparing a big new live performance and installation called SORA. Kinetic lights. It will be presented in Amsterdam at the Gas Houder from January 5th with Unfold.Art. This year, we are focusing on the theme of outer space and orbital systems and this next project will be underlining that approach. 

Noemi: We are preparing a new show called SORA that will take place in Amsterdam starting next January 2023 at the Gas Houder. We are honoured to have been commissioned by Unfold.Art to create a huge scale kinetic piece that will be presented as a stand alone installation but also having live show performances in it during weekends. SORA means sky in Japanese.

The sky is the most powerful light screen and the most fascinating element to me in nature so we wanted to make a tribute to it.

The rhythms of the piece will be sometimes calm and peaceful, sometimes stormy and violent. We wanted to have a huge light surface that cuts radically the height of the space. We wanted to have the lights close above the audience in order for people to feel the motion and energy of them moving in the space, but also reveal through the transparency of this surface the spectacular architecture of the Gas Houder itself. The scale and the nature of this project is really ambitious and challenging to us. The vibe between the exhibition mode and the live performance mode will be really different so I encourage everyone interested to book for both of them! We are also working on permanent light installations, one in Tokyo, one in Paris at the moment that will be achieved in the next coming years. We are pretty happy to be able to have our work be part of the city and accompany people in an everyday life context.


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