Birch Cooper - Artist Interview Series - Electric Objects

Birch Cooper

Portland, OR

“Inspired by the multidimensional universe in Greg Egan’s 1997 hard science fiction classic, Diaspora, Birch erected a series of virtual sculptures within hyper-reflective and futuristic environments.”

— Alex, Electric Objects
Can we see a picture of your workspace and/or desktop?
Where are you typing this from?

I'm working at Eyebeam in Industry City, Brooklyn at the moment. My partner Brenna Murphy and I had a residency here in 2014 for our collaborative project MSHR, and they've been super generous in allowing us to keep working here when we're in New York. It's amazing!

What do you watch/listen to while working?

I listen to a lot of avant-garde and electronic music while I work. I've been streaming off of this site recently. They have a really great series called Composing With Process that I've been enjoying.

A2Iannis Xenakis

I often listen to some 1970's post-raga minimalism

A3CC Hennix

Theater of Eternal Music , Terry Riley, Henry Flynt, La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela

I've also been in love with dance hall recently. Here are some of my favorite singers-

A4Tenor Saw

White Mice, Sister Nancy, Big Youth, Sister Carol

What have you been working on lately?

I'm using my time at Eyebeam to work on as many different projects as possible! On the MSHR side of things, I'm building a new CMOS based analog modular synthesizer system and preparing for a performance that we're doing next week at Tauba Auerbach's art show. I'm also working on a series of prints, developing some sculptural work, and doing a lot of straight rendering.

What work of yours are you most proud of?

For me it's more about the ongoing art practice than the individual piece. I try to structure my life around keeping my practice alive and growing, trying to integrate new approaches and refine structures and relationships within the work.. so just the fact that I'm still making art is the best part for me.

But, one personal favorite piece of mine is an interactive musical system by MSHR titled Solar Helix. It's a simple electronic circuit that people can patch themselves into by standing on conductive plates. Once patched in, the two people can play electronic sound by touching each others bodies. I like this piece for it's simple and elegant interface (human bodies), and because it's so beautiful to watch people learn how to use it. Someday, I'd like to have this be a public art piece.

What tools do you use in your work?

I work with a lot of different tool sets including 3d modeling programs, a lot of generic software, analog circuitry built from the components up, wood working, digital fabrication and the synthesizers that I build for playing music.

Can you tell us about your process?

My process consists of patching a variety of feedback paths in different combinations to produce different outputs.

In the series that I made for Electric Objects, luminous sculptures rotate in visual feedback chambers. The light emitted by the sculpture provides the initial signal, which is then reflected back and forth in a mirrored room. I use feedback because I consider it to be a very useful universal structure- a recursive, fractal-like system with many different practical applications. Generating the virtual sculpture work has also become an exercise in fostering a feedback loop with my own intuition.

A lot of my virtual sculpture is inspired by musical forms or produced out of an urge to give a visible, spatial form to the structures of generative music. I think of generative sonic structure as being hyper objects that exist outside of human perception, and I consider making sculpture based on hyper objects to be a long lasting human tradition.

Any last advice for the folks just starting out?

I often refer back to this list from John Cage.


...and "Stay trippy!"

Top Five Most Influential Visuals

Guatemalan Textiles


Score By Iannis Xenakis


Mayan Yoke


Yves Tanguy - The Invisibles


A Hyper Cube

Favorite file formats?
What are the best places to see your work?
What sites do you visit for inspiration?

I do a lot of image searching. Also bears repeating and is great- I like listening the series Ode to Gravity by Charles Amirkhanian while I'm working.

Whose work do you follow?

This list is impressionistic at best. The digital art community is so vibrant and it's easy to follow a huge amount of people. I try to follow as many artists as possible... In the past several days I've been thinking about-

Brenna Murphy
Tauba Auerbach
Greg Egan
Le Révélateur
LaTurbo Avedon
Juliana Huxtable
Sara Ludy
Raul De Neives
Reid Urban
Aki Onda
Colin Self
William Gibson
Jeremy Rotsztain
Peter Burr
Lorna Mills
Ben Vida
Katie Torn
Rick Silva
Odwalla 88
Nicolas Sassoon
Matt Carlson
La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela

And many others.

What are your favorite galleries, museums, exhibits, etc.?

Thanks for the interview,