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The anthropologist-turned-artist who blends electronics with music and isn’t afraid of artificial intelligence

Sounds ephraim rozas with electric sheep? The Peruvian experimental artist, who understands technology as a tool that empowers man, is not afraid of the future or the new artificial intelligence. Full of cables, dances and rhythms, the sound performance “Polirhythmia | Synesthesia” is unprecedented in Peru.

After spending a season as the leader of the band La Mecánica Popular, Efraín transcended the carnal and replaced human members with cables and a biological brain with two electronic ones. It is not an exaggeration, since these new “brains” are the element that gives life to his models, such as “Myth and Prosthesis”, the centerpiece of the exhibition. Everything is managed with software created by himself.

His vision is a particularity within conventional proposals, since for Rozas technology does not represent a threat, but rather an opportunity. “It is a kind of cognitive activism, a new way of understanding technologies and minds.”, adds Efraín Rozas in an interview with Trade. Tickets available at https://www.joinnus.com

—Why enter the world of arts?

Initially I was trained as an anthropologist and I specialized as an ethnomusicologist due to the work I did on Peruvian, Latin American and other region music. My main interest, in the beginning, was to mix Latin American music and traditions, I was always interested in the avant-garde and I found in salsa, huayno and yaravíes musical genres where exploration in new technologies was not cultivated, until now I feel that the art gallery and scientific laboratory are still separate. On the one hand, this crossing of cultural information that I have can only occur in a country like Peru. I once heard that some artists create to be inside a scene and others that create something that they would like to hear and that doesn’t exist. My first projects were that, something I wanted to hear. What I believe has to do with rhythm, the body, the visceral and the most avant-garde. Here in Peru we can do it, we have from the most traditional to the most avant-garde. The task instead of separating or dividing, should be to unite. Without idealizing or demonizing any of these aspects, rather doing something new.

—What were your biggest difficulties in the beginning?

Difficulties have always been there, I did not study music because the opportunity was not given and in my house that possibility did not exist. So I managed, I studied within anthropology something that was linked to music. Then I won a doctoral fellowship at New York University. At that time, the professors I worked with told me: “Better stay in anthropology, brother.” Saying that to a boy is very hard, but now that the vision has been realized, they are my friends. I once wrote for one of the best string quartets, I had never done it before, but that was the final exam. They played and it sounded horrible. I got out and almost started crying. I took a breath, went back and told them to play again, I listened to them again and realized that they had no rhythm. At that moment I learned the best lesson, to be myself, because they were the best string quartet in classical music, but any guitarist here [Perú] he makes a tasty pluck and goes around it a thousand times in the rhythmic theme. I’m not a jazz player or a classical musician, I can’t compete with these people who grew up in Vienna from chibolos and received classical training. We must return to what is ours without romanticizing the indigenous because we are not that idealization of the indigenous nor extreme lovers of the foreign.

—How did you involve your art with technology?

For me, one way to integrate technology, not as a data vacuum cleaner, but as a kind of human empowerment, is to find in it an element of support for spiritual and artistic growth. There is always the subject of polyrhythms, I love rhythm, I am a percussionist by training. In technology there is a space for the artist to express what he has inside with more tools. Speaking a bit more about technology, one piece of advice I give to younger artists is to never underestimate the power of email.

“As with Chat GPT, there are going to be people who are going to use it to do all the work for it, which leads to degeneracy”

—What is this series of interdisciplinary projects called “Myth and Prosthesis” (Myth and prosthesis)?

It is an extension of our mind. Call it the calendar or Tinder, we are already hybrid beings. On the other hand, the myth, in the anthropological sense, are the great ideas that inform how a culture behaves, be it Christianity or capitalism, here I tried to make my own mythology, to turn technology into my prosthesis. These projects have software interested in Latin rhythms that gradually came to life. It is one thing to relate to music that comes from a computer, another is that it comes from an instrument played by a musician, and the third is to relate to an instrument that is played alone. That is the future. We must learn to integrate technology with our lives as artists. Our relationship with technology is very simple, but there are many ways to take advantage of it.

Efrain Rozas, experimental software and percussion musician will perform this Thursday, February 23 at the Alianza Francesa in Miraflores.  Photos: Miguel Bellido

—Why reconcile art and technology in a single point?

It started as basic software, then I got into a robotics course and thought I’d extend it to motors that help play the keys. This is how he created this software that he wanted to be friendly for a Latin American musician who likes salsa. I always had the desire to put together two things that seem to not get along. Also, when I realized that I can’t be imitating anyone, neither the gringos nor the Andean, my first interdisciplinary project was born, a robot [”Myth and Prosthesis I”] which came with the question:Do robots have ethnicity?“It started as basic software, then I took a robotics course and I thought of extending it to motors that help to play the keys, that’s how it turned into a sculpture that organically evolved into a dance project, because mine is another type laboratory, it’s not something cold, mine is a hot and tasty laboratory.

—What do you want to convey through your art?

A feeling of contemplation, exploring mental states and how we perceive ourselves in space and time. We don’t normally think about how a reflection on our emotional cultural environment links the opposites as part of us. Second, it’s a way to combine binaries without falling into stereotypes. I feel that what is outside is imitated or what is national is romantically exalted. I would not like to fall into that, but to appeal to the new.

—There is a tendency to use artificial intelligence in art. How does the artist see himself in front of these new technologies?

For me the future is interdisciplinarity. There are going to be robots that play amazing music, and many are afraid that they can be replaced, but not me. For my part, I believe that the arrival of these new technologies will be positive. As with Chat GPT, there are going to be people who are going to use it to do all the work for it, which leads to it degenerating or, otherwise, the same thing will happen as with Chavín, one of the first places where various cultures They converge around a temple. This generated the birth of a new type of ethics, the appearance of the first taboos.

“We must learn to integrate technology with our life as artists, our relationship with technology is very simple, but there are many ways to take advantage of it”

—In the art scene, like you, will other artists also adapt to these trends?

Everywhere there will always be two opposing forces. If there is a lot of chaos, things are only destroyed, if there is a lot of order, things do not advance. They are forces that need each other and that must find a balance, although in society there will always be extremes. It is good that there are conservative people and people who are at the forefront. At a general level we should follow the trend of inclining them, even a little, to the new.

—As for those who remain at the forefront, are there Peruvian artists with a vision similar to yours?

Of course, there is Fil Uno, La Lá, Pauchi Sasaki or Jaime Oliver, they all have an open-ear exploratory vision that has not been limited to a single genre. I have collaborated with some of them and they are really amazing.

—Is interdisciplinarity your final path or will you follow other paths?

This is already my definitive path, it is varied, but in general all this is my style. The percussion is present, the use of technology, the sacred. If we see it that way, then there is a constant in what I do. I also recently won an award from the Jerome Foundation/Harvestwork that will help me finance projects until 2025, I will continue developing combinations between culture, musical performance, light.

—What can we expect in the sound performance Polyrhythmia | Synesthesia?

A show that seeks, through a convergence of rhythms, that people can perceive in space, time, vision, sound and an energy that transmits this fusion between arts and technologies. The proposal of Polirritmia|Sinestesia is an experience that is not music, sculpture or other things. It is something unclassifiable. I play with these things, I dance, I perform. It’s all one thing, it’s not that I make the music and then I play the music. It is a unique experience that everyone should go see it.

Source: Elcomercio

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