Untitled, Osman Koç

Osman Koç is a San Francisco-based artist and technologist who uses creative coding, computer science, and digital technology to create works at the intersection of art, science, and technology. He creates audiovisual performances, responsive and immersive environments, and interactive installations by incorporating various sensors and display technologies. He also develops custom software to visualize behaviors and movements inspired by the natural sciences. The abstract nature of his visuals aims to be familiar enough to elicit recognition and foreign enough to leave room for interpretation.


Osman Koç

How would you describe digital art?

« I think we could define digital art in two different ways. The first way is to consider digital art as any work for the realization of which digital tools have been used. Therefore, any digital illustration can also be considered as digital art.


The second definition, which I think is more precise and more accurate, presents digital art as works that could not have existed with another medium than digital. In other words, it is not simply a question of using digital technology in the creative process as one could have chosen any other medium, but really to use digital technology because it is the only one that can allow the realization of the work. This also implies integrating the conceptual importance of digital in the overall meaning of the work.


Sentinels, Osman Koç

It is for example the case of the interactive works, which suppose the digital in any point of view. I like it a lot because it is an art in which one can “drown” more, because it allows the participation of the public. The work then becomes collaborative. Another thing that really excites me is that you can make mathematically correct simulations in a physically incorrect world, in terms of the physical characteristics of our world. So I really like to create simulations that are both familiar and strange to us, because they echo our world while being foreign to it. All of this constitutes for me the fundamental values of digital art today. »


Why did you go to digital art? What do you like about the exploration of the new media?

« I have a background in electronics engineering, so digital art was my gateway to art in general. Tinkering with various sensors and setups, I created unique human-machine interactions and loved seeing people figure out, use, and play with these systems. There is something inherently surprising and pleasant about a system that reacts to us. What has always fascinated me about this art form is the experience it allows the audience to have. Looking at an image or visual passively is very different from knowing that the work changes colour or shape based on us, our movements for example. It’s so much fun to see how people approach things, how they explore the interfaces, how they break them, try to fool them… I like the fact that interactivity brings a bit of play to art, I find it very valuable, very engaging. I think it’s the best way to communicate through art without having to use words. 


Another aspect I really like in new media is considering the tool as the artwork, rather than the output. It’s like going one meta level up from the conventional artworks. Looking at multiple outputs created from the same tool, you develop an insight about the system. It’s like creating custom factories. Referring back to the previous question about the definition of digital art, the artwork becomes unique to the tool. » 


What are your tools as a digital artist? What is your technic?

« I’m pretty tool agnostic. I can use any tool as long as it serves the purpose. Right now, I use Unity3D and Processing a lot for my visuals, Eagle CAD for my electronics work, and if I need to fabricate something, I use Fusion 360. Besides these tools, I use various protocols for different tools to communicate with each other. I’m also constantly learning new languages and tools to widen my capabilities. »


« In fact, I think I have three main pillars in my work. One is creative coding (engineering art), the other is physical computing (sensitive sensors for tracking people, their gestures…), and the last one is digital fabrication (modeling things). »


« I’ve been working on the concept of “autonomous art machines” with a friend. I think when we speak about generative art, it is a question for the artist to leave a part of the creation to the tool, which becomes then more than a tool, it becomes a kind of collaborator. The fact of speaking about “autonomous art machines” seems to me thus more correct, since it is a question of creating a machine which itself creates art. »


Seaquins Blob, Osman Koç

What is your background? Did you follow a specific training?

« I did a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering, then a master’s degree in mechatronics engineering. That’s where I acquired my notions of software electronics and physical manufacturing. Very early on, I started working on the issue of human-computer or human-machine interaction. Then I wanted to continue to train myself in a self-taught way via a more artistic prism.

What helped me the most in this process was the opening of my own studio. After graduation, instead of working for a company, I started my own studio. So I had to be both a businessman doing commercial work, but also an artist, a studio manager… I think this type of studio is crucial in the creative process, because it allows you to have a space where you can be both messy and fully yourself. It’s a small room that allows your imagination to have no limits. »


What are your sources of inspiration?

« I am very inspired by nature and all the physical simulations that are possible. In fact, I am also very inspired by the tools available at the time I create. They allow me to ask myself what more I can do and push the boundaries of the creative process.

I am also very interested in feelings that are difficult to describe. I read a lot about perception, behavioural biology… and what I like about abstract generative art is that when you offer a work to the viewers, or more specifically the users, they fill in the gaps of meaning. In other words, they can create a narrative for themselves that fits perfectly. That’s why I like to hear how people describe my work. They see a lot of different things that I didn’t intend to create, even if I did intend to trigger. That’s why I try not to add long, exhaustive descriptions to my work. To me, turning ideas into words is also inevitably reducing them to certain things. At the same time, it is sometimes difficult because I don’t want to add exclusively technical descriptions of my work to the works. So I try to find a happy medium in the way I talk about my art. » 


Any projects you’d like to highlight?

« In 2018 & 2019 I’ve created generative art tools for the branding and identity team of Unity3D. It was a great pleasure to work with the team, and a highlight in my career to collaborate with the tool that I use almost everyday. It is a great example of using generative art to create a common visual language for different facets of a large company. It also highlights the advantages of using digital technologies, as we used the same software as an interactive storefront installation as well. »


Interactive showcase for Unity, Osman Koç

Nos, Osman Koc & Nohlab

« Nos is a collaborative platform, founded by Osman Koc and Nohlab (Candas Sisman, Deniz Kader), that aims a holistic perception for sound and visuals, by using a custom software which enables sound to directly affect the visuals, and becomes an instrument through the real-time manipulation capabilities that allows artistic interpretation. »


« This is a new series that I’m working on. Light and Form is a part of an exploratory abstract visual series that is constantly in transition. It creates an ever-changing color palette that eventually includes almost every possible color and their combinations through the interaction between material, geometry and light. It aims to depict a delicate balance between the macro and micro, the overall shifting form and the individual pieces, which also has a biomimetic quality to it. »