Yann Novak is an interdisciplinary artist, composer, and curator based in Los Angeles. His work is guided by his interests in perception, context, movement, and the felt presence of direct experience. Through the use of sound and light, Novak explores how these intangible materials can act as catalysts to focus our awareness on our present location in space and time. Novak’s diverse body of works—audiovisual installations, performances, architectural interventions, sound diffusions, recording, and prints—ask participants to reclaim the present moment as a political act.
Novak is a recipient of a 2019 California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists. His work has been experienced through exhibitions and performance at AB Salon, Brussels; Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California; The Broad, Los Angeles; Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles; Danspace, New York; de Young Museum, San Francisco; Fylkingen, Stockholm; The Getty Villa, Pacific Palisades, California; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Human Resources, Los Angeles; Iklectik, London; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; LACMA, Los Angeles; Mutek Festival, Montreal; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California; SFMoMA, San Francisco; Soundfjord, London; Spektrum, Berlin; and The Stone, New York, among others. His recorded sound works have been released by 901 Editions, Berlin; Dragon’s Eye Recordings, Los Angeles; LINE Imprint, Los Angeles; and Touch, London, among others.
As a curator, Novak focuses on creating opportunities for artists and audiences to build communities that otherwise might not exist. This began in 2005 when he re-launched his father’s imprint Dragon’s Eye Recordings with a new focus on limited edition releases by emerging and mid-career sound artists, composers, and producers. Since its re-launch, Dragon’s Eye Recordings has published over 80 editions and has received critical acclaim internationally. In 2013, he became a member of VOLUME, a curatorial collective dedicated to presenting time-based work by emerging and established artists engaged in sound-based practices through performances, concerts, exhibitions, screenings, workshops, and publications.
Novak has participated in numerous artists residencies including EMS Elektronmusikstudion, Stockholm; Jental Artist Residency, Sharidan, Wyoming; Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio, Melbourne; Mountain School of Arts, Los Angeles; Taliesin Artist Residency, Spring Green, Wisconsin; and the Touch Mentorship Programme, London, among others.
In recent years, Novak has collaborated through select installations, performances and recorded works with Johanna Breiding, Rebecca Bruno, Richard Chartier, Robert Crouch, Rafa Esparza, Taisha Paggett, Fabio Perletta, and Alex Schweder, among others.
In my work I explore notions of perception, context, and movement through the construction of immersive spaces that seek to heighten the audience’s awareness of the present moment. Rooted in the “objectless” nature of intangible materials – sound and light – my work often takes on an intermediate character, offering enough information to transform space while preserving and enhancing the audience’s sense of their own embodied experience. This quality is intended to resist the tendency of dominant culture to monopolize our attention and pull us away from our own experience. Through this monopolization we become disenfranchised from our own experience, and thus the reclaiming of awareness becomes a political act.
My work draws on a wide range of sources, including raw and altered field recordings, analog and digital sound synthesis, manipulated artificial and natural light, and projection, to produce slowly evolving and interrelated sonic and visual fields. The distinct historical lineages of ambient electronic music and Light and Space are thus conjoined in service of a critical engagement with modernism, wherein its culturally unipolar and utopian tendencies are rejected in favor of its emphasis on the necessarily contingent and specular nature of works of art. Through careful consideration, my works not only address sight and hearing, but simultaneously expose the methodologies of looking and listening themselves. Taking the form of audiovisual installations, performances, architectural interventions, sound diffusions, recording, and prints, my work allows audiences to reclaim the present moment and explore the politics of awareness.
“Sonic distortion of recordings is the foundation of Novak’s work and embodies the decalcomania of rhizomatic thought. Like smashing dollops of paint between two sheets of paper and marveling in the unexpected patterns that emerge from the mess, Novak masterfully tempers the chaos generated by distortion to transform raw noise into profoundly different sounds. In his work the silence of snowfall becomes lush static, cracking glass creeps, and the emptiness of desert landscapes builds into an overwhelming hum.”
— Marielle Saums, CLOT Magazine
“seductive work with political edge…”
— Catherine Wagley, The LA Weekly
“His specialty is severely honed, long-form microsound compositions that fluctuate ever so slightly, in the manner of Éliane Radigue and Eleh. Usually augmented by field recordings, Novak’s output represents some of the purest, most patiently unspooling music around…”
— Dave Segal, The Stranger
“Sometimes sociologists speak of “quasi-objects”, objects that are neither entirely natural nor entirely social, but rather serve as “operators” that draw people together in specific relationships as well as into relationships with non-human objects. Which sort of turns them into subjects, too. This is exactly what Yann Novak´s works are. As installation pieces, they are agents that exist to be related to – in situ in the gallery, surrounded by other visitors, with whom you might share the experience, or at home, in the form of a record, for a more private encounter.“
— Stephen Fruitman, Avant Music News
“From one perspective there would seem to be a strange contradiction at the heart of Novak’s work. The aesthetics of his installations would seem to hark back to the Modernism expounded by art critics such as Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried, particularly the latter’s notions of absorption and presence. According to this dictum, the artist’s role is to produce a pure phenomenological experience, free from representational content, that would provide the occasion for a moment of ideal transcendence. Novak’s ambient drones, abstract colour fields, and emphasis on perceptual immersion would seem to reflect similar aspirations: his installations almost seem to promise a timeless, out-of-body experience, an eternal moment of sublime presence. Yet at the same time, his choice of time-based media and declared concern with narrative would seem to undermine these aims, and the photographs used to construct the “Blue.Hour” video clearly show a landscape — an act of reference that points back to traditions of landscape painting supposedly supplanted by Greenberg’s Modernist abstraction.“
— Nathan Thomas, Fluid Radio
“Novak does not waste his chance to make a first impression. In fact, with remarkable economy he transforms the three rooms he’s been given to work with into chambers where you can be transported into states of mind that feel both personal and familiar. Using digitally altered field recordings (in which the sounds are heightened but the time is real) and snapshots digitally stitched together and abstracted into gleaming videos, Novak both fills the work up with his subjective experience and empties it out to make room for you. There’s just enough specificity and just enough blankness.
I know, technically, how Novak made this work, but I don’t quite know how it works. The closest I can get to describing his approach is that it’s a combination of generosity and restraint. Each detail being so firmly in place means that the rest is open.“
— Jen Graves, The Stranger