In Conversation with Rafaël Rozendaal & Danny Wolfers (Legowelt) cover photo


In Conversation with Rafaël Rozendaal & Danny Wolfers (Legowelt)

by Jeff Davis

Rafaël Rozendaal is a visual artist who uses the internet as his canvas. He also creates installations, tapestries, lenticulars, books, and lectures. Danny Wolfers (Legowelt) is a musician and artist from The Hague Holland. He has been making music since the mid-1990s, releasing albums, making soundtracks for games and movies, and doing sound design for synthesizers. In the past few years, he has started to paint and make animation films, combining the latter with his music work. I had the opportunity to speak with Rafaël and Danny in advance of their upcoming Art Blocks project Polychrome Music.
Jeff Davis: Hello! Danny, it’s great meeting you, and Rafaël, it’s great to be able to interview you a second time. How did you two meet? Tell us how this collaboration formed and how you’ve found the process of working together.
Danny Wolfers: I already knew Rafaël through a common friend from Los Angeles; I met him a few times at shows. Earlier this year he asked me to collaborate on a new generative art project to design the music algorithm, which was an interesting challenge for me. The collaboration process was very fluid, given we share a common perspective on many levels.
Rafaël Rozendaal: We are both from The Netherlands but I discovered Danny’s music when I lived in Los Angeles in 2004. Some of my friends there were obsessed with Dutch electronic music. It’s funny that I had to move halfway around the world to find out about something that was happening next door.
Left: Legowelt, Hackers Fieldtrip, 2021. Right: Legowelt, Car Boot Sale at Pendragon Woods, 2021.
JD: How did you both first get into making art?
RR: My parents are both artists so some of my earliest memories are seeing my parents working and drawing myself.
DW: I always had an urge to draw or make sound, create the things myself that interested me. As a kid I would draw comic books, later I got a Commodore Amiga computer—and that really shifted my creative energy into hyperfocus … making animations with Deluxe paint, music with Octamed, and I would also program my own amateur games and demos. I ended up studying animation and film making at the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht in Hilversum, but there I became fully immersed in music and made my career out of that.
Rafaël Rozendaal_Freedom of Movement_2018_Peter Nijhuis_Midnight Moment_2015_Michael Wells.png
Left: Rafaël Rozendaal, Freedom of Movement, 2018. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Photography: Peter Nijhuis. Right: Rafaël Rozendaal, Times Square Midnight Moment, 2015. NYC. Photography: Michael Wells.
JD: How did you both discover NFTs?
RR: I’ve been making browser-based art since 2000. I saw crypto coming up around 2015 but was always apprehensive because of the emphasis on speculation. In 2020 there was so much momentum that I just had to try it. Blockchain seems like an obvious fit for my work, but I had been working with domain names for a very long time and I was holding on to Web1. Now I’ve fully embraced the blockchain.
DW: I didn’t know anything about crypto art until Rafaël introduced me to this world. I consider myself a low-tech part time cyberpunk sort of, stuck in 1990s technology in which something like a Commodore Amiga 1200 is the zenith of computer culture. I only recently got a smart phone because it became a necessity so you can imagine that stuff like NFTs were pretty far removed from my bubble. Nevertheless, I am open to new stuff especially when I have the chance to collaborate with someone like Rafaël. In many ways certain aspects of this generative art culture are very close to my old 90s Amiga cracktro demo scene cyberpunk ethos … an amalgamation of deep magic coding, visuals, and music.
JD: How would you say your creative practices have changed over time?
DW: Like it goes, you start out just dabbling about without a clue, just doing it, maybe with a lot of pretentious ideas, maybe not. Over time grand themes evolve, ideas and motifs that say who you are. Chaos unfolds into a serene order in the mind. One can say it is a soul-searching journey, but in the end, like the writer Thomas Ligotti put it so very well: “Everything that we supposedly live by and supposedly die by—whether it’s religious scriptures or makeshift slogans—all of it is show business.”
RR: Interaction, figuration, depiction, simplification, abstraction, installation, writing, materiality, community, permutations, variations, in that order.
Left: Rafaël Rozendaal, Dive #85, 2021. Live view. Right: Rafaël Rozendaal, Non Either #21, 2022. Live view.
JD: That’s very precise. Any recent accomplishments either of you would like to share?
RR: My first institutional solo exhibition in Europe will open in April next year at Museum Folkwang in Germany. Very excited about that!
DW: A recent accomplishment which I am very excited about is that I made a feature animation movie called Ambient Trip Commander. This originally started out as visuals for my music but slowly in a timespan of eighteen months, became a seventy-minute movie with a story. The music sort of shifted to a second row seat in the project as I got lost into more intense animation techniques. I never had so much fun in a creative process, being in complete control of a story. Not only does the animation movement make it come alive, but also the characters … you enter their psyche. You create a world, the nature, the towns, you are in control of the weather—everything—it is like creating life in a laboratory, every new day behind the drawing table is an adventure in which I am deeply immersed.
Rafaël Rozendaal_Danny Wolfers (Legowelt)_Polychrome Music_2022_test outputs.png
Rafaël Rozendaal & Danny Wolfers (Legowelt), Polychrome Music, 2022. Test outputs. 
JD: Alright, let’s chat about Polychrome Music! How would you describe the inspiration behind the project?
RR: I’ve always felt that abstraction and music come from a very similar part of the mind. Most music visualizers (like Winamp or iTunes) don’t have access to the exact note sequence, so they have to analyze the waveform and approximate the changes in the music and respond to that. In a code-based project like this, each note, movement, and color change are aware of each other and you can play with that information. Sometimes the animation responds exactly to the music, sometimes it hits just before or after, and some movements are more continuous. I wanted to create a tension between the rhythm of the music and the rhythm of the image. Polychrome Music is the opposite of something ambient. These are works that require your full attention. The shapes are geometric, but the movements are fluid. You could see the animations as diagrammatic depictions of energy. Computer graphics tend to get more photorealistic as time goes by, but I’m interested in using abstraction as a way to conjure the experience of nature without trying to depict it as realistically as possible.
DW: The main inspiration in the music department are demos and game soundtracks on the Commodore 64 computer … to get these very melodic evolving compositions with three monophonic sound channels and simple tones. Melodies that converge into something more complex which fit the visual part very well. I think it was also important for the project to have “intense” melodic composition in contrast to all the meandering drone or ambient soundtracks you often hear in art projects these days. Rafaël put it nicely:the project was anti-ambient. Ha.
JD: What should collectors look for in your Art Blocks project as the series is revealed?
DW: For the music aspect, the algorithm has a wide scope of different outcomes: intense fiery fast paced arpeggios, catchy uplifting tunes, melancholic sad songs, sinister tense haunting melodies and everything in between … all this can change within one song too. So keep on listening, immerse yourself into both the visuals and music and get inspired!
RR: Yes, play it fullscreen and turn the sound up!
JD: Anything else people should know to better understand your art?
RR: My website is full of years of work. You can find my browser works, NFTs, physical exhibitions, and writings there. I recommend making some tea and spending a few hours there.
DW: For me, my music and visual work always have a narrative structure, there is always a story. It can be a snapshot, a fragment where the viewer can make up the rest, or a full-fledged chronicle like my animation film. I think the songs (and visuals) in Polychrome Music also create narratives but here it coincides more with Rafaël’s idea that “art should not be understood and just stared at with the least amount of thinking possible.” This might be an interesting area where Rafaël’s and my ideas intersect … In many ways I agree that art should just be stared at without too much thinking. Nevertheless, when a narrative forms, the mind starts to wander and there will always be semiotic layers that arise, even in Polychrome Music.
Legowelt_Shadow Wolf Cyberzine_2021.png
Legowelt, Shadow Wolf Cyberzine, 2021.
JD: Well, you clearly ended up with a compelling project. I’m really looking forward to seeing and hearing all the variations. What’s the best way for people to follow your future work?
DW: The best way for people to follow my work is my website which has been around for more than 20 years … uh or more now that I think about it. It started around 1995 when the name Legowelt wasn’t there yet but it was just which was among the first wave of websites hosted on an xs4all account. On you can find the latest news, music, videos, my Shadow Wolf cyberzine in hacker ASCII art style, and also lots of free sample packs and software for musicians and producers. You can also check out this video walkthrough my studio!
RR: My website, Twitter, and Instagram.

More from Spectrum

In Conversation with Emi Kusano on Melancholic Magical Maiden cover photo


In Conversation with Emi Kusano on Melancholic Magical Maiden

In Conversation with Ben Kovach cover photo


In Conversation with Ben Kovach

In Conversation with Piter Pasma cover photo


In Conversation with Piter Pasma

Art Blocks home

© 2022 Art Blocks, Inc. All rights reserved.