Cover art and identity design for Ania Karpowicz's TOVA.
TOVA, the cyber flute recital, is the result of a close cooperation between the flutist Ania Karpowicz and four young composers: Marta Śniady, Nina Fukuoka, Aleksandra Kaca and Teoniki Rożynek.
Each artist, taking up the topic of searching for the sources of one’s identity, has put her personal experience into the works and interpretations, which — coincidentally — all happen to be experiences of women.
TOVA is also a joint search of the soloist and composers into the sonic values of the flute — both acoustic, related to the development of modern performance techniques, as well as electronic, related to the various techniques of processing live or recorded sound.
The title — meaning "good" in Hebrew — is inspired by the notion of “female goodness”, deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian culture, the interpretation of which is undertaken by the artists involved.
I was especially honoured to be invited to take on such a subject matter.
TOVA is about the very personal experiences of 5 artists. When discussing the visual approach, from the very onset of the project, we agreed that we want to avoid the usual connotations of so-called "femininity" or, even worse, "feminist music". It's especially relevant in the contemporary music scene, where the work of female composers or performers tend to be categorized as such and viewed through this lens, immediately limiting the interpretational depth and hurting the art. The very idea therefore seemed contradictory to the recital's aim. We were aiming for authenticity, intimacy and humanity.
We started off with the photoshoot. I didn't have a concrete idea for the cover yet; I wanted to capture the contemplative, intimate quality of the project through Ania's portraits first. We did a quick session together with the photographer Karolina Sałajczyk.
I asked Ania to bring some items that feel very close and personal to her, if not for them to appear on the pictures or the cover itself, then to help create the right atmosphere on the set. She came with a selection of books from her childhood, a couple of diaries and the beloved teddy bear, his belly slightly ripped apart.
One day, on my way home, I noticed a tree laying down across the sidewalk, broken near the very base of its trunk, most probably a result of the heavy winds from a couple days before.
Its bark was ripped in half and opened up, revealing the raw wood underneath as if its skin has been peeled off. A visceral and unplanned effect of the turbulence of nature, this image resonated with me so much that I thought it's an almost ready concept for the cover.
After a couple of approaches though, I quickly realized there's something missing – as relevant as the image may seem, it just didn't feel personal enough. I decided to get back to the portraits from the photoshoot.
All 4 pieces on TOVA are very different from one another: each written by a different composer, each tells a completely different story and has its own distinctive style. They are then however brought together and woven into a coherent narrative through Ania's skill and performance. Furthermore, combined with the subject matter, TOVA could be seen as a collective portrait of sorts, that of 5 women born in Poland in a similar time.
Moreover, the album is experimental in nature, combining live and heavily processed sounds of the flute, while employing the various non-traditional performative techniques to their full extent. It is then both analog and electronic; the distinction seems almost artificial in this case.
I printed out Ania's portraits on the cheapest Xerox machine and cut and mixed them to make a collage, hoping it will guide me in some way.
The collage still felt a little too neat. I further distorted it using a scanner.
Having the collage as the basis, I felt I want to give the word TOVA a similar treatment: I started playing around with the fragmented, almost-unreadable letters overlayed on top of the collage.
I felt I've found what I was looking for. To be able to tweak the typographic composition, I replaced the font with custom drawn letters.
From then on, it was a matter of finding the right balance between the collage and the type, together with the right color palette. Some versions felt too warm, some too cold; some too rough, some too delicate. Often a slight modification resulted in a big change in tone.
Each piece on TOVA is accompanied by a video, an integral part of the piece. I was responsible for preparing the opening and closing titles for each piece.
Next in line, I started work on the project's website. It was an interesting exercise to extend the aesthetics of the cover art into the inherently fluid and open-ended realm of the web.