Interview with Devine Lu Linvega
What is your name? What do you do?
My name is Devine Lu Linvega, and I do all the things.
How’s New Zealand been so far? Glad to be settling in?
New Zealand has been amazing so far. I was told, and can now confirm, that NZ is a hub of DIY culture, where people will have a natural tendency to make their own houses, boats, things and tools - where the instinct will be to build, instead of to buy.
I’ve referred to you before as a multi-disciplinary artist. Do you think this title is fitting?
I think so. Yet, I have a sense that I could only ever present myself in such a way in some damp church basement, in deep shame. "Hello, I'm a multi-disciplinary artist", I would say, my homologues clapping at my confessing and welcome me as one of their own; as multi-disciplinary comes invariably with "..and master of none".
When did you start to focus on creative output? What made you want to?
It was fall, all my friends were going back to school, and I was at home. It appeared at the time that I was stuck, that on that day when I decided to not return to school I forfeited my dreams of making video games, of traveling, or becoming a musician. I wrote in a spreadsheet the date and that it had been spent a waste. The next day, again. The third day, again, and after a few days or weeks, of alternating between playing video games and recording my inactivity, I finally logged a handful of hours spent writing music. Then a few more designing a Flash website a couple of days later, then came streaks of 3, or 4, subsequent days. After a while, I had enough at stake, or to loose, from breaking a streak that I woke up and immediately got to work -- to work on doing all the things, and to finance my dreams of travel.
What disciplines did you start with, creatively? How did you add on to that, or how did you shift to other mediums?
At first, I stumbled unto photo manipulation. From DeviantArt, to Raster and to Depthcore, I was moving from working with photos, to drawing; toward modeling. While I enjoyed visual art, its application didn't excite me nearly as did music writing. Days, and weeks, vanished. I could go on just synthesizing sounds and tracks, and seldom move at all for long periods. But sounds eventually paled, to the intensity of the power that came with programming. It was like discovering a new dimension, intractability. I was building websites, it mattered not that had a topic, I would go on an making websites about it. Like little shrines dedicated to the praise of their own envelopes. They were promptly built, then they were forgotten. Because, nothing could rival with my newly found passion into procedural art. Interactive graphics, and games! Which, in turn, vanished in the longest shadow of all shadows, generative music. But then-
You have a set of very disparate knowledge and interests. How does that knowledge complement itself? How does it work together?
It might look disparate from the outside, but I could trace each like you would a genealogy tree. I've always chosen my battles carefully, and have tried to stay at an arm's length of anything I love, if only to admire it whole. There are things I do not touch, subjective topics like politics and religion. I tend to learn only the thing I need to the accomplishment of a task, nothing more. I don't have anything one would call "general interests".
Does having such a wide pool to draw from make you more productive?
Being independent streamlines the output process as there are no dialog involved with others than myself. But again, there are no dialog involved with others than myself. So, no. It's only different.
How do you approach learning and research? Are you a note-taker, or prefer to merely ingest information?
I learn only what I need to solve any one task.
You’ve written about your workflow and how you find it best to do one thing at a time. How are you able to focus yourself on one task?
I go to bed choosing one thing to accomplish for the next day, I wake up to tackle this single task. I tend to work only in the morning, get everything done before lunch. The afternoons, I spend mostly reading and learning things to help me solve the next days.
How did Hundred Rabbits studio form? What drew you and Rekka together?
Before HR, we had Drownspire - a small studio through which we released projects issued from our joint forces. With HR, it was going to be more than that, it's a lifestyle experiment. It's a vessel through which we can release collaborative works, but most of all, it's the actual application of the values that we promoted on land.
When did you and Rekka make the decision to live aboard a sailboat? How did you come to that conclusion?
We lived in Japan, and at the time, it presented itself as the only option that we had. We wanted to keep traveling, we wanted to eat better, spend more time outdoors - Or, if only to be, once more, in a position to feel the exhilaration of the early strides of learning something new.
What have you learned about that life that you wished you knew going into it? Did you have any misconceptions about what it would entail?
Nothing. Learning from doing has a much stronger hold onto me, than reading about it. I knew nothing about the world when I started, the further I go, the more I feel like I knew nothing, so I must keep going.
You’ve said you spend a lot of time when not working aboard the boat reading, listening to podcasts and lectures, etc. What are five books you think everyone should read?
- Le Città Invisibili, Italo Calvino. 1972 : Because imagination is the most important thing.
- Blumroch l'admirable, Louis Pauwels. 1976 : Because creativity is the second most important thing.
- Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges. 1941 : Because there is always another angle to a problem.
- Field Manual 21: Survival : Because you don't have to live in society if you don't want to.
- No.44, Mark Twain. 1916 : Because we all die alone, without souls, and nothing matters.
Living with such a limited connection to the internet at times is an unusual choice for someone who is among other things a software and web developer. Has this had the impact you expected it to in terms of your output?
Haha, okay. I admit it, I fucked up. I thought internet was an "everywhere thing". It's not. But it has changed the way I program, it has forced me to only used open-sourced software that I can repair on my own, it has forced me to use tools that don't try to call home, that do not have external libraries or minified dependencies. It has taught me not to depend on Apple products, because there is nothing quite like your navigation tool locking itself up, in the middle of the ocean, until it has successfully updated itself.
What is Merveilles? How did this group form?
Merveilles is a genre I suppose, more than a group. Maybe it's a movement, I'm not sure. It might be that we all grew up with similar influences, yet it might not. Sometimes I think it's a style of going about art, but again, it also applies to musicians and programmers. But when we see each other, we know.
A lot of your work has been with the creation of ecosystems, with Nataniev, Oscean, Horaire, and the accompanying tools like Marabu, Ronin, and Left. What draws you to this sort of work?
It's all kinds of inevitable. I'm so difficult. My friction threshold is very low. I apply Mari Kondo's Method to software, if a tool does not make my insides fuzzy, my head feel light and/or completely throw me into revery, I trash it, and I make a new one.
I know you’ve been looking at expanding the platform for Nataniev, and making it more public. Where do you see this leading?
I want to make a phone OS. Because I hate my iPhone, and there is no way in hell that I will use an Android phone again.
In a way, Verreciel is another sort of ecosystem. However, this project connects to your other work by another one of your major themes, linguistics. What about linguistics and the study of communication interests you?
There is two things I find flagrant in a person, you can automatically tell wether something has traveled or not, as you can tell if someone speaks a single language or not. It's shown in compassion, outlook and conversation. It would be pointless to paint the world around me with apps and games, if it was to be used by monolingual nationalists. I'm hoping that I can inspire someone to be less complacent about the cards they were dealt, and grow curious enough to look elsewhere and try other things - what better way than an imaginary world with a made-up language.
How did this interest lead to the development of Lietal?
Natural languages are so flawed, it reveals things of cognition that I foolishly wanted to suppress. Lietal is one of these experiments where you build a tool to circumvent an issue, only to realize that your tool is imbued with the same problems - But in the process, you understand the problems better. Lietal lives in my work now, it's one of the projects I am most proud of, and one I can always turn to, to remind me of this.
Language shows something interesting about the culture it stems from, revealing something of the philosophy it was devised from. What sort of focus is conveyed through Lietal?
I think it's the amongst the truer forms of who I am. It's equally, or more, revealing of myself than the body of work I have built in music and illustration.
Verreciel is very different from a lot of other space-faring games. It’s very meditative and atmospheric. How does this relate to your current living situation? Do you draw parallels between your life on the boat and the player in their spaceship?
Absolutely. I think Verreciel is what I thought sailing was going to be like, and I was not too far off.
Lately, you’ve been working a lot on Rotonde, a peer-to-peer social media platform. Where does the idea for Rotonde come from?
It comes from my want to encourage people to log their creative output. In a format that can be parsed and used in the optimization toward one's goals. It also aligns with my dreams of a decentralized internet, without gatekeepers. Whenever I use Twitter, I am reminded that the cost of using platforms that encourage toxic behaviors has grown too high.
What is your goal with Rotonde? How has seeing the response from the community changed the initial direction?
I think it's more the community's goals at this points. We don't have focus/hours output logs, but I'm hoping someone will step up and implement it. I'm hopeful, and will wait and see.
Like a language, a social media platform creates its own sense of culture based on how it’s developed. Much has been made of Rotonde’s more honest nature, without metrics for validation or distraction. What lead the design in this direction?
If you could re-design twitter, I'm sure you would get rid of popularity metrics too. Anything that gets in the way of getting that one task a day, should be removed. The platform will work for us, and not us for it.
How did your interest in cultivating a community like Merveilles grow into making a project like Rotonde? Is this an expansion of that network?
It is. Would it be megalomaniac to say that Merveilles has infinite potential and through tools like Horaire, it can reach it? That looking at Josh making Horaire available to everyone has done a lot of good, or Vi's or Deuveir's instances of Oscean has inspired others to build frameworks around themselves to cull for the optimal outputs. Maybe Merveilles are better described as Augmented Artists, or Tool-Assisted Developers.
A lot of the people I've talked to lately talk about learning things to solve specific problems or accomplish a single task. Does your work follow this structure too?
It's either you shape your goals around a tool, or shape your tools around your goal. It's two valid approaches, the difference is either initial friction, or friction during the remaining 10% of the project. I personally prefer to struggle at first, and lighten the friction load as my focus trickle down the last remaining tasks of a project. Nothing is worst to me than fighting the tool at the end of a project.
Where do you see Rotonde progressing to?
What’s next for you and Hundred Rabbits?
What are your hobbies outside of creative work?
What are your biggest inspirations?
Alan Watts & Imperial Boy.
What is your dream?
Sailing to Japan, building a phone and its OS.
Where can people find your work?
XXIIVV (When it allows itself to be not down)