The Surreal World of Cyriak, Interview

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Cyriak Harris is a British artist and composer known for his surreal and grotesque short animations using photo and video montage, which he began spreading on the internet in 2004.

He has since built a career as a freelance animator, working on commercials, TV shows, and music videos, and has a YouTube following of over a million subscribers. He currently lives in Lincolnshire for no apparent reason.

Official site

  • What are your major influences as an artist? 

I guess it is a mixture of Escher style technical drawing and Terry Gilliam cartoon madness. Growing up I was heavily into the psychedelia of underground comics like Zap, but was also strangely fascinated by the illustrations in Haynes car manuals.

Anything that subverted reality or rendered it in such complex detail that it became visually overwhelming.

  • How did you start? Why did you decide to become an animator?

Originally I wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to make video games, and be a comic artist, and make tv shows and be in a band. I basically wanted to do everything, and making animations was the closest I could get to all of these things.

It was also the most easily accessible to an audience once the internet finally arrived, so that helped to steer the direction of my career.

  •  How is evolved your visual aesthetic over the years?

I started using cut-out photos just because it was quicker than drawing things. I wanted to tell visual jokes, but I had to be able to do it quickly before I got bored and started doing something else.

However, I soon fell in love with the surreal style of distorted photographic visuals, and over time I ended up using it to build complex psychedelic worlds.

  • You have made a series of short dark videos dedicated to Christmas. What does this holiday mean to you?

Christmas is great when you are a kid. When you are a grown-up it is a nightmare of over-consumption and waste, eating too much food and buying people gifts that they don’t even want, along with all the tacky plastic ornaments that are made to be thrown away and yet will outlive human civilisation.

Still, I appreciate the time off.

  • How do you go about making the videos? Do you have every aspect of animation in mind before trying your hand, or are some elements added based on your inspiration?

Usually, I will have a vague idea in my head of how the whole video will be, but I will fill in a lot of the details as I go along.

When I am making music videos, the music becomes like a storyboard to me, and the journey it goes on directly influences the visuals I will make.

  • How important is technology in our daily life in the age of social networks?

It is reaching a point now where we hardly know what to do with ourselves when the internet stops working. That’s kind of funny to me since I grew up without the internet, but I am still a victim of its addictive nature. Social networks bring us constant attention, which humans crave.

Feeding that addiction could be dangerous, which we are discovering as the world follows a more disturbing path, where people don’t care about the truth as long as they are getting more followers on the internet. But this is just human nature being amplified, so I’m not sure if it can be avoided.

  • What is a typical day in the life of Cyriak?

A typical day in the life of Cyriak involves sitting in front of a computer all day while I work, and then turning it off so I can go and sit in front of another computer in the evening.

There isn’t much of my life beyond the glow of a computer screen.

  • Grotesque self-spawned mutations, syncopated movements, surreal structures, dissonant music, loops, monstrous creatures populate your videos. How do you find the perfect balance between these seemingly inconsistent and chaotic elements? What role do math sequences play in your videos?

I would say that whatever balance there is just emerges from the chaos. I sometimes feel like my videos are making themselves. I put all the pieces together, but the way that they fit is like a jigsaw puzzle, there is only one solution.

Mathematics is involved in the sense that it builds everything in reality, and I am using those fundamental building-blocks to create my own worlds, with geometry, chaos, emergence, evolution, and entropy. These things are laws unto themselves.

Horse Destroys the Universe
  • Where did the idea for your book “Horse Destroys the Universe” come from?

I decided to write a book by thinking of the most ridiculous situation possible, and then working backward to figure out the story that would realistically lead to such a conclusion.

It was a creative exercise, not intended to be read or published, but as with all of my creations, it grew until it had a life of its own.

  • Was the transition from video to literature difficult?

I’ve been writing stories since long before I ever made animations. In a way, my animations are like stories, to me anyway. Writing a novel isn’t difficult until you realise that someone else will have to read it.

Turning a hobby into a product to sell to people, you learn a lot during that process. 

  • Would you like to work with any particular artist?

I don’t enjoy working with other people, especially other artists. Artists have their own ideas about what makes things look good or interesting, that is the job of being an artist, basically.

I guess I’m too much of a control freak to accommodate other people’s ideas.

  • What is your next project?

My life is like my animations, there is a vague plan but I’m mostly making it up as I go along. I’ve no idea what I will do next, I won’t know until I’m doing it.

I would like to write another book, or make a film, or a video game, or make more music. This is the problem with going in every direction, you never know where you are going.

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