Off Peak — Nicole Ruggiero

Nicole Ruggiero is a 3D visual artist based in New York. She makes work focused on emerging technology and the way emotional and social culture evolves around it. She’s highly adept at perceiving, reflecting, and even predicting these cultural shifts, so it’s no wonder that her work has been featured by the likes of Adult Swim, the New York Times, VICE, and Glamour, among others. 

We know her through some of our friends operating at the intersection of electronic music and 3D art, so we thought she’d make an interesting addition to this series. The playlist she curated for us doesn’t disappoint. True to her aesthetic, it’s high-gloss and lovingly nostalgic at once; it’s a balanced mix of fresh avant-garde pop, ahead-of-their-time classics, and video game soundtrack. We talked with her about the playlist, the interplay between her practice and her listening habits, and the cutting-edge work she’s producing right now.

This playlist is a super-fun listen; it’s a great mix of the futuristic pop avant-garde, niche cuts, and pop classics. What feeling are you trying to convey to the listener? Do you see this playlist as built for a particular setting or situation?

Thanks! Honestly, I don’t listen to a lot of music. When I do, I’m usually at a friend’s show, vibing out at home to some emotional music, or dancing to a hot DJ mix. A lot of artists I included on this playlist are either my friends, work with my friends, or I’ve heard at the club or a video game. Actually, a couple of these tracks I also discovered while streaming on Twitch too. I think this is a really eclectic mix, so I think I would want the listener to explore the different vibes that I included in the playlist. Speaking of streaming on Twitch, I think this mix would actually be perfect for something like that. Or to listen to at a café while working.

To our ear, the aesthetic of this playlist matches that of your visual work quite closely. Further, the visual world in which much of this music exists is actually very closely related to your work (for example, the album artwork for Charli was done by Ines Alpha, a collaborator of yours). To what extent does your visual practice and professional network influence the music you seek out and listen to?

It definitely influences it a lot. Most of the music I consume is my friends’ work. I really love all different kinds of music, mostly pop music: hyperpop, city pop, J-pop, and classic pop. I only included one city pop track on here, but I got into it because I used to go to this city pop chat room on YouTube, and I made friends with the DJ, who is based in Chicago. I also enjoy some dark electronic tunes, influenced by witch house, which I originally got into from searching witch house images on Tumblr a long time ago. And I also like a lot of music from video games, which have definitely influenced my practice as an artist. One of my most recent pieces, called Halo Effect, which I did for Adult Swim, was really influenced by Kingdom Hearts. I included a song from that game on the playlist as well. 

How would you describe your taste in music, and what role does music play in your work and your practice? How do you look for new music?

It’s really eclectic, haha. I like the genres I listed above, that I included in the playlist, and I also like a lot of emo and folk-rock. Like, in high school, Bright Eyes was my favorite artist. My girlfriend also works at a record label, so I wind up listening to a lot of indie rock and punk too. More recently, I’ve been getting more into electronic beats, which I feel really connected to since I am on the computer all the time when I make my work, so there is something that feels homey about it. When I go to shows, I usually have visions for work that I want to make. It happens pretty often; just zoning out and listening to the music is like a type of meditation to me. I also use a lot of music in my animations. I usually try to use my friends’ music when I make animations so that they can get some spotlight too. So if you know anyone that would like their track on my work, or if anyone wants to give me a shout, definitely do so! 

When I look for new music, I usually go to Spotify and check out what new stuff is out, or check out the curated playlists they make every week. They’re actually really good at that. I also like to use YouTube when I’m watching music videos. YouTube has some really fun radio chat rooms too!

What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you want to plug?  

I’ve been working on an AR project called “How The Internet Changed My Life” for a while now. It’s about people from around the world who have had significant and life-changing experiences online. It’s a project that will be integrated with photography, Magic Leap, and a physical installation. Working on the development right now, but very excited for this one! Other than that, I’ve been thinking a lot about incorporating more nature into my work. I’ve been realizing that we have envisioned the techno-dystopia we now live in, so I think it’s really important to envision a more symbiotic, positive future for us in the environment. A lot of kids feel like we are doomed nowadays, but we actually have the technology to get ourselves out of the hole we have dug; we just have to implement it. I also taught myself a couple new programs recently to enhance my workflow, so you can check ou my new stills and animations on my Instagram. 🙂