Martin Backes is an artist, designer, innovator, creative technologist, director, composer, DJ, and teacher.
His passion for creativity and innovation drives him to explore the intersection of art, design, science, tech, and culture. He seeks new ways to combine these disciplines and create unique experiences, pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo.
He holds two master's degrees, one in Sound Studies/Acoustic Communication and another in Art + Media, both from the University of Arts Berlin.
He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.
Early Life and Education
Martin Backes was born in 1977 in Rosenheim, Germany.
He started his career in the late 90s experimenting with sound, composing music, and DJing. Soon he became a resident DJ at Bambergs Morph Club, which opened up opportunities for him to collaborate with top international DJs and producers. This led to nationwide DJ gigs.
Around 1999, he moved to Berlin to immerse himself in the music and art scene. He finally released his first music LP in 2005 called "Out of the Box" with Keko King as “Dazz & Keko”. At the same time, he also turned more and more to art production.
In 2006, he started taking Sound Studies classes at the University of the Arts under Karl Bartos, who used to be in the famous German band Kraftwerk. After earning a Master of Arts degree, he continued in the Art + Media program under Joachim Sauter, a pioneer in new media art and design, where he earned a second Master of Fine Arts degree.
In 2007, Martin Backes founded his art studio Studio Martin Backes.
In his artworks, he often employs media technologies to reflect various functionalities, effects, ideologies, and human perception. He plays with the ambiguity between the physical world and the digital realm, highlighting the blurred boundaries between analog and digital, reality and simulation, stability and disruption, figure and abstraction.
His cross-disciplinary and experimental work in the intermediate area of art, science, technology, and culture encompasses a wide range of mediums, including augmented reality (AR) and multimedia sound works, theater dance pieces, installations, as well as sculptural and computer/video works.
His work has been shown in museums, galleries, and theaters around the world, including at the Municipal Theatre Bielefeld, Mediamatic Amsterdam, MuseumsQuartier Wien, MAK Design Lab, International Spy Museum, Belgrade City Museum, Mochvara Gallery, NIU Art Museum Illinois, New Media Gallery, Austrian Cultural Forum, and TEDx. His work has also been featured at festivals such as Vienna Biennale, CTM, MÈQ, Nemo, Nuit Blanche Paris, Transmediale, BIAN/Elektra, Die Digitale, B-Seite, ADAF, and EMAF.
Publications including WIRED, CreativeApplications.Net, The Creators Project, Create Digital Music, Gizmodo, Boing Boing , Business Insider, Engadget, Fast Company, Designboom, The Local, El Periódico, and Süddeutsche have written about his work. His artwork has also been featured in Neural Magazine, Quotation Magazine, Kaltblut Magazine, and the European Youth Trend Report.
Martin Backes' passion for design spans all known (and some unknown) forms of media. He has been working on design projects since the beginning of 2006 and gained immense experience consulting and designing for brands, mobile platforms and websites, automotive in-car entertainment, and infotainment systems, music soft- and hardware, IoT, interfaces for museums, interactive/non-interactive installations, and art installations.
Besides his artistic career, he founded a more commercial-focused company called aconica in 2008, a design studio for interactive audiovisual communication based in Berlin, Germany where he collaborated with major companies such as Google, YouTube, Native Instruments, blinkist, PCH Innovations, WHITEvoid, Linde, MINI, BMW, VW, Metadesign and many more.
Since 2009 he has also been working as a lecturer at various universities and institutions European-wide.
In 2019, he founded a new consultancy called Design Sprints Studio. It combines his experience as an award-winning designer, consultant, innovator, strategist, tech expert, teacher, and workshop facilitator. Design Sprints Studio is a product design, strategy, and innovation studio with specific expertise in utilizing Design Sprints and other Design Thinking workshop methods for ideation, decision-making, and problem-solving.
In 2021, he won the German Design Award from the German Design Council for his creative direction, strategy, and consultancy work on the Blinkist Audio Branding project.
Awards & Nominations
•"The Leo" nomination for the most successful combination of image and music or sound.
•"Index: Award Nominee 2013" in the category community (the world's biggest design award)
•"German Design Award" from the German Design Council
•Dazz & Keko - Out of the box LP.
•I am sitting in a machine; 12 inch Dubplate.
•What do machines sing of?
•I am sitting in a machine;
•Nature Changes Along with Us
•What do I know? I am just a machine?!
•Permanent Exhibition: Europe Today – House of European History/European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium (2022)
•Welcome to Paradise – NRW-Forum, Düsseldorf, Germany (2021)
•ADAF 2020 – Athens Digital Arts Festival, Athens, Greece (2020)
•Noostopia, Theater Bielefeld/Theaterlabor Tor 6, Bielefeld, Germany (2020)
•The Wrong, The Wrong TV – Channel 3, Online (2020)
•NEMO Biennale, Le Centquatre, Paris, France (2019)
•Nuit blanche, Le Centquatre, Paris, France (2019)
•bitkom, Berlin, Germany (2019)
•whiteBOX, Munich, Germany (2019)
•Vienna Biennale for Change 2019, MAK Design Lab, Vienna, Austria (2019)
•It’s a book 2019, Leipzig, Germany (2019)
•ADAF 2018 – Athens Digital Arts Festival, Athens, Greece (2018)
•Faceless Exhibition, Austrian Cultural Forum, Berlin, Germany (2018)
•KlangLand 17, Kassel, Germany (2017)
•New Media Gallery, Vancouver, Canada (2017)
•die digitale 2017, Düsseldorf, Germany (2017)
•MÈQ Festival, Montpellier, France (2017)
•Flipping the Coin evening at Berghain´s Kantine, Berlin, Germany (2017)
•B-Seite – Festival für visuelle Kunst und Jetztkultur, Mannheim, Germany (2017)
•CTM Festival 2017, Berlin, Germany (2017)
•Digital Art Biennial (BIAN) / ELEKTRA, Montreal, Canada (2016)
•European Media Art Festival (EMAF), Osnabrueck, Germany (2016)
•International Spy Museum, Washington, USA (2016)
•Solo Exhibition, Mochvara Gallery, Zagreb, Croatia (2016)
•TEDx, Madrid, Spain (2015)
•New Aesthetic?, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia (2015)
•SIGHT.SOUND [INTERACTION] 8, Baltimore, USA (2015)
•Faceless, Belgrade City Museum, Serbia (2015)
•Faceless, Mediamatic Amsterdam, Netherlands (2014)
•On Watching and Being Seen, NIU Art Museum Illinois, USA (2013)
•Faceless, MuseumsQuartier Vienna, Austria (2013)
•Coded Perception – New Aesthetic Expo, Utrecht, Netherlands (2012)
•Artconnect Berlin, Berlin, Germany (2012)
•Cadavre Exquis, Berlin, Germany (2011)
•im namen des raumes Gallery, Berlin, Germany (2010)
•KlangLand 2010, Kassel, Germany (2010)
•e`clepsydre, .HBC, Berlin, Germany (2010)
•Esta Casa Sonada, Maracaibo, Venezuela (2009)
•Artsummer Schwaben 09, Kloster Irsee, Germany (2008)
•X-Sounds at Ballhaus Naunynstraße, Berlin, Germany (2007)
•toposonie :: spree – a participatory soundwalk along the river Spree in Berlin-Mitte (co-op with Georg Klein), Berlin, Germany (2013)
•Future Self (co-op with Max Richter, rAndom International, Wayne McGregor), interactive audiovisual installation, MADE, Berlin, Germany (2012)
•Hippy and the Snake (co-op with Petrina Hicks), 2 channel audio/video installation, Helen Gory Gallery, Melbourne, Australia (2011)
•Secrets Trilogy (co-op with Reynold Reynolds), 3 channel audio/video installation, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Labor Berlin 4, Germany (2011)
•Six Easy Pieces (co-op with Reynold Reynolds), 3 channel audio/video installation, Clermont-Ferrand, France (2009)
•Vertical Wire Music (co-op with Heidrun Schramm and Christoph Illing), University of Arts, Berlin, Germany (2008)
- "Studio Martin Backes Website". https://www.martinbackes.com/.
- "Fast Company Article". https://www.fastcompany.com/3048797/this-poor-computer-was-designed-to-sing-90s-karaoke-forever.
- "About Page - Studio Martin Backes Website". https://www.martinbackes.com/about/.
- "Das Filter". http://dasfilter.com/sounds/mitgehoert-musik-aus-dem-filter-schwarm-heute-martin-backes-kuenstler-hacker-und-musiker.
- "Noostopia at Theater Bielefeld". https://theater-bielefeld.de/veranstaltung/noostopia.html.
- "PopularMechanics". https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/news/a16638/hellish-machine-sings-1990s-ballads-one-after-another-endlessly/.
- "MuseumsQuartier Vienna, Austria". https://www.mqw.at/institutionen/q21/artists-in-residence/2018/martin-backes.
- "TEDx Talk". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWmm_4lRSHI.
- "award-winning zine BoingBoing". https://boingboing.net/2011/03/16/pixelhead-mask-makes.html.
- "aconica - creative lab for sound + media". https://www.aconica.de/.
- "Encac Teaching". https://encac.eu/artistas/martin-backes/.
- "How I Made the Career Shift into Consulting and Workshopping". https://medium.com/designsprints-studio/how-i-made-the-career-shift-into-consulting-and-workshopping-24ce1da122a7/.
- "Design Sprints Studio". https://designsprints.studio/.
- "The Leo Award Nomination". https://www.martinbackes.com/the-leo-nomination/.
- "The Index Award Nomination". https://www.martinbackes.com/index-award-nominee-2013/.
- "German Design Award". https://www.german-design-award.com/die-gewinner/galerie/detail/32365-blinkist-audio-branding.html.
- "Dazz & Keko Bandcamp". https://dazz-keko.bandcamp.com/album/out-of-the-box.
- "Discogs". https://www.discogs.com/artist/995020-Martin-Backes.
- "Artist interview with the Local Germany". https://www.thelocal.de/20120823/44537/.
- "NW Culture Newspaper". https://www.nw.de/nachrichten/kultur/kultur/22681055_Mensch-trifft-auf-Maschine.html.