Archive for the ‘VJing’ Category

37 things that I truly enjoyed in 2009

Google says we don’t need another ‘Best of 2009’ list, and I couldn’t agree more.

Most such lists are, at least in some small way, disingenuous.

Take Vice’s 2009 Albums of the Year list. Clever. But what does it give? What does it tell you about its author(s) – other than the fact that he/ she/ they can deconstruct their own posturing?

We might laugh (*guilty*). Although it’s quite sad. When people aren’t doing the post-modern-show-off thing they’re probably just doing the posturing thing that the post-modern-show-off thing takes the piss out. If you get me.

So, for the sake of sincerity, here’s a personal alternative. A bunch of stuff I enjoyed in 2009, whether it was published/ released/ produced in 2009 or not. It just happened to come into my life last year, and I loved it.

6 things I truly enjoyed reading

Early in November, I read the words “I am in here”. For the next month, I was gripped, and content, because I knew that wherever I went I had 1,000+ pages of Infinite Jest threatening the last threads of my beaten-up manbag.

That bag is now a goner. But if you want to read David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece in 2010, there’s still the wonderful Infinite Summer website/ round table as your companion.

Odd coincidence: most of the action of Infinite Jest (1996) takes place in 2009.

Less odd: information overload = boredom – maybe?

Tao Lin explores this question like no one else I read in 2009, and I admire the bravery of his work. Wonder if he’s a better self-promotionalist than he is a writer. Wonder if he cares, or if he’s just on GChat (to a paying customer). Wonder if he really is Carles from Hipster Runoff.

Short stories were in. I read Miranda July. I re-read Raymond Carver. I read Kmart realism and things got a bit sparse. A bit concrete. The best short book I read talked about concrete, and other materials. Dejan Sudjic‘s little gem, The Language of Things, educated me on Dieter Rams, modern art and the essence of luxury (+much much more) in the space of 218 perfectly considered pages. I raise my cap to him and recommend that book highly.

Lastly – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. We waited 11 years for Junot Díaz to make a comeback. Boy was it worth it.

11 things I truly enjoyed watching

No new film releases blew me away last year. Perhaps I was taking more pleasure from digging – and because Audrey Q‘s flatmate works for Artifical Eye, we always had an archive to hand.

Right at the top of the pile was Emir Kusturica. I loved When Father Was Away on Business (1985), and Underground (1995) was out of this world. Gypsy-carnivalesque-slapstick-allegory. Truly magical.

UNDERGROUND Trailer by musicattaque on YouTube

If I’m remembering correctly, The Larry Sanders Show was buried in a BBC graveyard slot back in the 90s. That’s a complete mystery to me.

It made the mold for recent post-modern comedy, from Curb Your Enthusiasm to The Office to 30 Rock. Every episode I watched last year was A1.

Hank Kingsley by nominal1234 on YouTube

I’ll rat myself out here. I came to the party way too late (via the excellent Underbelly and a newfound bloodlust). But I did watch all 5 seasons of The Wire at the start of the year. Does that need any comment?

At Xmas it got all gory again with another instant classic from David Simon – Generation Kill.

Best Scenes of Generation Kill by DarkEClips on YouTube

No disaster, no massacre without redemption. If Generation Kill showed the bloody worst of Iraq, Mark Cousins’s debut as a director told an entirely different story – many stories, in truth, narrated by the children who live there.

I saw a few brilliant documentaries in 2009. (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell, of particular note). But The First Movie was the best, and the most sui generis. You must watch it.

14 things I truly enjoyed listening to

Bye bye Bmore. Hello Serato. Finally I could play records in the same way I VJ. And we played a lot of MP3s on those two control records.

Track of the year is a toss up between two glitch dubbers: Joy Orbison and 2000F & J Kamata. Since Joy Orbison also made my favourite mix of year, and he called heads, heads wins.

Joy Orbison – Hyph Mngo by HotflushUK on YouTube

Intersections on the various lines between dubstep, house, techno, UK Funky, carioca funk et al got my BPMs racing. Besides Joy Orbison, Floating Points were outstanding in 2009. Mad Decent slipped off my rader a bit, but Major Lazer kept us jumping all summer.

On the Tropical tip, Cumbia was the breakthrough sound – and Buenos Aires’s ZZK Records were always pushing the front line.

El Remolon by ZZK Records on Vimeo

Boogie made a comeback with Dâm-Funk, James Pants and a masterclass from DJ Spinna. Interesting to hear Joy Orbison et al sampling from that era. Probably not a coincidence.

Less sure why Italo is always in my beatbox (synths? irony?) but it appears to be true – Italians Do It Better. Glass Candy at KOKO was one of my gigs of the year.

Glass Candy by Evan Matthews on Vimeo

Back in March 2009, I got to meet a hero. Daedelus performed at Bardens Boudoir with his wife, Laura Darlington. We listened to The Long Lost, looked around the room, and everyone was clearly in love.

The Long Lost – Siren Song by ldtn on Vimeo

*PERSONAL ASIDE WITHIN THIS PERSONAL REVIEW*

Speaking personally, my favourite gig was the Lovebox Arthur Russell tribute night. But  I was VJing at that night. So, as I warned you – it’s personal.

Killer Whale Go Bang by seangorham on YouTube

5 exhibitions I truly enjoyed going to

I’ve already written about Walking In My Mind at the Hayward Gallery, and that exhibition has ended. I don’t think it’s fair to taunt you with the details now.

It’s definitely unfair to tell you about Roger Hiorns’s SEIZURE, if you didn’t make it. But what can I say. It was brilliant. I’m sorry. The exhibition ended on 3 January 2010. Let’s hope it will be back.

Artist on site: Roger Hiorns on Seizure by Artangel on Vimeo

I’ve heard rumbles that The Museum of Everything – a gallery devoted to outsider art – will re-open in some form, at some time, in 2010. I hope that’s true because I’d love to go back.

The Cinema Museum in Kennington does occasional open days and the next one’s coming on 27-28 February 2010. If it’s anything like the one I went to in 2009, you’ll be able to bring old 8mm and 16mm reels for restoration. Something to look forward to, eh?

But if you need a faster fix, mercifully, I can give you a recommendation. Drop everything. Get to the V&A for Decode: Digital Design Sensations before 11 April 2010 and leave plenty of time to play.

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London Poetry Systems Round Up

Back in October, London Poetry Systems collaborated with the Oxford University Poetry Society for (what we thought was) a one-off event in Oxford.

It’s now become a two-off. We’re back for Oxfringe on 11 April 2010.

Here are some of the better bits from our last show…

Will Stopha – This City is Larger than Life by Big Face Art on Vimeo

Huck – My Freedom and Me by Big Face Art on Vimeo

George Chopping – Wit off by Big Face Art on Vimeo

Henry Stead – Earth Too Soon by Big Face Art on Vimeo

Yo Zushi – ‘Eva’ by Big Face Art on Vimeo

Where Have You Been?

This blog isn’t dead. It’s just got a limp.

I’ve been struck down by a glut of work, a flat move and the inveterate ‘no internet’ problem (which may or may not be resolved soon – I can’t tell if Virgin Media are serious or jus’ playin’).

A more important question: where are you going?

Here are some ideas if you’re in London this weekend.

Friday Night – Hayward Gallery (FREE)

According to @LDN, the Hayward Gallery‘s current exhibition – Walking In My Mind – is free tonight at the Southbank Centre (normally £10).

Walking In My Mind at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre: Exclusive on YouTube.

If you’ve been anywhere near the Southbank lately you won’t have missed a plethora of polka dots – courtesy of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

She’s one of the exhibitors offering a glimpse into the inner workings of her imagination through “immersive, large-scale installation art”.

Walking In My Mind at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre: Tour and Interviews on YouTube.

Saturday Night – Sambatralia @ The Egg (£10 with flyer)

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I’ll be at The Egg on Saturday night – VJing all night with the Jungle Drums Sambatralia crew and Movimientos.

Beach, palm trees, a voyage through the video vaults of Latin America…? In the words of Diplo, Lesss gooooo!

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Sunday Afternoon – Dominoes 09, East London (FREE)

The highlight of the CREATE09 arts festival is happening across East London on Sunday – all the way from Mile End to Greenwich.

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Turn up at 3.30pm if you want to see the start of Dominoes 2009.

Thousands of breezeblocks tumbling across town…

Geek aside: the Dominoes 2009 website has a couple of teaser videos – the images above are screengrabs. But the organisers seem to have made a point of not letting you embed or share the clips, as the file names showed:

player_no_viral.swf

?

So whatever you do – DON’T tell anyone about this event.

It would obviously be a disaster if people knew about it.

Mariah Goes Postmodern

I’m a badge-wearing fan of Wreck & Salvage.

Have they just created the first Mariah Carey meme?

Mariah Carey and Marcel Duchamp by wreckandsalvage on Vimeo.

Mariah Carey and Albert Einstein by wreckandsalvage on Vimeo.

Mariah Carey and Andy Rooney by wreckandsalvage on Vimeo.

Mariah Carey and Orson Welles by wreckandsalvage on Vimeo.

Still three videos to go on this mini series, so keep ’em peeled.

Go to Wreck & Salvage’s blog for the feed on their reality re-ordering.

In their words:

“We are three internet hobos riding the rails of digital refuse, navigating through the brambles, backwoods, and country roads. Adventure! Huddled around this campfire we share stories of our journeys.”

How to VJ #9

Puma Lift by Droga5 on Vimeo.

I didn’t expect to include ads in this series. But I didn’t see this spot coming.

Droga5 and Puma have used projection mapping to spectacular effect for their ‘Light Injected Footwear’ – the print work is striking too.

Where set design, installation and architecture converge with live visuals, we’re getting to glimpse the future. It’s increasingly spatial.

james-chinlund-projection-mapping

CAD render showing the beam traffic and early set design [image via ‘boards].

Production designer James Chinlund explains some of the thinking in interview:

“We felt like it was important that it feel at all times like these people were doing this themselves, in their own space. When you watched it that you felt like you were seeing a performance that was happening in real time.

We thought of them as a team of young artists making a piece with almost no money, you should be able to feel the “edges”. The projections weren’t mapped perfectly, there were shadows and spill-off.”

It pays off. The piece feels like a performance and that, for me, makes the creative ambition all the more impressive.

Flight of the Conchords – Carol Brown, Dir. Michel Gondry on YouTube.

That’s not to talk down the projection mapping in composed pieces. Michael Naimark’s installations were groundbreaking and Michel Gondry keeps using the technique with aplomb.

Since Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (White Stripes) he’s taken it into TV.

But how far can you take projection mapping in a club performance?

I hope to find out tonight when Etienne de Crécy and Parisian crew Exyzt bring their Cube to matter (London).

Etienne de Crécy Live 2007 by Clement bournat on Vimeo.

The 3x3x3 cube puts different demands on a VJ crew – but this crew has architects, not to mention scaffolding.

Managed to snag free tix for tonight and will report back from the field…

More on Projection Mapping:

AntiVJ: Exyzt Installation Ripped off by The Killers.

– Memo.tv: Projection mapping with VDMX.

Previous How to VJ:

#8 Interaction: keeping interface simple

#7 No laptops: 8-bit VJing

#6 Pixel-per-pixel: a history

The Art of Marclay

Can I tempt you with unwanted sound and the ragtag bits that are left behind?

Christian Marclay mini documentary by gmooney on YouTube.

I’ve not seen or heard anything quite like Christian Marclay.

Before hip-hop started cutting-and-scratching-scratching-and-cutting, he was using the turntable as an instrument.

Gestures, by Christian Marclay by louis on Vimeo.

When the 90s broke out, he took on pop and sex with the Body Mixes series.

(Anyone still concerned that Dye Holloway Murray stole Sleeveface might want to take a long hard look at the image of Jacko below.)

christian-marclay_footstompin

Footstompin’ , by Christian Marclay by brennheit bakst on Flickr.

“I was just using what was there and reacting to culture and my environment. If you watch MTV it’s all about sex. It’s how they can keep people watching. You can’t be a successful pop star without being overtly sexual on screen.”

I don’t know how he’d feel about the Caramel Bunny. But they’ve both still got it.

AV performance? Multiscreen sound and image remixes?

As predictably as Dwain Chambers gets no redemption, Marclay did the business:

Video Quartet, by Christian Marclay by louis on Vimeo.

I’d love to know what this man’s got planned. You’ll get short odds that advertising will steal and sanitize it.

Sometime around 2019.

(Thanks to Zamir for the hot tip.)

External links:

Christian Marclay profile by White Cube.

Interview with the Journal of Contemporary Art.

mp3 interview/ performance at Some Assembly Required.

How to VJ #8

iran-atm

Design Fail: Melli Bank in Iran via DTYBYWL.

Make your interactions simple and intuitive. Or else the whole process will be painful. And confusing. And you might need an ice-bath afterwards.

this_dance_short by brandyalexander on Vimeo.

When I played alongside The Brandy Alexander Project recently (they’re excellent, btw), they noticed my button-bashing gets pretty frenetic.

Now there’s nothing odd about that to me. Because that’s how I’ve played for a while. I’ve practiced enough that the interactions don’t feel overwraught.

Interactive Propaganda Generator #1 by Matti Niinimäki on Vimeo.

But shouldn’t things be simpler?

When you VJ, you are essentially playing one or more instruments. You should not be aware of the instruments. You should so in tune that you don’t notice them between your fingertips and the output projection.

The more you can reduce the strain of interaction, the better the results can be.

I love this interaction by Matti Niinimäki because it strips away the interface.

Mickey Mann by Matti Niinimäki on Vimeo.

The Mickey Mann style of VJing reminded me of stories I heard a while back. MIDI performance using a Wii-mote. Now how can you not love that?

Any way you can remove complexity from your interactions can boost your performance. It can get you deeper into the flow and closer to what you’re communicating.

Previous How to VJ:

#7 No laptops: 8-bit VJing

#6 Pixel-per-pixel: a history

#5 Making layers: an example

New Conchords Season Premiere

conchords

The second season of Flight of the Conchords starts next month in the US.

But you can watch the first episode in full at Funny or Die now (if you’re in the US).

I’m not in the US – so beware the crushing disappointment you’ll feel if you click that link without reading the caveat. It’s like Hulu all over again.

I consoled myself with this find by Coudal Partners. Matt Ruby‘s hip hop pirate… (stick with it. It’s a grower):

How to VJ #7

Had a whole barrel of fun playing with The Correspondents at Braindrop on Friday. Certainly a snap to the synapses after VJing for poetry the week before.

Along the way I met Clément, aka Pikilipita, and witnessed 8-bit VJing for the first time.

pikilipita1

Photo credit: Ne1co

I’ve talked before about the fact that you don’t need a laptop to VJ.

Pikilipita is polemical about a ‘No Laptop’ policy. He’s a developer and designer, and over a year ago developed a VJ app for the Game Boy Advance.

On Friday, as we switched over between sets, he seemed pretty light on equipment. Just a PS2 and PS2 controller. He stood behind the Braindrop DJs and played his visuals like a console game using the PS24VJ software he finished developing earlier in 2008.

I was impressed by Pikilipita’s minimal set and the ease of his interactions. I’m even more impressed that you can get his apps through a “shareware” business model that only asks for voluntary donation.

On the subject of 8-bit/ ‘No Laptop’ – there’s Gijs Gieskes, aka strobovj. Take a look at the video below:

strobovj makes his animations with Gameboy camera then plays them through his stroboscope – a truly old school device (via). The animations can be synched to the clock of Game Boy musical app LSDJ.

There’s a heap of hacking, tinkering and repurposing going on. And the long and short of it is this – you don’t need a laptop to VJ.

Although it helps to be a developer.

Previous How to VJ:

#6 Pixel-per-pixel: a history

#5 Making layers: an example

#4 Types of VJ: an overview

How to VJ #6

Some VJs are machines. Literally machines. Programmes that generate visuals to synchronize with an audio input.

I picked out this film by Low North to show you what I’m talking about (link for more info). Watch to see pixel-per-pixel mapping of an audio track:

I reckon it’s a stunning piece of work. But you may feel differently. We’re desensitized to audiovisual synchronization by the everyday viewing of cartoons, music videos, even 3D fractal screensavers with their precise, ambient motion.

What’s so impressive about this kind of animation, and what are its precedents?

Low North pay homage to Lillian Schwartz. Here’s one of her seminal films – Pixillation (1970):

It’s not quite pixel-per-pixel, is it? But nearly 30 years ago, Pixillation was one of the first digital films to be shown as a work of art.

It was the result of groundbreaking work by Lillian Schwartz as a consultant and researcher in visual and colour perception at Bell Laboratories.

As she says in The Computer Artists’ Handbook:

“A computer can have (be!) an unlimited supply of brushes, colors, textures, shadings, and rules of perspective and three-dimensional geometry. It can be used to design a work of art or to control a kinetic sculpture.”

But Ken Knowlton, her Bell Labs colleague and author of the BEF LIX (Bell Flix) animation programme, spoke of a troubling dichotomy. Whereas artists – human animators – were “intuitive… sensitive and vulnerable”, programmers were “constricted… cold and inscrutable”.

Look just a few years further back to John Whitney. Is that dichotomy so clear?

Like Lillian Schwartz, John Whitney has immense stature in the history of the digital arts. He’s sometimes credited (see the Wiki) as one of the fathers of computer animation. And his vision was simple:

“Above all, I want to demonstrate that electronic music and electronic colour-in-action combine to make an inseparable whole that is much greater than the parts.”

In the 1980s, Whitney was responsible for the invention of an AV “synthesizer for the future”, the Whitney-Reed RDTD. But earlier in his career he worked with Saul Bass on title sequence for Vertigo (1958).

Imagine Whitney’s vision pre-electronic. Pre-computers. When you watch the minutely synchopated animation of Fantasia (1940), for example, you don’t imagine a computer in sight. You might, however, when you watch Oskar Fischinger’s work – because it has that level of detail and timing:

As the date will tell you, this animation involved no computer. Fischinger worked for Disney as an animator on Fantasia. He’d used charcoal-on-paper for his early works. He’d played with coloured liquids and a “Wax Slicing Machine” in between, and invented the Lumigraph (a colour organ) in 1950.

Some of the most visionary animators and filmmakers of the pre-digital era laboured with incredible precision to synchronize visuals with music. There’s a separate strand of film history – one that competed against narrative cinema, the talkie, but appeared to have lost.

You’ll see origins of this battle in the early 1920s, with films by the Dadaists and particularly Hans Richter.

If you want to VJ, in my opinion, you should be aiming for “an inseparable whole that is greater than its parts”. The results can be as revolutionary as you make them.

It doesn’t matter what you use to create. But when you produce audiovisual synchronization, regardless of programmes, software or dialectics, you’re pumping new blood into a rich, historic vein of cinema.

Make it human. Make it how you feel. Because an audience will feel it with you.

Feel like some more? Check out the Center for Visual Music.