The book everyone recommends when getting into VJing is(appropriately named)… ‘The VJ book‘ from Paul Spinard.

It’s packed full of interview of people working around live video performance and light. Some of which really resonate with how i’m feeling about the whole scene, and some i completely disagree with.

I was at the train station yesterday and I read the interview with Henry Warwick and it really hit with how i am feeling at the moment about the art-form.

So here’re a few sections of the interview.

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Paul Spinard: You’ve emphasized the importance of narrative in all forms of performance, because storytelling…

Henry Warwick: That’s the essence!

PS: Yes, that’s how the brain works.

HW: The reason I came up with Performance Cinema is that the term “VJ” is tied into the DJ aesthetic of pastiche – gluing things together that are not normally related. The DJ’s purpose is to keep a party going, and you don’t need a narrative to have a really good dance party.

Most VJs reinforce this lack of flow in terms of ideas. They just throw stuff together, and there doesn’t have to be any brain behind it. Like, they’ll take swishy-looking images, then mic in some home movies of somebody’s pets, combine it with George W. Bush, throw in some traffic images and clips from Koyannisqatsi, and that’s it – They’re done. It’s easy to do, and it might look cool for about ten minutes, but it’s not telling me anything. I mean, it’s kind of “political” because of the Koyannisqatsi and Bush images, but it’s not a studied idea, you’re not really getting the point across. There’s no narrative.

There doesn’t always have to be a specific point, but there might be some kind of resonant logic behind what you’re looking at. Otherwise it’s like, well, I’ve seen this a thousand times.

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PS: But in a place where dancing is the main focus, won’t the music always be more important?

HW: Bingo. That’s why VJ is doomed, so long as it’s carried by the dance scene. To evolve, the form needs to break away and expand into other forms of performance cinema.

It’s not going to be easy. First of all, there’s the whole economic issue. The club VJ currently has industrial backing from DJ equipment manufacturers, but performance cinema does not. Another thing is, you have to get people into a space where they’re willing to pay attention to something long enough to get involved with it. It’s hard to do, especially for a form that’s unfamiliar to most people. There’s an important political issue here as well: the right to assembly. This right has no meaning when people don’t get together, when everybody is atomized into their suburban bunkers.

Another issue is more technical: performers need the ability to control the audio. They don’t currently have this because most of the live video mixing tools are designed for the DJ/VJ scenario., which divorces the VJ form the sound. None of the major VJ software applications I know of give you significant control over audio production. Sometimes they take audio in, but only for triggering or eye candy “visualizations” that are dictated by the music. From the other end, almost all software for mixing audio clips can’t handle video very well, if at all – certainly not in the sense that a VJ, or live cinema artists requires.

Tool-providers are giving the tool users what they want, and right now a number of users just want to make goofy shit that flies around on the screen at a party. So we’re limited until performance cinema can rear it’s ugly head and tell developers that we’d like to control both video and audio in a comprehensive, coordinated and synchronized way. I’ve been in touch with many of the major developers who are in the middle of this. They are all doing amazing work, but it seems to me that they spend a lot of time optimizing their software for live video processing, not live audio/video arrangement and direction.

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I’ve been feeling pretty disillusioned with the whole VJ beat in the last few weeks. So i’m not sure how far i’m going to go with it. I’ll definitely be experimenting with live cinema work in the future, but will i be playing at clubs and parties? Probably not.

It’s not even that i don’t find it enjoyable. Playing and mixing video to people partying and having a good time IS fun. But it’s all about what I want to accomplish in the limited time I have. I can’t help but feel that when i’m fucking around and mashing up bits of video, that i could be learning and working on something more meaningful to me and my future projects.

And so ends my rant for the week.

all the best to you pixel pushers out there

 

_permian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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