Cimatics presents
Cimatics, Brussels International Platform for Live A/V, presents a Masterclass Live Audiovisual Art, within the framework of the studio-program Experimental Media-art provided by the VAF (the Flemish Audiovisual Fund).
Because the biggest merit of live A/V is its cross-border and cross-disciplinary character the masterclass will challenge its participants to do just that: collaborate.

The goal of this blog is to generate an open-source effect: opening up the discussions from within the masterclass to the rest of the world. Let this be a call for everyone to participate and join or start a debate.
Eventually, this blog will be printed as a book. An additional DVD with the open-source versions (Creative Commons license) of the participants masterclass-projects will be available afterwards. So if you post something to this blog, you are co-authoring the book.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

VJ Illuminations

Happy New Year Cimatics Network!

Every new year I choose one "word-thought-action" that I use throughout the rest of the year to stimulate new approaches to my work.

In 2006, the active word-thought-action triggering my creative advances was improvisation.

In 2007, improvisation gave way to intuition.

In 2008, we're passing the torch to illumination.

May the prophets be forewarned.

A few updates from Professor VJ:

First, some of the "process theory" I am generating around live A/V as a fantastic model for developing an "applied aesthetics" as part of a larger philosophical and even spiritual practice is now beginning to merge into a new book. When I say I am trying imagine the art of remixology as an integrated "spiritual" practice, I do not mean in a religious sense but in a more interpersonal/intercultural sense where we all feel more connected to each other via our shared creativity. You can find two recent posts on this subject here and here.

Also, in a new interview exchange with the live A/V artists over at VJ Theory, we discuss live A/V performance and net art culture from a number of different angles highlighting keywords like digital narrative and persona (as in who is your VJ Persona and what's your story?).

Here is the opening excerpt:


Your book 'META/DATA' was released by MIT Press in May (2007). While reading the presentation of the book on the MIT website, one sentence in particular stood out 'Amerika documents the emergence of new media art forms while he creates them'. This is perhaps because I have recently seen you creating work and being very excited and curious about the technologies you use. But it also goes back to the time I read the excerpt from 'Portrait of a VJ', which is one of the texts published in this new book. In it you relate VJing with narrative and personal history. At the same time you document your life, describe the lifestyle of the VJ, together with the process of producing work (footage and playing).

As an artist and theorist you are part of a net art history. VJing seems to be an emergent topic on your writing and I would like to know how all this comes together: video, net art, VJing, narrative, fiction and theory?


First, Ana, I would like to say that I am a big fan of your site, VJ Theory. A lot of theory these days is very predictable. It tends to be very insular and targeted at an academically oriented audience that forgets that artists, creative writers, and performers all have their own developing "theories" as well.

Maybe the better word is "poetics" (META/DATA's subtitle is "A Digital Poetics").

The first two sections of the book, entitled "Spontaneous Theories" and "Distributed Fictions" are meant to remix fictional narrative, artist theory, and something like pseudo-autobiography. It's not documentary-styled autobiography but collage-styled memoir that pieces together both my own experience as an internationally travelling artist-writer-VJ as well as quotes, ideas, and stylized phrasings from my primary network. I guess some people might call it autoethnography but my own story is too dominant for it to be that too.

You are right that the book traces a kind of shift in my work from net art to VJ and/or live A/V performance. But to me it's all fluid because I really feel like I am somehow generating these transitions by actively engaging myself in many simultaneous scenes. So, for example, there was a shift for me in the early Nineties from radical novel writing (I have published two novels, The Kafka Chronicles and Sexual Blood) to more multimedia, hypertext narratives that, with the explosion of interest in the Internet, led to my work being embraced by the visual art world as a new form of contemporary art we have since come to call net art. I have made many works of net art including my major trilogy which consists of GRAMMATRON, PHON:E:ME, and FILMTEXT. FILMTEXT was commissioned by Playstation 2 and the ICA in London as part of my net art retrospective there in 2001-2002. The point being, out of nowhere, after releasing FILMTEXT online, I got invited to do two performance related tours of FILMTEXT, one in Europe and one in Japan, and this was great timing because the idea of performing, instead of merely presenting, my net art works had been on my mind for quite some time, especially since I thought the works in my main net art trilogy were in fact quite performative in and of themselves and invited participatory performance from whoever chose to interact with them.

I decided that I would really switch it up and invited my sound collaborator Twine to join me on these two tours which he agreed and I decided to do the visuals and he worked on the sounds. A question immediately presented itself to me: “How should I perform my net art visuals in a live setting?” Well, I had a large library of QuickTime movies that were mostly made of manipulated images from the FILMTEXT website, digital video images that I had shot all over the world, especially near my home in Hawaii, the Australian Outback, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, and they somehow screamed for potential remixing. The idea of the laptop VJ was becoming very interesting to me, especially with simple programs like Arkaos but also more experimental programs like VDMX. Remember, this was like late 2001, early 2002! So Twine and I went on the road with our laptops, our source material, and a willingness to learn everything on the fly -- while on tour! I was literally learning how to be a VJ in the hotel room two nights before the first tour in Japan was to start. It ended up being one of the best series of gigs I have ever performed.

As is always the case with me, as I began VJ touring for the next three years, I kept taking notes and writing about what it felt like to "become" a VJ -- in this case, VJ Persona -- and the writing was a mix of fiction, artist poetics, image rhythm theory, etc. Since the transition from net artist to VJ was seamless, the net art poetics I had been generating between 1995-2002 was still stimulating my thinking too -- so I was able to blend them together into what I called digital flux personas, where the central character in my fictional poetics could become many things at once a net artist, theorist, VJ, Professor, novelist, whatever. In the end, VJ Persona became a kind of playah.

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