People often ask me "What is a VJ?". It's not a question that I had spent much time thinking about, despite a few gigs. "VJing? Well, you know what a DJ is? A VJ is someone who mixes visuals instead of sound". Coming back from Milan gigs for Contact Europe, I've been thinking more about what I do live and whether such a simplistic definition is actually true. I felt somewhat out of place amoungst what I think of as the "heads-down eye-candy crowd". Explore your hard drive and swap software while projecting a few abstract loops. "Punters? What punters? What OS are you running?". Nothing could beat the guy who was asleep during his set however. Who said VJing is easy?! Heretic!
Another guy asked me if I was a "techno fetishist". "I am", he said. Good question but the answer was definitely "No". I've got the computer science background but I couldn't give a shit about hardware. It's just the stage, the bits and bobs to jump about on. So here goes a new answer to "What is VJing?", for me anyhow.
VJing is a form of story-telling that combines film-making, architecture, and performance. VJs recycle fresh visuals from old visuals and the audience. The story is designed for a networked physical space. Live performance has an edge that recorded media only ever approximates. Live mixing is a form of performance that can linger for the participants long after the innovation or vibe is bottled. Directors like me are itching to mix all their films on-the-fly.
The online interfaces to my set (e.g. SMS text messaging) are there to enable the audience to feed into the experience, an extension of dancing at the foot of the stage. Live art is a two-way relationship. VJs want as many inputs as possible. The technology is there to manage the increasing complexity of recorded sources and audience channels. Music visualisation, masking with SMS text from the crowd, sampling of punter provided URLs, motion tracking the audience, all manner of playful copyright violations are both possible and inevitable given the Al Fayda approach to life. All meaningless trickery and geek-ery until a coherant narrative forms in the mix. There lies the buzz of performing as a VJ. Like the best computer games, the story is only evident in hindsight, uniquely personalised for the participant.
Live art is not for everyone but for some, nothing else comes close. Jamming with ideas, getting the feedback from the crowd is a muso perspective but equally fun for visuals. It's also a handy springboard for online film projects.Posted by .M. at May 21, 2003 11:04 AM | TrackBack