Next up on the coffee table >> VJ : audio-visual art + VJ culture, edited by Michael Faulkner / D-Fuse, published via www.laurenceking.co.uk, with bonus 130 minute DVD.
“For many, vjing is a dirty word. artists view it as eyecandy for the clubbing generation; musicians view it as a secondary accompaniment to their music. at best, vjing is regarded as audio-visual wallpaper, not worthy as a serious consideration. yet to my eyes, the best vjs are creating a new fluid interface between sound and image – one that is genuinely mould-breaking and aesthetically invigorating, and one that deserves to be recognized as a 21st century art form.”
– Michael Faulkner
Michael Faulkner aka D-Fuse is primely perched to edit/curate a book on VJing – well travelled as visual performer and graphic designer, an extensive array of profile gigs under his belt, and well hooked into the sprawling VJ networks. Coming from an artist inside the ‘scene’ then, the book is packed with useful insights, laid out with visual flair that respects the work ( and in full colour throughout too! ).
Alongside various new media / video art / motion graphics books that squeeze VJing into a few pages, ‘VJ : audio-visual art + VJ culture’ also slips onto the bookshelves next to a few books dedicated to documenting the global VJ practice. The VJ Book ( from Feral House ) included many interviews by a journalist with an outsiders view, but suffered from a lack of visual displays of the culture and processes it discussed. Live Cinema Unravelled ( available as a free PDF ) managed much sexier design, was written by someone immersed in VJing and came bundled with a lot more theory – aiming to dissect the role of the VJ against such topics such as ‘technological mobility, audience, environment, and codes of the medium’. Thumbs up, full review later.
Interviews with VJs the globe over makes up the bulk of VJ : audio-visual art + VJ culture, artist interviews from a significant spread of nations complemented with a range of live performance photos, and video stills, laid out stylishly and vividly demonstrating the diversity of aesethetics and approaches with live video. The DVD immerses even further, with a range of live performances, videos and documentaries of The Light Surgeons, Cold Cut, Hexstatic, D-Fuse and more. It’s a compelling package, the artist interviews supplemented by a range of specialist articles written by various VJs.
Bram Crevits whirlwinds us through an historical overview of ‘the roots of VJing’, taking in the expanded cinema of the 1960s, fluxus video art of the 60s and 70s, the ‘magic lantern’ (an oil lamp, with lens and pictures painted on a glass plate, creating live animations back as early as 1671 ), live animation devices of the 1800s, the development of cinema, the evolution of music videos, concrete music, electronic media, the graphical user interface in 1984 and gives good context to today’s pixel manglers.
Adrian Shaughnessy, further contexualises contemporary VJing (Last night a VJ zapped my retinas) :
“The digital artist is really an editor. We can generate imagery ad infinitum; the skill is to know what is good, what should be kept and what should be discarded. This is the art of editing and it is also the art of VJing. .. VJs often have to do their editing live, in front of an audience. It is one of the factors that makes VJing such an exhilarating ride for both the audience and the VJ.”
“Science and technology multiply around is. To an increasing extent they dictate the language in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute.” – J.G Ballard ( as quoted in Live Cinema Unravelled )
Chris Allen of the Light Surgeons scribes a piece on sampling, arguing it is a technique that “allows us to see the components of our language in isolation – the bricks that then may be used to construct new meanings.”
The overview of technology and creative process by Vello Virkhaus is comprehensive and insightful, documenting processes from storyboarding with clients / collaborators through to venue design and live performance.
Elliot Earls, who looks like he has an intriguing live show, talks of need for VJs to work more closely with musicians, or better yet, to compose music themselves, if they are to move beyond merely being in service to musicians in a manner resembling ‘info-burger flippers’. Robin Rimbaud’s (aka scanner) article “listening to pictures” might provide some help in that regard, offering tips on a/v from a sound perspective.
The book rounds out with a decent coverage of hardware issues – different screens ( shapes, sizes, materials ) , advice on projectors, mixers, midi, computers, and graphics cards etc, a less potent software overview (only 8 of the dozens available profiled ) and an excellent selection of personalised diagrams profiling a dozen or so onstage-set-ups for major Vjs around the world. These are especially fascinating, usually a blend of hi and lo tech, expensive and cheap gear, to help create their custom look and processes.