Amusing as the U.S. election is to watch on news channels, or terrifying if you’re watching it via the Comedy Channel’s Daily Show, just sometimes, you don’t feel like having a herd of cattle flying overhead, dumping manure on you from great heights. A few abstract video antidotes then, to counteract the visual political overload of late.
Scott Baker, aka Abre Ojos, graced Melbourne Plug N Play recently with a fine audiovisual set, blending together well richly textured drones of ebb of flow with ethereal video footage, and appropriately stylised live animations. Walking into the venue though, one of the first things noticed was his rig, as he tends to use a range custom analogue equipment, and on this occasion had an impressive modular synthesiser embedded in a suitcase, spaghetti patchwork of cables arcing out of it everywhere, flanked by a range of controllers and a laptop for controlling video. A desk microphone let him use his voice to provide raw sound for filtering, processing into a swell of buzzing insects, mid ocean waves or a distant rumbling volcano. All the while letting slow and atmospheric video drift by on screen ( or into the screen in the case of road journeys into a floating cloud of mist ), or smoothly shifting animated light patterns over time.
Nice stuff, and he has a DVD out, a compilation of 4 AV tracks – all tracks are improvised, vision and sound recorded in a single pass, no overdubs, then minimal mixing/mastering / compressing / EQ etc. Visually, he works by taking photos and video with a consumer grade digital still camera ( the growing video quality on cheap still cameras continues to amaze and surprise me ), manipulating them in photoshop / after effects / motion and then layering these with quartz composer animations that are audio responsive and midi controllable. His work is also creative commons licenced, so you can both view and remix it over at abreojos.net.
Big Square Eye
Received this impressively realised DVD compilation in the mail recently, it having been produced for the Brisbane Festival 2008 at the tail end of workshops with 15 young Queenslanders given access to a range of gear, mentors and two things that help most projects – a deadline and a budget. The end result is surprisingly sophisticated, in both conceptual and aesthetic realms, and well supported by the DVD packaging and menu interface. The clips range from shimmery plays of light to stop-motion political critique, clip art animations, absurdist puppetry and abstraced visual effects. There are few visual cliches scattered amongst it all, but on the whole an impressive effort, and more so for the ways it is being distributed and displayed across many parts of regional Queensland in various non-gallery contexts like retail displays. Clips, artist information and related essays viewable online.
Happens in Melbourne soon ( Sep 24 – Oct 12 – digitalfringe.com.au ), bringing together a range of events, a mobile projection unit ( van with projectors, solar-charged batteries, online laptops, projector and video camera ) which travels around projecting onto Melbourne walls and sends the resulting footage onto the web in real-time. Anyone wanting to have their work projected with this, and on many screens all around Melbourne during the festival, can upload video at the Digital Fringe site ( you can also view / download other submissions for remixing ).