Kaamos by Solu & Wayang – Indonesian shadow theatre
I’ve always felt a bit uneasy with the term VJ, although the expression seems to have stuck and is the still the most commonly used term throughout the fraternity for one who provides visuals for an accompaniment to club music. The term was handed to us by MTV during the 80’s when music videos were increasingly used with loops of footage layered with abstract graphics and mixed in much the same way as the DJ mixes music. In fact a little Wikipedia search reveals that one Merrill Aldighieri coined the term. ‘Her method of performing as a video jockey consisted of improvising live clips using a video camera, projected film loops, and switching between 2 U-matic video decks’.
VJ is synonymous with DJ, implying the mixing of two or more sources, where often the material used is not the work of the VJ, but some found or bought video clips. The ‘anyone can be a VJ’ kind of mentality has been brought about by an increasing amount of software that can give you an After Effects kind of functionality to live footage. Unfortunately this kind of set up can all too often dispose of any kind of content and aesthetic, the medium in this case often being the FX one applies to the video itself.
Mia Makela aka Solu has written an interesting thesis that tackles some of these issue and more so argues for a ‘possible language of live cinema, and proposes the idea of narrative, grammar and vocabulary. Her arguments are strengthened by an expert knowledge of the history of ‘live cinema’. The thesis begins mentioning the projections of Indonesian shadow theatre and traces a trajectory via Colour/Visual Music (James Whitney for example), Expanded Cinema and computational authoring systems such as MAX/MSP.
‘Mia Makela (aka SOLU) is Finnish media+live cinema artist, teacher, investigator and cultural activist residing in Barcelona’. Her most recent projects (performances), referred to eloquently as poetic real-time audiovisual journeys, can be viewed here.
Of course another alternative (or counterpart) to live cinema becoming more prevalent in live settings is the use of real-time generative systems, often employing sound analysis, to create sound responsive atmospheres.