Before the netaudio [de][uk] show, we caught a little bit of the minimalist set of Mika Vainio. Spent several long moments mesmerized by Joanie Lemercier’s sculptural video installation in the main area. I had been in Berlin back in 2006 when Joanie had first shown off his video mapping skills outside the BCC and in M12 as part of AVIT>C23.
Servando was up next alongside Dr. Nojoke and J-Lab under the Netlabel banner. J-Lab played bass and electronics. Dr. Nojoke had a wide variety of sound making devices that he played into a mic and processed heavily. Servando made visuals and further electronic sounds which he manipulated with a homemade sensor box. His “post-music instrument” consisted of a 20 count CD spindle stuffed with a minia board, accelerometers, tap sensors, IR sensors and several potentiometers and switches. The trio worked well together and their performance had a good mix of tight and freeform elements.
I have been enjoying CODA, the everything-in-one-window web development toolbox from Panic, more and more over the past year. In amongst all the goodness, I have been continually baffled by the lack of a web safe color palette in the supplied color picker or any hint of hex colors in the WYSIWYGCSS editor.
Today I came across the RCWebColorPicker from Rubicode. After downloading and installing the free plugin, the standard OS X color picker gains an “RCWeb” tab. This new tab features a box for a full RGB hex value, RGB sliders with corresponding hex values and a check box to limit the palette to the 216 web safe colors.
Two newly announced products based around technology from NeuroSky round out a number of recent BCI (Brain-Computer Interface) consumer devices.
The Mattel Mind Flex and The Force Trainer from Uncle Milton both leverage NeuroSky’s bio-signal technology to interpret brainwaves, eye movements, facial muscles and heart-rate. NeuroSky’s developer kit may be the gateway to many other interesting products.
Of more interest as a dedicated BCI is the OCZNIA (Neural Impulse Actuator). Geared toward PC gamers, the NIA uses bio-signals to trigger keyboard commands. Software such as MIDI-OX can further parse these commands into MIDI data streams useful for audio and video programs.
Another game oriented device is the long-awaited Emotiv Epoc. The Epoc has been demonstrated at the GDC for the past two years, but has not yet made it to market. In February 2008 Emotiv opened up their API and provided an SDKLite version for free.
The godfather of these recent products is the IBVA (Interactive Brainwave Visual Analyzer). Developed by Masahiro Kahata, the IBVA has been over 15 years in the making. The accompanying analysis software is the most sophisticated and up to date. Masahiro continues to leverage the latest Apple technologies. In addition to a full featured MIDI mapping implementation, there is a QuartzComposer plugin and a soon to be released iPhone app.
The IBVA is in heavy use at the studio of Duncan Laurie to provide input for Ableton Live and MAX/MSP patches.
Looks like it’s audiovisual kick-ass-o-clock over at resolume.com. They’ve totally revamped version 3 of their VJ software, included comprehensive audio controls, and made it available for both mac and PC.
The weekend of Friday the 13th marked the 3rd annual Mind Meld gathering at Duncan Laurie’s Jamestown, Rhode Island studio. An incredible assortment of audio and video artists were assembled, ostensibly to relax, but with so much talent in one place, a show or two is inevitable.
Duncan’s three-storey studio sits atop Bull Point, surrounded by water on three sides. The studio was built entirely out of salvaged materials. Floors made of glass block allow light to penetrate up from the lower workshop, through the main room and into the laboratory on the top floor. It is on the top floor that Duncan and his electrical engineer Gordon Salisbury have been experimenting with sonifying signals from Nature. There is an impressive array of old Radionic equipment as well as a number of devices that Gordon has developed. The visual centerpiece of the lab is the “Music Machine”, an 8’ tall cuboctahedron that was part of a GENESIS Bio-Entrainment Module, a bio-feedback device developed in the 1980’s. The machine is now host to Gordon’s Purr Generator. The purr generator is a device which generates a signal at approximately 25 Hz. This coincides with the frequency of vibrations given off by a “happy cat” and has long been thought to be therapeutic. External audio sources can be played through the machine.
Gordon dialing in a plant.
Much of the activity at the studio in the last few years has been given over to exploring signals in Nature. Based on precedents set by Cleve Backster and T. Townsend Brown, plants and rocks are fitted with electrodes or have copper leads affixed to them. Small voltages present are picked up with a variety of test equipment, including Wheatstone bridges, rate of change convertors, EKGs, and the IBVA brainwave monitor. The resulting data streams are converted to MIDI and used to drive Ableton Live.
For the artists that have assembled each year, the draw of a fantastic location, strange nature research and wealth of information about Radionics that Duncan possesses are too much to resist. This years gathering included mainstays; Steve Nalepa, a West Coast electronic musician, gaining attention with his forthcoming Flatlands CD/DVD; Todd Thille ( aka Synesthete ), an Istanbul based VJ and multimedia artist currently engaged in designing new software and hardware for the explorations underway at Duncan’s studio; David Lublin, of Vidvox, makers of the popular VJ software VDMX; Josh Randall ( aka Robotkid ), a Creative Director at Harmonix by day, working titles like Rock Band; Aerostatic, the Brooklyn based couple Michelle Darling and Terry Golob, who’s style ranges from ambient to breakcore with some Sesame Street (both have worked at Sesame Workshop) in for good measure.
Newer faces included Brian Kane, a former member of EBN and the self described “Karl Rove of the art world, who was busy pushing his latest meme, Meat Water; Ooah, one of the members of rising stars, the Glitch Mob; Richard Devine, still recovering from a near death experience after a small wound on his foot, infected with staph, nearly destroyed his heart, came to reek sonic mayhem with a massive stack of modular synths; Josh Kay ( aka Jeswa ), who joined Richard in exploring the sonic possibilities of the studio, and a formidable force in his right as a member of Soul Oddity and Phoenecia and founder of Schematic Records; CDM’s own Peter Kirn rounded out the list of performing artists.
we’ll do it live - Pell Chaffey Hall
we’ll do it live - Aerostatic (Terry & Michelle)
we’ll do it live - David Lublin & Nalepa
we’ll do it live - Richard Devine & Josh Kay
Through the work of Elizabeth Keithline and Nick Bauta of The Steel Yard and Firehouse 13, the audio visual extravaganza, “we’ll do it live” found a home at the Pell-Chafee center in downtown Providence. Two massive 40’ wide screens were hung from the three-story vaulted ceiling. Duncan and Aerostatic opened with an exploration of signals coming from a piece of granite (seen in their Rockstar short) and a banana. Peter Kirn deftly handled Kore for his 30 minute set with reactive visuals by Synestete. Brian Kane performed selections from his triple-head av masterpiece, HDADD. Robotkid and rndm threw down a bumpin’ av mashup. Nalepa and David Lublin got the party moving with Flatlands remixes, dubstep tracks and ethereal hand-held footage with Quartz Composer overlays. Ooah brought out the glitch hop with his Panty Raid and tracks from other Mob members. Richard Devine and Josh Kay double-teamed Traktor, bring the soundsystem down with meters in the red and finishing out the night with TapStereo.
Josh Kay and Richard Devine.
Richard Devine dreaming of Swedish engineering.
The event picked up and relocated to Duncan’s studio where Richard and Josh Kay set up a wall of modular synths to plug into the different sound sources. Peter got busy writing an FFT patch in Processing and tried it out with signals coming from an onion and a lime. He also experimented with Gordon’s Bat Box. The rest of the crew amused themselves with Rock Band and chatting in small groups around the bar-b-cue that sprang up on the driveway.
Beat Research - Nalepa and Robotkid.
Beat Research - Brian Kane and Peter Kirn.
The group started to disperse on Sunday and everyone but Richard and Josh Kay had left by the time that Steve, his girl Arrow, Peter and I headed up to Boston on Monday night. We met up with Robotkid and Brian Kane for a show in Cambridge at Beat Research. There was a good crowd despite it being a rainy school night. Peter had much better control over his Kore set. Robotkid and I mixed visuals until Brian fired up his DVJ and played some of his AV pieces. Nalepa came in a pinstripe suit and tore up the room with Bass Science dubstep.
Peter working the strobes at the MIT Museum.
Peter and I started Tuesday morning at the new offices of Harmonix. We decided not to get sucked into any meetings and beat a retreat to the MIT Museum. There were good exhibits on deep sea craft, high-speed photography and sculptor Arthur Ganson.
Nalepa with visionary artist Paul Laffoley.
The afternoon brought a visit to the studio of visionary painter Paul Laffoley. He had requested a chicken stuffed in a watermelon, potential racial slur aside, we obliged and hand delivered him a “chelon.” Paul was in the midst of prepping for a 60s and 70s retrospective that is to be on display in New York in February. He was also hard at work on a Tarot deck. We parted with Peter after wards and the 3rd annual Mind Meld came to a close.
The fifth edition of the LPM was held in the old slaughterhouse at Mattatoio in the heart of Rome. The low-hanging hooks and carcass processing apparatus had been carefully covered up for safety, but the lattice-work of runs with strange, barbed, wrought-iron chandeliers loomed overhead. The FLxER crew had installed 13 screens in the cavernous space with a stage at each end and an A/V nerve center in the middle with places for the late night VJ sets.
Meat Hooks anyone?
VJ Talks interview with Jaromil
Each of the 4 days began with a VJ Talk hosted by AVIT. LPM is designed a space that enables VJs to engage with each other face-to-face, and the vjtalks were intended the catalyst for this. The talks started on the theme for the day (Digital Freedoms, 8Bit + Electropop, Breakbeat + Techno + Electro, and Visual Genders) and led into topics surrounding vj practice and to the participant’s own practice. Short interviews with some of the participants can be found on the AVIT site.
Le Collagiste, BomBaKlak, and Gianluca demo Codanova and FLxER
Performances began in the late afternoon. The impact of the first few were deadened a bit by sunlight drowning out the screens. But with over 250 artists being slotted into 40 hours, some sacrifices had to be made. Many more VJs came with AV sets than have been seen in the past and at other festivals. Even if they were only using CD playback, the visual artists were taking control of their whole performance. Notable among them were live AV by Akira of Kiken Corp laying on 8Bits in all their Game Boy and Commodore splendor, Return of the Space Invaders vs =ff= had a tightly integrated performance in VDMX tracked to MIDI accompanying banging Dutch low-fi beats. Frank Sent Us offered a delirious send up of the Spaghetti Western. The BrandyAlexanderProject’s performance included live poetry. Synesthete acquired electrical signals from plants to create a live generative audio visual piece.
Spain was well represented by Negativo. The collective’s +AMOR A/V piece was a dark moody exploration of modern primitivism. pintaycolorea splashed the hall with colorful geometric forms. Madrid based Whiteemotion’s ‘Cuore International’ was made up of photographs, video loops and live camera.
The voyeuristic gaze of the camera’s eye was evident in Visuallab’sISYOU(omaggio a Sophie Calle), which featured surreptitious shots of women in public places,only to cut away just before they seemingly became aware of the intrusion. Several performers also trained cameras on themselves, becoming stars of their performances. The aforementioned =ff= filmed an homage to THX1138 in the festival environs prior to their performance. Half-Machine also shot footage on location and of themselves in an exploration of the city and their time in it. Deftoo à La Yoa (who marked her first anniversary as a VJ at the festival) filmed herself when she could not find anyone to film. fomoke donned a wire and vellum mask to perform her odnoto piece in front of her computer’s built-in camera. PacOnAzim’s “Mrs. Soopradean” was keyed into stills of social situations and feigned interaction with people depicted.
Straight VJ sets rounded out each night with 6 artists at a time bathing the hall with projected video. Highlights included local multimedia artist S.A.D., who performed a set with anatomical line drawings. Jna the AnimalMan, EleKTro mOOn, and Klipman were also impressive.
The Visual Genders day culminated in a audio-visual Bacchanalia befitting of Caligula’s Rome. Strap-on dildoS, a French troupe of liberated women, performed a 3 screen exploration of ‘chicks with dicks’. Their performance climaxed with the entire troupe at the front of the stage, stripped down to briefs and tapped breasts, drenched in whipped cream, fondling themselves. Warbear and Ugo Sanchez of the Rome based Phag Off events, took to the decks and the parade of flesh flowed on the rest of the night; caressed, shaved, licked, whipped and sucked; it was projected in all its glory.
Networking was on the minds of a great many of the artists. Representatives of a number of crews, organizations and festivals (aie prod, AVFactory, AVIT, LPM, Mapping, Vision’R, Visual Berlin, VJ Theory, Yroyto among them) all agreed in principle that pooling resources and knowledge was a must for expansion of VJ culture in the public arena.
The DMY festivities were well underway when I arrived from Istanbul. The Visual Berlin crew had a booth set up in the dark nether-regions of the cavernous Arena by the Spree River. The showcase schedule on the µ:avit site is up to date and all is in readiness for the Avit event on Saturday. The usual suspects from the Visual Berlin crew were present and accounted for: fRED, Flux, HilmeKillme, cyper…fALk was also present and Willow made a surprise visit.
Toby and I trekked out to the wilds of Wannsee to stay at fALk’s place, nestled amongst 700-year-old oak trees.
µ:avit go underway around noon on Saturday. A series of lectures and performances were staged in two locations in the Arena. Toby *spark was first up with a Quartz Composer demo, Kristian Raue gave talk about his MASH tool. Ilan from GarageCube conducted a modul8 user group meeting. Bram did a hands-on session about MIDI, I talked about some AV pieces of interest, fALk gave his thesis on Live Cinema.
Closed the DMY festival for the evening. The Visual Berlin crew plus out of town guests made their way to a local beer garden. Delicious pizza and beer kept the group going for a while. I headed back to fALk’s. Was happy to see the bed. Was up early hoping to get packed and ready to meet up with Toby and fRED, but never quite connected. Ended up walking through the woods to the local bakery to get some breakfast breads. Had a fantastic brunch in fALk’s garden. Mogreens came by a bit later to record an episode of the podcast he and fALk are making. I got interviewed for the episode.