Re: VJ art

From: Raymond Salvatore Harmon (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Dec 15 2008 - 06:46:00 PST

The question of VJing as an art form is something I think is going to be much more relevant to those filmmakers who express themselves in terms of experimental and non narrative cinema as time goes on. The thing is, like any kind of art there is going to be a lot of mediocrity and a few brilliant artists.

James' statement that the film in question "looks like it could have been
produced by a computer program" brings a lot of things up at once. I am sure it was produced using a computer program. But so are much of the films we watch today. Anything you watch on dvd used a computer program at some point. What will eventually separate the mediocre from the brilliant will be an ability to transcended the tools used in the creation of the piece in order to express something beyond the variables inherent in its production. But anyone who is familiar with the tools used in making a piece of art will see the signature of those tools in the majority of works created with those tools.

VJing is a cultural phenomenon, linked most often to electronic dance music. But much the way that not all electronic music is dance music not all VJ work is the same.

As for the longevity of VJing as an art form I think the term itself will be abandoned by artists who are looking to use this form of improvisational cinema outside of the realm of the club/dance world.

But in its essence I feel that Vjing is exactly that, a form of improvisational cinema, which will certainly continue to grow and be developed as time goes on. The tools for making this kind of work are just now becoming available to a wider public, but the form of creating cinematic expression in a live context predates computers and video mixers by decades. Even contemporary filmmakers like Bruce McClure and Luis Recoder are making films in a live context. They are using film projectors and not video but the essence of the creative process is the same.

Whether or not the "experimental film" community will embrace this kind of experimental video or not remains to be seen. Yet there are artists working in the field of the "VJ" that are pushing at the technological boundaries of the art form and attempting to make something that is in fact art.

For two artists who (in my opinion) are working in the context of VJ art but whose work transcends the club/rave stigma look here:

Karl Klomp

Claudio Sinatti

The one thing I have to ask though is how much more often the world is being exposed to VJ work (regardless of its quality) than it is to "experimental film" work? Thousands of kids jump around under the developing non narrative form of live video every weekend all around the globe. Yet screenings of some of the greatest artists of the avant garde and experimental film world are lucky to have 100 attendees. Obviously the context of presentation is much different but maybe its not the films being shown but that very context that gives VJs such a larger audience. Maybe we should be screening Smith and Brakhage films at raves instead of in tiny cinemas?


raymond Salvatore Harmon

Date: Sat, 13 Dec 2008 16:07:56 -0500
From: James Cole
Subject: Re: Vj Art
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
Content-Disposition: inline
It seems like there has been an uptick in VJ stuff around these parts
lately, which raises some interesting questions about how VJ media relates
to the more established forms of avant-garde cinema (although the use of the
word "established" is pretty generous even in the cases of people like Deren
and Brakhage; but that's a different discussion).
I tend to not be very charitable in my appraisal of VJ media; for several
reasons. Primarily, because it seems like it is mainly intended (indeed,
best suited) to accompany electronic dance music; I can't see myself wanting
to go into a cinema, sit as the lights go down, and watch two or three hours
of VJ media. Furthermore, it doesn't seem to have much to do with cinema in
general; the editing is very basic, repetitive, and usually not all that
thoughtful. And the imagery is even worse than the editing, more often than
not. The times I've seen VJ performances, the imagery seemed more like an
extension of a club's usual strobe lights and fog machines; much more
atmospheric than expressive. Maybe VJing is just bad in Boston?
On the whole, though, when I hear the term "VJ art," it strikes me the way
people talk about "video game art," or "sneaker art" It's obvious someone
with a high level of skill made something that demonstrates their high level
of skill, at times it's pretty aesthetically breathtaking, but it doesn't
strike me as something that anyone will be, or ought to be, interested in a
few years down the line.
To be totally honest, the video that you sent looks like it could have been
produced by a computer program; I can't read any thing into it, and I can't
get anything from it. I'm not trying to be nasty; I'd really like to know
how I'm supposed to approach something like that. It certainly resists the
sort of approaches one would use at a film by Su Friedrich or Hollis
Frampton or Ernie Gehr or whoever. Instead, I end up reading it as a type
of decoration; Christmas lights for bad music, which is probably way too
dismissive. At least, I'm sure isn't how people interested in VJ art would
look at it. The fact that you're sort of asking for feedback suggests that
you see it as more than that (after all, people who design Christmas lights
probably don't have any desire to show their work and ask for feedback).
So I'm asking you, and anyone else who wants to take up the question; what
am I missing? How should I watch this? How does it fit in with the type of
film this list usually discusses?
Send e-mail anywhere. No map, no compass.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.