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Overlap Interview

Par Hayley Cantor

I have been exceptionally lucky to be able to pick Overlap’s Michael Denton’s brains with all of those nitty gritty questions about their career that every visual artist wonders about. How did they get to be where they are? What was the VJ scene like in the nineties? How is their relationship with technology and whose work inspires them? 

Overlap are true veterans and represent original artists on the audiovisual live performance scene, not only have they experienced more changes in performance technology than I’ve had hot dinners, they’ve been up there with some of the most popular artists of our time, performing with the likes of Chemical Brothers and have animated artwork by Damien Hirst.

You have presented your work in some of the most prestigious international galleries around the world, including the Pompidou in Paris, Tate Modern, and the Victoria and Albert Museum as well as done a VJ set with the Chemical Brothers. What is the project that you are most proud of? 

Remixing and VJing The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour film for its cinema première at the South Bank with Noise of Art was a highlight.

We’re pleased with the editions on SeditionArt. They incorporate a lot of ideas from the past and are also feeding into some future shows.  Musically, Greylight Green  is something that works when you’re in the right mood. As these recent editions highlight, we’ve always been at the more arty end of the Vjing/music industry, and the more musical end of the art world.  The music industry and the fine art worlds attribute value in such different ways. But twenty years ago, we were lucky to stumble into a certain era of EDM culture, it was like the early days of flying’s uncharted freedoms. In Turnmills nightclub in Holborn, I remember one of the guys from Reality Check, (the house VJ and AV  team, for nights, including The Gallery and Trade etc), saying they showed art to thousands of clubbers every week – and they did.  Hopefully for an audience the circling and repeating imagery of VJ-ing done well can create a kind of memory image burn effect – they go home with a ‘memory painting’

Fine art galleries and big projects have not necessarily been the most rewarding – the really interesting moment for us was being at clubs and festivals with a large amount of freedom, developing a  style of imagery and delivery without record companies and DJ Managers controlling what we did. It was genuinely creative and new, yet fulfilling a need. This for any artist is a luxury.

Early on we’d be flown out to Creamfields in Andalucia with Microchunk, or wherever, and literally be immediately on stage with a 50k audience and the DJ, no pre planning or rehearsing, ” 5 mins guys”, maybe an artist logo at the beginning, then mix. 

As Overlap you have experimented with the majority of the audiovisual art formats. Is there one in particular that you enjoy?  

Long VJ sets are a nice journey, in medium sized venues with a few different feeds going into multiple screens and low lighting.  AV sets are always a bit more stressy – as doing the visual/music/sound for maybe 40 mins, feels more contrived/pre planned and edgy.  Multi screens can make things a lot more architectural/sculptural, with 3d projections on objects etc, and simpler more graphic imagery. So a mixture of graphic and more pictorial screens is a nice balance. Again we tend towards a more art bias, whereas a lot of club imagery is a fairly bombastic extension of the lighting show – think rising chevrons.  Equally a very simple installation/projection on a gallery wall can be really satisfying.  For AV sets, good acoustics and smaller venues suit the minimal music we make.

I’m sure you have collaborated and met with many of the world’s most famous audiovisual and new media artists on the scene. Who particularly inspires you?

Loads of things inspire me, from motorcycling to design and architecture. More recently though works/gigs by Ryoichi Kurokawa, Fuse, some of the things AntiVJ have done, Davide Quayola. Nils Frahm, Biosphere, through to more obscure music form France Jobin to gallery based artist like Mat Collishaw. But also painters like Nigel Cooke, with his circuitous multi picture planes that create a pictorial balance that your eye follows round and around – comparable to good VJ mixing.  We were lucky to be part of a talented group of VJs represented by Microchunk in our VJing hey day – unique underground artists. I think we all inspired and motivated each other to push further artistically. Lady Pat and Grand Dame are two of Anna’s favourite, similarly self taught, audiovisual artists.

The art of VJing is a relatively new term for the art of live video mixing. When did you first become aware of the term and how has it changed for you over the years? 

Firstly it was the definitive move away from the pop video, which had been: point camera at people singing the song, illustrate/narrative/advertise – ie. TV.  So the culture of EDM remixing, had the authority to legitimize its visual equivalent and create the context for VJing. It’s a term I’m not overly fond of, but it does put you on the stage side of technician, ie you make and shape content – not to demean the amazing art, that is light mixing, house sound, etc. VJ content is a form of visual serialism, like music about patterns, removing the asymmetry of drama, its infinitely more complex in its potential multi layer/screen applications than linear media, maybe more so than music.

When I was at Chelsea art school, there was Glitch (first time around, VHS crash editing, late 80’s),  video artist lecturers talked derogatorily of ‘club wallpaper’,meaning all things shallow. But I was interested in this form, that had a use and the public liked – unlike so much video art of the era.

The first time I got paid to show images in a bar – also in Holborn, was in 1985.  The fee, one bottle of wine.

The first time I thought about something like VJing was as a very young kid, around the time the Beatles released The White album, in the back of my dad’s car one evening, driving along country roads in Dorset and thinking about ‘films’ that would be like the trees sliding past the windows. Non narrative loop structures – I certainly didn’t know what narrative meant at the time, but I did have this strange certainty of there being a future for this sensory/sensual idea.  The first time I got paid to show images in a bar – also in Holborn, was in 1985.  The fee, one bottle of wine.  Then I showed an AV Album work called  Open at  Megatripolis, Heaven, Charing Cross around 1994.   I met Anna in the late nineties we got invited to do stuff at the ICA and bars in Shoreditch etc.  We formed Overlap and she learned a lot of the Adobe programmes very fast and we started to get paid to VJ, both loving the visual depth, luminosity and surprises that multilayering and keying threw up.

Photo still from Overlap’s project, Lipstick Earth

How would you define the difference between an AV set and a VJ set? Could you describe one of your set ups to us?

People I know who travel the world for major DJ acts are operating in a different world from small AV acts. There’s’ a big difference between doing multi screen VJing, with pre programmed triggered clips via midi, osc etc  and mixing live on the fly, by feel.  Ben Francis who does visuals for Calvin Harris, for example is taking code with BPM info etc, from the CDJ’s, but is also live mixing.  Keeping the audio and imagery separate still seems to be an industry standard. The music driving the imagery, which makes sense in some ways, but is also strangely anachronistic. When we do an AV set we have married imagery to 8 bar loops, some elements are locked with time code if we’re using a separate music source, CDJ’s etc and some not, to make it more organic.  Most AV performers drive Resolume with Ableton or code, or at least lock them. Unusually, we use Resolume a lot for sound. 

Photo courtesy of overlap.co.uk

AV shows can be done in so many ways. In the end it seems the content and the feel of what you’re doing is probably more important than how you’re doing it.  How much do you want to do live – how much does the audience care how dexterous you are?   DJ’s spend a lot of time dramatically illustrating that they’re turning a mixer knob,  that appears to have the equivalent friction of pulling a ship back up a launching ramp, they haven’t got anything else visually to do. Where as, if you’re doing a multi 4 Bar loop AV set, five layers deep and you’re triggering them live, you’re busy with no time for the high friction mixer antics. 

Recently we’ve been using performance tools like Resolume to create on as well as a performance tool. I tend to pick it up like a guitar and mess around, sometimes its a really useful ‘writing’ instrument too. 

As a Barcelona resident, I can’t help but notice that you once had regular visual slots at Razzmatazz. Tell me more about that! How was the VJ scene in Barcelona back then? How is the scene in the UK these days?

This was VJ-ing with visual specialists/agency Microchunk , who were represented by William Morris, which meant we were well looked after.  There was a core group of artists including Lady Pat, Mischa Ying, Ben Francis, Muthabored, Todd Graft and ourselves and we were lucky to perform and make installations everywhere from Norway’sHove festival, to Glastonbury. In Barcelona, we’d perform two nights, mainly at The Loft, Friday and Saturday from around 11pm till 6.30 in the morning, sometimes just Anna and I, but often other VJ’s. The local VJs were very gracious about us filling their slots.  It was always full on at Razzmatazz, a really intense atmosphere. The club was always packed.We’re not really involved with the UK club scene  at the moment, but friends who work for major acts seem to be far more controlled by a corporate plan.  

You have both lived through a plethora of technological developments throughout your careers, starting with the use of VHS in your installations. What is your relationship with technology? Is it one of love and hate or it is a match made in heaven?

Anna and I are different generations –  before I met Anna, I spent a lot of time blagging my way into analogue beta edit suites in Soho to make material – it was tricky, but looking back people were incredibly kind and helped me realise effecting footage shot on motorcycle trips with a clockwork Bolex.   Anna and I started at the point of very low resolution VJ software – so we used hybrid mixtures of micro chapter DVD loops and Flash loops mixed with V4’s. I like the things that technology makes possible, but get frustrated with the art world tendency to think if you ‘paint ‘ with technology, that you should necessarily be using the very latest tech and trend.  I enjoy mapping and responsive VR etc, but equally I like the confines of a rectangle and a painters vocabulary.  Music doesn’t seem to have the same linearity, no one would think it odd playing a 1960’s Fender.

I enjoy mapping and responsive VR etc, but equally I like the confines of a rectangle and a painters vocabulary. Music doesn’t seem to have the same linearity, no one would think it odd playing a 1960’s Fender.

I notice that landscapes have been a recurring theme in your work, right up to your most recent project of Transitional Landscapes. What is it about landscapes as a subject that inspires you?

We all project memories and feelings onto our immediate surroundings. Landscape is a good genre to play with the relationship between still and moving imagery, the romantic v the analytical, the unveiling of narrative contrasted by the implicit ambiguities of painting (movies v fine art). 

Mixing trees from around the world is strangely satisfying, they’re overlaying branches having a legitimacy. English copses with New World deserts keyed through wallpaper and fabric’s repeated motifs reference Richard Dadd’s The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke’s, heightened stillness, petrified trees and flattened nature,  more tapestry than living environment.  Then we can add other man made impositions, ghosts of utilities, power lines, imagined data paths, architectural plans, wiring diagrams and intimate blinking status LEDs. It seems to suite a  first person view, apart from narrative. 

What would be your advice be to young audiovisual enthusiasts who are keen to develop their careers in the industry?

Like the fine art world there are so many different strands of audiovisual arts. It will keep changing, entertainment will morph.  How and what ‘artists’ do v creatives and ‘technicians’ etc is complicated.  The EDM model was that music was the most important element – but now with performance more of an earner than record sales – maybe the creatives/technicians/, (not the artists)  are the main act.  To further confuse it all,  AV is crossing over with fine art and stage design etc.  So maybe listen to everyone and ignore them all.

Find out more about Overlap on their artist page

The post Overlap Interview appeared first on Audiovisualcity.

Blurring the boundaries between technology and the individual – Exclusive interview with Shoeg.

Par Hayley Cantor







After seeing Shoeg’s project Infiltrate at LEV Matadero, we decided to catch up with him in Barcelona to find out more about his work, and to try and decipher the fascinating performance we saw that intrigued us to discover what technologies he uses to create his live AV shows.

Primarily I understand, you would consider yourself to be a musician, am I right? Or how would you label yourself? When did you decide to experiment with the A/V side of your show?

In the last years I’ve changed that way of seeing myself, so I would say I’m an artist. It’s not only sound anymore, I feel really that I am trying to express myself also through my code, my visual stuff, even my movements. I’m also collaborating with dance companies, where it is quite important to know how you move on stage, and this made me aware of that. So, for example I try to play without the table and computer blocking the visual line to the audience. I have also changed my relationship with sound, focusing more on textured layers instead of pitch.  

I started as a “musician”, but my visual side has been always there. I’ve been working for 15 years as a video editor, and I always had this fascination about image and sound synchronicity and feedback. 

Shoeg - Oudeis
Image from Shoeg’s project – Oudeis

Have you created the visual part of the show yourself or collaborated with a visual artist? (If so, who and why?) If not, tell us about how you developed the project and any challenges you faced in dealing with both elements of the performance.

I almost always create my own stuff. I’m not closed to collaborating with other people, but I tried to involve other artists in the past and for a reason it almost never happened, except for when I worked at the very beginning on the project with Ana Drucker, but after that I spent 2-3 years without a visual show, and I was really missing it. At some point, I wanted it back and I decided I had to refresh my coding knowledge to achieve what I wanted. I studied Computer Science for a couple of years, so at least I had a starting point – more or less.

I wanted to build a real time reactive visual system, that could be completely autonomous in a live set. The idea was to set up a bunch of rules, and do something sound reactive that could last 45 minutes in a live set without getting boring. So first challenge in this process was choosing which tools suited my needs the better. I tried, for example, Open Frameworks, which was a bit too complicated for my coding skills. Later, I knew about game engines like Unreal or Unity, which are free and you can do a lot of things scripting, easier to code. It’s also great to have this good amount of documentation and works done by other people online. I’m curious now about what Touch Designer can do, but for the moment Unity allows me to have a precise control of what I need. 

Shoeg - skin
Image from Shoeg’s project – Container

On the other hand, I wanted to work with objects from the real world in 3D aesthetics. I could model them with Blender, but I have no idea. So I learned some 3D techniques, like photogrammetry or 3D scanning. I remember wanting something more “perfect”, but discovered almost by accident the beautiful imperfections this techniques introduce in the models.

We recently saw your performance of your latest project ‘Infiltrate’ at LEV Matadero. What tools and set up are you using for the show? 

All the sound was generated using a couple of Etee sensors that the guys at Tangi0 lent me for a couple of months. These devices capture my hand and finger motion, as well as pressure data, and that is converted into MIDI signal through a Max MSP patch. Finally, MIDI is sent to the Virus and Digitakt. I had to bring hardware synths to the live sets, because I need a lot of polyphony to build these big layers of sound, and I couldn’t achieve it in virtual synths. Then, the visual stuff is a Unity app reacts to the sound mix. 

Infiltrate - LEV Matadero
Infiltrate at LEV Matadero, photo by Hayley Cantor

How does the use of this technology improve, or add to the quality and experience of your show for you, as an artist?

It allows to express myself in ways I could’ve never imagined. I’ve never performed as comfortable and with wide palette of possibilities with an instrument until I discovered motion sensors combined with the computer. The ability to map any behaviour to any response allows you to optimize your abilities in order to get what you want. This can’t ever happen with “traditional” instruments, you have to adapt to the instrument rigidness and background. I also see the coding process as a prosthesis, an extension able to repeat mechanical operations while you pierce through them.

What does the future hold for Shoeg in the world of live performance?

In the near future, I have to improve a lot of things: I want to make my hands more prominent on stage and be less computer dependent. People keep asking what is happening with the sensors, and I want to make it a bit more understandable. I also have this long list of ideas to code which don’t have time to make, and I would also like to collaborate with other people. But before that, I want to record a new album. I hope I’ll be able to work on it in the next months. 

You can find out more about Shoeg’s work through his artist page.

The post Blurring the boundaries between technology and the individual – Exclusive interview with Shoeg. appeared first on Audiovisualcity.

Marta Verde on her live A/V show with Tensal, at LEV Matadero

Par Hayley Cantor




Earlier this month, we met with Marta Verde to find out about her performance with Tensal at LEV Matadero, and to pick her brains about all those niggling little questions we had after following her career for the last few years.

Who are the artists that you are most looking forward to seeing at LEV Matadero?

Myriam Bleau and Ryoichi Kurokawa.

How were you contacted about the project at LEV Festival?

They called me and proposed that I collaborate with Tensal for their edition at Matadero in Madrid. I had never worked with him before.

Do you ever find that some genres of music just don’t inspire your work?

Absolutely. In general I don’t work on the clubbing, or nightlife scene, so related styles of music wouldn’t be my first choice of project. I actually started doing visuals with traditional Galician music.

Analog waves in the Nave at LEV Matadero
Analog waves at ‘la Nave,’ LEV Matadero, Madrid

Do friends often come to see your performances?

Yes, it depends on the performance. These days they tend to film me in vertical, so I rarely have content that I can use other than for Instagram [she laughs]

How do you feel about being on stage as a visual artist?

I don’t really like that part at all, but of course it’s part of the job. I’m quit shy, really. My show at LEV Matadero is quite different from what I usually do – in terms of music genre, as well as the time of the performance – pretty late, since I’m on at 1am.

What is the most unusual project are you’ve worked on in your career so far?

A few years ago I worked on a project with a musician called Julián Elvira who built a flute that played different frequencies (I had no idea that this wasn’t already the case with flutes!) It was really interesting, because I learnt a lot about music and we were able to work very closely together for the collaboration. We premiered the show in Martin E. Segal Theatre, New York.

Marta verde and Tensal at LEv Matadero
Lights and visuals, Marta Verde’s live performance at LEV Matadero with Tensal

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now, I’m working on a live performance with Madrid-based composer, José Venditti. He plays saxophone, and works on deconstructing sound through classical patterns.

What set-up will you be using for your performance tonight?

A couple of months ago I bought an analogue video synthesizer from LZX Industries. It’s really fun. There’s no preview, so anything can happen, and I also can’t save any presets. I also won’t be using any code for this show, which is very unusual for me. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of analogue video techniques, and don’t really understand why people go to great lengths to copy the aesthetic digitally, when they could just try to get a real one. 

Analog video aesthetic by Marta Verde
Analog video aesthetic by Marta Verde, for Tensal’s show at LEV Matadero

Do you use social media a lot to promote your work?

You can follow me if you like, my instagram account is mainly dominated by photos of my cat and screenshots of my work. I don’t really get work through social media channels, people tend to contact me directly. The work is really interesting and every project is completely different. Usually I’m presented with some kind of problem and I find ways to solve it.

Apart from doing visual performances, you are currently working at a Fab Lab, right?

It’s very common for freelancers to supplement their work through teaching, which I love. I find it really motivational and inspiring to work with young people and their ideas. I used to work as a coordinator in a Fab Lab, and I still give classes on programming and digital manufacturing there, but not on a regular basis anymore. I tend to work in different locations and on a more ad-hoc basis, that way I can combine teaching with my own projects.

If you want to read more about Marta’s work, you can check her artist profile page here.

The post Marta Verde on her live A/V show with Tensal, at LEV Matadero appeared first on Audiovisualcity.

3D light and audiovisual show by Huma and Eyesberg

Par Hayley Cantor



This week, we caught up with Huma about his most recent project ‘Eva,’ to find out a little more about how his musical project developed into a live AV show. Huma is Andrés Satué’s personal project, an evolution from his early musical days in a rock band to his more recent progression into the world of electronic music. He’ll be performing ‘Eva’ at Mira Festival, Fabra i Coats, Barcelona, Thursday 7th November

Tell us a bit about the visual side of your show. What can the audience expect in terms of live A/V performance?

The idea is to treat light from a 3D environment by making the light beams coincide, forming geometric figures in motion in the air.

Have your created the visual part of the show yourself or collaborated with a visual artist? (If so, who and why?) If not, tell us about how you developed the project and any challenges you faced in dealing with both elements of the performance.

I’m working with Jose Vaaliña from Eyesberg studio. It was a very natural collaboration, we met after finishing two gigs I did in Barcelona and we talked about the possibility of working together as we have very similar ideas about the relation between music and visuals, now it’s happening and I can say we are both really happy with the results.

What tools and set up are you using for the show? 

We are using 5 powerful projectors, various smoke machines (fog and hazer) and also some visuals. The beams of light will react to sound to create a symbiosis between both. Also we will use some lights and strobes for punctual moments.

How do you feel about the importance of the visual experience in your projects past and present?

It is something I have always thought about as a very important element. Even when I played in rock bands lots of years ago we always carried a few lights to add impact to the final part of the show.

Since I’m working as Huma, I collaborated with Drömnu using visuals at the very beginning, then moved to colorful L.E.D.s, smoke and strobes working with Juan Pablo Larrazabal and now I wanted to try new things and Jose appeared. I like the idea of doing something immersive, not something that you have to look at the detail or that can distract the public but something that will enhance the music. 

You’ve been making music for more than 10 years now. What is the project that you are most proud of, or have the most attachment to so far?

Well, I’m always more attached to the last thing I’ve ever done. Even though I really think that ‘Eva’ and this show is the project in which I have worked the most on and the project I’m the proudest of to date.

Got any questions for Andrés, Eyesberg, or just want to share anything with us? Jot down your thoughts below 🙂

https://hedonicreversal.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/hedonicreversal/

https://hedonicreversal.bigcartel.com/

The post 3D light and audiovisual show by Huma and Eyesberg appeared first on Audiovisualcity.

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