Artist profile: Rafael

To some people, VJ'ing is no more than moving wallpaper. Of course we know better, but it's always nice to see it being recognized as a proper art form by other people as well. And when it gives people the chance to travel the world showing what they do, it's even better. Rafael is such a lucky person. Check out his work in the videos, and read more about him in the interview.

Overall, Resolume is mostly used by VJs in clubs. Yet you perform more in museums. Do you think people perceive your work differently because of that?

Yes. It’s like if you put one painting in a toilet, and the same painting in a museum: people are going to look at this differently. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s like that. People go to a club for dancing, and to museums for looking… Recently maybe the trend is to invert the two. Museums look more “disco”, with all these “new media” flashy things, and some clubs are getting more “arty”, with the VJ things… Maybe…
As for toilets & museum, the inversion is already made ;)

Why did you choose video as a medium to express your self in?

I come from photography. I never have professors, but I know that they ask to their students to “suggest the movement into the fixed image”. In video, we have already the movements, so what can we suggest? This landscape attracted me. I begin to do short films, videos. Then I realized that I need a more direct interaction with my works. I began to do performances, where I can create in front of a public (when it comes ;)).

There is a lot of reference to technology in your videos, but also an big emphasis on the human body. What would you say are some of the recurring themes in your work and why?

The only things we can be sure about what we call technology, is that is going to get old, useless, and finally die. Exactly like us. Humans & machines are both very temporary concepts. This time space intrigued me. In a way, is very touching and ironic to see the naïve fascination & fears that people have for the technology they all use… But sometimes I ask myself: what is the real difference between the Morse code in 1912 and the internet technology of 2011? It’s just another way to say “we pour!” ;). Except that now we can say that with colors & smiley’s ;)
Also, what is the difference of what we call the AV scene of today and the projectionist and the pianist who improvised 100 years ago in the cinema, at the time of silent movies? It’s the technology that reveals humans, and not the contrary. Maybe in the future we’re going to have a science to study man not by the words he uses, but via the buttons he presses. So yes, really, technology is a very human concept, and that’s probably why I interrogate and use this in my work.

Can you describe your work process a bit?

Like I said before, I came from photos. Most of the time, I build my videos sequences image by image. I try to compose and decompose actions & movements. I like contradictions, so sometimes I like to suggest fixed pictures into moving images mediums.
I always have a drama, a “narrative” structure. When I began to do movies & performances, I realized that a lot of artists go to the easy abstract direction. So I found it relevant to come with basic stories. That’s why I am considered as a “narrative” video artist. Because I don’t do just decorations. But now I see a lot of artists try to do that, so I think more and more to go in the screensaver direction. Why not? Everything is cyclic . I use big cliché dramatic scenes, and try to finish more subtle. Because I see a lot of artists who try to be complex from the beginning, and finish so so cliché…

During live performance, you bring a lot of knobs and buttons to the table. How big is the live aspect of your work? Is it pressing play on a playlist, or is there an improvisation element in it as well?

It’s more and more and more improvisations. I use a midi controller connected to your fantastic program. Like this and with others tools, I am able to modify the sounds and images like I really want. At events now I use TextEdit along with Resolume during the performance.
I really try to create a moment, something more and more “unique”.
Sure, I also have a base of video sequences that I prepare before, kind of a playlist. I know before the performance some of the “stories” I want to tell. I have a narrative base, and I improvise into it and around it. Like a free Jazz band: they begin with a basic melody, a rhythm, a phrase, then they improvise around, and modify everything. My video-sequences are THE melody, the rhythm. Sometimes, like musicians, I improvise too much: I get lost. It’s scary to be lost in your own wood. But it’s also very exciting. The difference with the band, is that I play all instruments by myself. I use programs, guitars, keyboards, whatever I found to personalize my performance. Maybe I am a frustrated musician... I don’t know. And Yes I like buttons. It comes from my youth. When I see a button, I need to press it. I can’t resist. Sometimes it can be problematic. Like recently when I pushed a wrong button in the Washington airport… It was a beautiful big red one… It needed to be pressed…

You mention you travel quite a bit with your art. What are some of the more memorable places you got to visit?

I remember giving video class somewhere in Central Africa. And very recently I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My hotel was on the mythical Route 66, where the movie “No Country for Old Men” was shot. It was scary ;). I remember also this school for deaf-mute children in countryside of Korea. I made them laugh so much that it creates very strange and beautiful sounds. I recorded this.

Who are your inspirations when it comes to video art?

First of all, animal documentaries & old political TV debate. Artists don’t use this material enough. Lots of strategy & dramas there. They fascinates me both. Of course also MTV, books, movies, people, music, & arts in general.

Are there any up and coming video artists we should be looking out for?

Geumhyung Jeong from Korea have a very new way to use this medium in her performance, far away from all clichés. Recently in USA, I discover the work of Brent Coughenour. I like the way he perverts games and programs to build his performance. Wojciech Kosma in Poland & Ilan Katin in Germany.

Check out more of Rafael's work at

Posted by Joris on Thursday June 9, 2011 at 14:12
Comment from Basic:

Wow, can't believe i didn't see this before. love the artist profiles :)

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