Last year at the lovely VJ Fest Istanbul, I was lucky enough to attend an awesome lecture on the history of audiovisual performances. The lecture was given by Cédric Chabuel, a kind and soft spoken gentleman who performs with his own AV work under the name Ouananiche. It was awesome to get insight in the development of the medium from someone so closely involved with it, all of it well illustrated with striking examples. I was so impressed we asked Cédric to make a written version for the Res blog, so you can now have your mind expanded as well...
Video musical remix is my way of putting together what I know best : part DJ, VJ, director, sound designer and musician. It's an all too simple and too complex mechanic : sample movies and recompose video and music tracks without ever breaking picture and sound synchronization. This is called DVJ, live AV, audiovisual mash-up or video music... Personally, I prefer the term « Video Musical Remix » because it reflects both my intention and the trend it fits in. It's not about remaking the film or video clip, but it's about using picture and sound to create music. Pushing the limits of cinema, video art, concert and digital art, Video Musical Remix is a journey in between codes and languages to define a new genre. As one picture is worth a thousand words, here is one of my first production.
<Un Petit Bonhomme> by Ouananiche
Going back to the source is not an easy task. Researching my first video musical remixes brought me back to 1997, where I can identify two main founding influences.
The first one was on a CD-ROM ( crazy right? ) that came along with the latest Coldcut album « Let Us Play ». On this bonus CD, I found videos that blew my mind. In collaboration with Hextatic, Coldcut used video and sound samples with musical beats. The most famous piece is called « Timber ». The sugar on top was Vjamm, a software that really let us play with their videos on our very computer keyboards. Today, Vjamm was one of the first tools dedicated to video music and audiovisual live.
<Timber> by ColdCut/Hexstatic
Tasman Ridcharson, from the FameFame collective based in toronto, publishes « Jawa Manifesto » the same year to express their vision of video musical remix with a simple expression : «Sex and violence». In a much more hardcore/breakcore tendency, FameFame artists don't add sounds and only use the sound provided by the pictures. « A single frame of Darth Vader instantaneously evokes the whole mythology of Star Wars and that character » says Tasman. That's the stumbling block of remix art : telling a story with combined sensical samples. Jubal Brown, ex-founding member of FameFame, still organizes today one of the most popular event devoted to video mash-up : Videodrome, which attracts a solid crowd every year at Toronto's MOCCA. Here is one of his videos, typical of Toronto style ( Beware : shocking images. )
-Anti-Feelings- by Jubal Brown
Vjing and electronic music are linked since they were born. It was only logical that they ended up together. The same basic techniques : sampling and synthesis. Remix and sampling always go together : cut and pasted elements from an original piece then create new meaning, weather the reference with the original is kept visible or not. For video musical remix it's the same mechanic but you keep the original synchronization of sound and picture. So you can actually see music. It's technically the same process as electronic music using samples, except that it now happens on an editing timeline with more constrains than just sound.
There are many softwares for music and video editing... but very few are really powerful in both sound and video editing. For now, each artist creates his own path through many different tools but it is a clear tendency that in a close future all softwares will be fully audio visual.
But one of the main problem when dealing with remix remains copyright. The twentieth century was the century of copyright. What has originally been a system to protect artists, authors and respect for intellectual property became an arbitrary and absurd limit to creating. Art is copy, and those who want to divert, quote, remix, illustrate from existing creations now have three choices :
- Clear the sample, i.e. get the proper authorization from the copyright holder ( in other words be insanely wealthy )
- Ponder if it's worth the risk over and over to finally accomplish nothing
- Take all risks and try to look cool before the FBI nails you
The copyright situation today is in total contradiction with art and culture history. Brett Gaylor gives a great example in « RIP! A remix manifesto » : Walt Disney creates an empire ripping off popular culture fables (Sleeping Beauty, The Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin... ) but sues anyone getting near Mickey Mouse image.
<RIP - A Remix Manifesto trailer>
Occasionally artists, producers and copyright holders reach an agreement, when hollywood movies are remixed for commercial use by the collective Addictive TV. These products are « official remixes ». In my case, after playing live with pirated material many times, I was offered movies to remix by adventurous producers. « Next Floor » by denis Villeneuve, « Les Manifestes en Série » by Hugo Latulippe and more to come. If intellectual property and copyright stakes are of any interest to you, I suggest you check out this compelling conference by Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons.
And to conclude, as Jim Jarmush says : « Nothing is original, Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don't bother concealing your thievery -celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said "it's not where you take things from -it's where you take them to." »
Be sure to check out Cédric's work at poissonsmorts.com, and of course feel free to add links to your favorite AV artists via the comments! Translated from french by MattBen
EBN was awesome, one of the earliest influences in my interest in A/V. Be sure to check out Joshua Pearson's website http://www.joshualpearson.com/ where a good-sized chunk of the material is archived in reasonable file quality
Hi Cedric + Goto10 - thanks for this article, a great topic : )
Here's a few people you can add to your list... it'd be great if you kept compiling the comments into the article, it'd be nice to see what kind of AV list a lot of people could come up with...
These people seem an important part of live AV history in the 1990s...
Lucky People Centre - these Swedish legends were inspirations for Cold Cut. Prior to the amazing musical AV film they made 'Lucky People Centre International' ( available at previous link), they'd already released an audiovisual album with songs made from video samples. People Like Us - UK AV collage artist. Light Surgeons - and they're still kicking along strongly today 242.Pilots famous trio who championed the notorious NATO software.. ( HC Gilke, Kurt Ralske, + Lukasz Lysakowski )
Tom Ellard / Severed Heads definitely uses found footage audiovisual samples in his work... not just generative / synthesised... and he's pretty effective at it too..
in 2012? Gangpol Und Mit (FR) – Rad and great live audiovisual French duo..
Music director Chris Cunningham does a live AV show now... DJ Yoda ... UK regular headliner at Australian festivals..
and in Australia.. Sampology's worth a look..
and I've kept busy doing AV performances as 'Jean Poole'
And yeah, there's so many existing DJs and electronic music artists now starting to develop more dedicated AV sets... too many to list... but a list that showed some of the key dedicated Audiovisual acts around the world over the last 10-20 years would be awesome!!
Thanks for a great article which I enjoyed reading.
Check out the film Sonic Outlaws for a detailed analysis of the Negativland copyright debacle, it's a great film.
Also be sure to check out our VJ video page, with some free loops to be added soon; http://slinkyandsnudis.com/videos.html