Thursday, February 09, 2006


The last couple of posts have referred to the word hyperimprovisational. I borrow the term from a book by Roger Dean, although my use is somewhat different than his. Basically, if we think of improvisation in relation to jazz, comedy, or even sports, we often find the subjective performer jamming with other musicians, the audience, or even the other team. A lot of the improv is focused on "losing sight of oneself" as they sync up with the spontaneous flow of their energy routine and become what I would call a pseudonymous Other. You are literally no longer yourself, or at least not the cognitive "I" that rationalized their way through life earlier that day. What happens is, you go out of your mind, but in a good way. Think of it as an hallucinatory cloudburst where the imaginative energy just pours right of you. The question is: what precipitates such creative action in the field of composition? I hope to address this in a future post.

Something similar happens with live VJ performance, and perhaps DJs can relate to this as well. What makes the improvisation "hyper" is the way the performer jams in front of a live audience with the new media technology right at their fingertips. When I am VJing, I am jamming with both the audience and the environment, and every gig has its own look and feel. But having said that, it's my bodily give and take with my laptop that keeps me living / playing on the edge of my experience. As I attempt to remix all of my digital video source material (DVSM) in a live context, the laptop (hardware and VJ software) sometimes seems to have a "mind of its own" - and when I am pushing its processing power to its ultimate limit, it occasionally starts freaking out on me and trying to compensate for lost time. That's when it starts doing totally unexpected, beautiful things with my DVSM. It's almost like I have to push IT to the edge with me just to get it behaving like the wild, hallucinatory machine I need it to be, one that keeps churning out nonstop images that reflect my own memories, dreams, and cinematic imaginings. Keep in mind, since the DVSM is primarily composed of my auteur-generated scenes, ones that I have captured on my international VJ tours and that include all kinds of foreign landscapes, close-ups of unknown objects, defamailiarized body parts, and neon-inflected color field planes that make the work feel like a video painting, these images that I jam with are very intimately connected to my own Life Style Practice. These images are alive (with the sound of music).

I call them bio-images. While I am touring, they continuously fill my head as I sleep, drift through the urban environment, and think about the way things "look" on the screen as I edit my DVSM for the next upcoming gig. This means that when my laptop freaks out on me during a live performance, I have to keep responding to it because we (the machine and I) are live, and sometimes I am seeing things I never thought possible (that's what a good improv partner will do for you). Once the jam hits full throttle and both players are seemingly at the point of no return (i.e. about to crash), there's only one thing left for me to do: feed it more data so that I can filter it all through my own customized artist plug-ins. That is, push it further.

And by the way, I don't see the writing in this post as theory per se, but as a kind of digital poetics. VJ writing.

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