Total Art in your lunchbreak

The following is an evocation/rant about my research that I posted to an old friend in an attempt to outline what it is i’m doing.  With respect to those practitioners who are working harder than me in the “4 real” world to define this new area – this is not about you – and I would like to know what you are doing so please drop me a line – i’m the secretkillerofnames at the community known as gmail.

Yes Total Art – Gesamptkunstwerk.  I loathe Wagner though – all very pompous – like nationalistic progressive rock or something?  Yeuch! I guess i’m looking more at how the little solo nerd boy can rule the performance space with sound and image.  Most AV stuff i’ve seen fits in the context of one of three areas:

  • VJs in the electronic/dance/club area;
  • In the visual arts / installation field;
  • In online mashups via youtube/vimeo.

These areas are arguably well defined and theorised but the gap as i see it lies with regards to the democratisation of technology as it can be applied to performative AV frameworks and how these frameworks might define new forms of art, entertainment and engagement.  The ability to produce a Gesamtkunstwerk in your lunchtime is realistically here but the practitioners referenced in theory seem mostly concerned with following predefined models and working within the confines of the aforementioned 3 areas with few attempts to expand, evolve or redefine them.

My plan is to look at some of the related advancements in the field through time (like Expanded Cinema and Visual Music) and see how they advanced the form, what effects they had at the time and how they might influence current issues and technologies. Aside from research and critical analysis there will be interviews and maybe collaborations with some current practitioners that will help inform this study.

Much of my motivation comes from a frustration that despite the evolution and democratisation of technology there are precious few examples of true transformation within the field.  Many practitioners are still performing in much the same fashion and producing much the same material as was relevant and interesting 20 years ago.  I guess that is kinda like music in general really isn’t it? 😉  As hilarious world class misanthrope Tom Ellard states in this blog and this follow up:

“…video synthesis (as part of the zombified ‘new media’) is stuck in a time warp. It still looks as if we were in 1982 and have to build everything out of Z80 chips and Lego. The bright colours and tedious gamut of cheap effects are embarrassing and need a kick up the arse. There’s no room in 2009 for this. ENOUGH ALREADY. Nostalgia is the lowest form of art, and I don’t care if it’s new to you.” (Ellard; accessed 27/03/09)

An example of what i’m proposing – most rock or pop bands get up on a stage and play songs – these songs are often like stories, poems, evocations of time/space/mood.  I’m interested in looking at how this could translate to the audiovisual medium.  Like little ‘Eat Carpet‘ videos instead of songs.  Performed live with a strong sense of structure and cohesion (composition is the word I use but it is proving to be a bit distracting for some people and asset management sounds a little too IT/Multimedia – it’s like when you are an electronic musician and you prepare for a performance – audio/video samples – organisation IS composition no matter what structure or representation you rely upon!) Maybe like the work of Joel Schlemowitz for example:

There are crowds of similarly expressive (if not similarly motivated) video-stylists worldwide producing short catchy evocations for the You-Tube generation. Holtzman states that “an expression is an expression of its time [and also] an expression of the idiomatic nature of the medium by which it is realized.” (1994, 239) How then might this kind of expression change the nature of the form as it is expressed in performance?  How might it extend the bounds of what is considered live entertainment?  Are we still a musicians or have we become directors?  What does this change in regards to the audience/performer relationship and what kind of venue/scene does this style lend itself to?  Where are our creative, presentation and archival spaces?  Etc.. Blah – some of them boring questions that are looking to be polished shiny and smart.

Ellard, Tom (2009) “Ellard — more bloody ellard,” http://tomellard.com/wp/. accessed Friday Mar 27, 2009

Holtzman, Steven R (1994) Digital Mantras: the languages of abstract and virtual worlds, Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press.

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