ideas, performance

Performance Experiments Phase 1: N4rgh1l3

As mentioned before on this blog, N4rgh1l3 is a collaborative project with Andrew Thomson who also works with Joe Musgrove in Biffplex.  We have similar tastes in music and movies and it seemed logically that we should help swell the artist/band scene in Brisbane with yet another side project.  Initially though our collaborations lacked a definable characteristic to separate us from what we do with others.  It wasn’t until much later on that we twigged about our mutual love of abstract sound and image, and that this might form the basis for an interesting, challenging and diverse performance approach.

Birthing N4rgh1l3 within the Audiopollen / Other Film scenes would seem to be an important contextual consideration as our work, while using digital tools, is heavily influenced by Visual Music pioneers like Len Lye and the experimental film works of Stan Brakhage.  Response to our performances within this scene have always been encouraging and positive.  Then we played at the Australasian Computer Music Conference…

In attendance were about a dozen of our friends, sitting up the back like good little emos, who all seemed to agree that this was our best performance.  I felt it was our smoothest set so far due to a substantial overhaul in the weeks prior to the performance that resulted in a full AV collaborative performance model allowing us to share control equally.

Response from the ACMC attendees was not so positive.  Many were concerned that they could not understand the interaction between sound and image, that it was boring and seemed fairly static.  Peter McIllwain, lecturer of composition at Monash University was concerned at the lack of dynamism and that there was no symbolic energy transfer between sound and image.  Bad feedback like this makes for great research fodder and extra considerations.  Where our comfort zone obviously exists in a scene familiar with our cultural references, a different set audience and different circumstances compromise what we consider to be key features of our art.  Quite simply, our work is designed for darkened spaces and mesmirism; we are not a backing band and this isn’t wallpaper.  There is a forced engagement required in setting up the space, to ensure the audience will sit and stare, become entranced and then note the changes.  A question then might be:  should we change our setup to suit a different context or should we demand the right context for a successful performance.

From a performance perspective i’m happy to keep moving forward from where we are.  If nothing else the current framework is fun to perform with; a pleasant replacement for the stress of loosely tieing disparate systems together into a cohesive work.  Connecting a licenced with a demo version of Isadora via OSC allows us to work equally with the same material and oddly turns it into something like a game of Snap, parts being added and subtracted collaboratively in order to create a dialogue with the prepared materials.  We are looking at touring a performance next year and the advancement of the system moves slowly forward towards an extensible design that can be used in a variety of situations.

Updates have dropped off lately as i’ve been shuffling paperwork (boo)  Next blog will be an update including my paper and some information on my current concerns.


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