Where better than the self-proclaimed most isolated city on Earth to talk about the state — and future — of VJing? The Byte Me Festival in Perth, Australia brought a rare convergence of digitalists and visualists in December. We cornered a variety of individuals at the open-jam Plug ‘n Play, from lay persons to internationally-touring artists, to chat about their work and the live visual scene in general.

My personal favorite interview of the night was Solu, the Finnish-born, Barcelona-based audiovisual artist. Solu’s meditative A/V set, with softly-echoing deconstructed wartime imagery, was one of the highlights of the evening. She stopped to talk to us about:

“In this scene, women are missing … even though in workshops, there are 50/50 women and men. I think we need more women here, definitely, for many reasons.”

  • what to call what she’s doing (“live visualist”? “video processor”?)
  • how she got into visualism
  • how women respond to her work (the “dream world” description I thought was apt)
  • where all the women have gone
  • why VJs should be paid fairly, and their art respected more — not just as a means of selling bottles of booze
  • why 2008 will be the best year ever.

Sounds like a platform for global VJ President. Got my vote.

Incidentally, since someone asked in comments on another story, her three tools of choice were, in order, Max/MSP/Jitter, Isadora, Modul8. Max/Jitter was the software of the evening, for sound and visuals.

In case you missed it the first time, our informally-edited footage of Plug ‘n Play is mostly Solu for the second half. Seeing her live is best, though, so keep your eyes peeled, especially if you’re lucky enough to live in Barcelona.

Plug N Play – ByteMe Festival – Perth from Create Digital Media on Vimeo.

Byte Me: Open Jamming for Visualists at Plug and Play, Perth

Solu’s artist site

  • The short list of some of my favorite (female) visualists, VJ's, video artists, or whatever name will be invented next:

    Raquel Meyers (http://www.raquelmeyers.com/)
    Marula (http://www.marula.es/)
    Dothy (http://www.myspace.com/dothyhomeland)
    Chika (http://www.imagima.com/)
    Holly Daggers (http://www.wetcircuit.com/)
    C-TRL (Nika Offenbac) (http://www.c-trl.com/)
    VJ Oxygen (http://www.videology.nu/)
    Chiaki Watanabe (http://www.vusik.net/)

    There are actually more that I know of but these do not have web sites or I just don't have time at the moment to list all of them.

    To me the most important thing is that I get to see good visuals. I don't care what is doing them. It is of little interest to me what kind of software, hardware, ukulele, frozen armadillo carcass they are using to do so. I look for that spark. This spark lies beneath anything the artist is trying to express.

    That said I have noticed that some of my favorite [person mixing images in a live context] works are produced by women. My vague theory? They appear to be less interested in the technology and its particulars and more concerned with how they are going to use it.

    I want to also ad that Solu (a good friend whom I have the greatest respect for) also recently compiled together a really great book called 'Live Cinema' that was a worth distraction from my usual interest in graphic novels (where real inspiration comes from for me), NYTimes, Blogs etc. It contains one of the more serious contemporary non-hype analysis of this multi-faceted medium.

    As a past television host of a now gone economics panel once said at the end of each program: 'read it and reap'

  • Well, Solu's talking more about the festival scene … many of the folks on that list (and this goes for me, too) tend to hang out more here in NY. Here, there are regular series that are absolutely 50/50 gender wise. But NY, for all its resources and activity, is short on good pro venues or supporting this as art, which makes life harder for boys and girls alike.

    I certainly haven't seen any shortage of female VJs, but then there's a disconnect with the larger performance scene. And I think the issue of the lack of women in certain scenes and the issue of the inability of many venues to treat VJs fairly and professionally are absolutely related. We're looking for ways of making the support for artists more mature and inclusive. So it's two issues, but it's all part of a connected problem.

    I'm not entirely convinced on the "interested in technology" versus "how they are going to use it" question, because I think a lot of us in this medium, whatever our gender happens to be, care about the former because this is a technological art. I guess we're talking about an interest in technology that doesn't connect to artmaking. I think I know what you and Solu are saying, of course, but I haven't necessarily seen the same gender divide. There's a range of technological interest and technical skill — and, indeed, I've seen great art from people who aren't necessarily as technically skilled and visa versa. I think there is just a boy bias.

    And, PS, Holly knows and cares a hell of a lot more about video hardware than I do. I don't see any particular disinterest in particulars of technology, just in software. 😉

    Anyway, that's just my personal take. I hope we'll discuss this stuff more.

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