Another calendar clicks by. Printable calendar and photo by Joe Lanman.

Visualists: it’s time to talk about the work that inspired you over the past year. As I go through the top electronic music albums of the year, it occurs to me that a similar compilation is badly needed in the world of visuals.

What live visual work has inspired you most over the past twelve months? By “live,” let’s assume live projection, live visual performance / VJing, interactive visuals, projection mapping, interactive software, and interactive installation. Were there posts here on CDM that you found especially exciting? Who were your favorite artists and performances? What were your favorite pieces?

There are regularly “top VJ” lists, and they almost always disappoint – not least because the worlds of live visuals now extend into the realms of gaming, outdoor projection, live animation, generative visuals, and all sorts of things that can’t be described as narrowly as “VJing,” even before we get into the problems with that term itself. Nor do club visuals alone really describe a scene that now merges with art, architecture, and interactive software design.

The iPhone today is as much a venue as a dance club, and work with light installation as potentially powerful as a projected video mix.

So, we really need your help. Comments have tended to be quiet on CDMotion, something we want to correct in 2010. Don’t hold back. Let us know what matters to you, and we’ll compile our list in time for New Years’ Eve.

And 2010 looks like it’ll be a fantastic year.

  • I'm probably biased since I spent a good part of 2009 being an occasional sonic counterpart to this VJ's performances but Bryan Teoh's work this year (aka his work as Kitty Scratch of Death) has really blown me away. Bryan is one of the few visualists I've seen that come directly from a background of improvisation and watching him perform fluidly along an ensemble as a totally integrated part of the conversation is pretty inspiring! I'm certainly impressed by the visual tricks and special effects charm of his work, but its that performative genius i've seen over and over this year that really has me floored. One particular standout was his most recent performance at Monkeytown in Brooklyn with the group Ergo: all five dudes completely focused and in sync across two senses was a pretty awesome sight to behold.

  • Oh yeah, I do enjoy Bryan's stuff.

    Okay, that's … one. Spread the word here; I know we can do better. Heck, even promote your own stuff if you think it's worthy of consideration.

  • I don't know about visualists, but here are a few random thoughts on good stuff from the year past:

    – Graffitti Research Lab continues to astound.
    – more of an A/V thing than pure visualism, but youtube album Thru You showed that these things can reach far.
    – David O'Reilly's Gold Bear award pissed off some from the conventional film circles by showing that with the right ideas coupled with the right skillset, guerilla productions can surpass studio output.
    – Massive Attack are still touring with an awesome stage show, largely reliant on lights and visuals.

    Then there's the tech:
    – Processing is out of beta, and their exhibition section has grown quite a bit.
    – In that vein, the Arduino project has solidified their soft- and hardware, making it an ever easier access point to hardware hacking for the masses. Not strictly 2009, but especially the Lilypad has taught the wonders of hardware hacking to a completely new demographic.
    – The exciting release of free versions of Unity and UE, and what we can look forward to visualists doing with those.
    – Have to mention the Kineme guys here, doing a wonderful job of reverse engineering and patching inadequacies in QC.
    – Toby made some ripples with his new tack on extending off-the-shelf hardware for a DVI mixer that'd leave the big companies' offerings in the dust, but I guess the results remain to be seen.

    I know, these things aren't necessarily what goes in a "top VJ" list, but to be honest, I haven't really seen much this year. So, just general suggestions. Of course you've covered most of these.

  • @sbn — Works for me. Actually, that gets my brain juices flowing for what I could include. 😉

  • always tokyo

    it would be a crime not to mention Joshue Ott. Superdraw becomes much more sophisticated every time I see a performance. This seems to be a mix of the software constantly being updated, and an incredibly talented performer who continues to push the boundaries of his own visual environment.

  • Indeed, Josh Ott / Superdraw is a great contender. As always tokyo said, his work is constantly evolving while retaining his own unique identity. But, honestly, there are so many different modes of visual expression, this list is sure to miss out on some wonderful work and talented people…

  • @vade – yeah, of course, lists always miss out on important things. But let's make it "some work" rather than "THE work" of the year, and see who can be on it, just to give us that extra push into 2010. That for me is really how the music lists work out; I wind up revisiting things, discovering things I might otherwise have missed, and have a big pile of wonderful music to listen to.

  • hmmm…
    most times the visualists are usually like unsung heroes, and alot of times i dont get there names or pseudonyms for that matter…
    which i have notice has been changing as of late.
    here it goes anyway…

    -jason senk i believe was responsible for the visuals at the sun ra:electric show at the world financial center, awesome and inspiring…
    (not to mention i heard of this site from someone at said show!)

    -the mars volta are my favorite band and this year they had mexican chocolate(concert poster screen print artist) make these incredible back drops that under different color lighting would reveal diff layers within the larger image, ie during one part of a song all dark green lights would reveal mayan soldiers, then during the end part of the song all red lights would reveal a god like figure posing with sword over a sacrifice…super simple and awesome effect!
    def played a huge part in my visual development…it also made me get out images and put them under different lights. lol

    -the scope art festival at lincoln center, genesis p orridge curated a days worth of short films from his personal collection. really great stuff, ranging from burroughs to his coum transmission videos…well done. it took the better part of the year to realize that alot of this stuff hadnt been screened in decades if at all.

    -nautical almanac
    they are a two piece group, that would be classified as a noise band, but whatevz to genre vocab. there visuals were next to none!
    they basically engulf the stage with a coccoon like white tarp, and project visuals outward. thats pretty ill as it is. some projected videos but most of it was by hand, using overheads and just about anything to cast shadows on to said tarp…extremely simple and crazy effective, their set at the musica mystick maxima festival was ridiculous. their music was awesome as well…
    (there was something about the whole screen as womb/chrysallis/coccoon that really got me!)

    -m.i.a had awesome visuals at coachella, on the main stage this year. not sure the cats name. but they were really great, glitchy and kind of dirty which i love.

    -laura napier is a video artist from the bronx
    her video installations are beyond beyond…
    she put together a great installation to close the bronx blue bedroom project of a very intricate/tricky live camera feed, had complete strangers going around in circles looking for cameras together, she has a wonderful way of using technology to force people into interacting with each other(which is an awesome in the south bronx).

    -d-128, who works with mad decent quite a bit has made some really fun video podcasts for mad decent this year…

    -and of course everything that the large mural painter/artist blu does, his stop motion videos are incredible and his murals are insane…he did a few this year, too many to name.


    this might not al fall under the category of vjing or whatever(btw that term (vj)totally sucks, i wanna stab it dead=))…however this is what comes to mind when i think of what blew me away this year in terms of visuals…


  • These are the performances and tools that have left an impact on me in the last year:
    Phadroid, a collaborative performance between to bay area artists using projection and dance. its not super techy, but its elegant and beautiful.
    Kineme has been producing some really powerful tools for Quartz Composer, making all of our lives better in the process.
    On that note, Vade is consistently contributing both fun and invaluable tools to the community, and keeping them up-to-date as well.
    VDMX keeps blowing me away with its flexibility and usefulness, remaining my single most used software program for the year. I sure appreciate all the hard work they are putting into this software.

  • 2009. Best year for visuals to date…no doubt about it!

    Personally it has been the busiest year yet (as far as visual performance is concerned). the acceleration is so strong that next year I will likely double that even and go international;) well…enough about me.

    The unsung heroes who generally not likely to be acknowledged by the street public composed of producers and developers and media who spend large chunk of they time and effort by developing tools and sharing they knowledge and skills with worldwide community and in so progressing our overall skills and methods further.

    On top of that publication such as Create Digital Motion have really blossomed in the eyes of community and do provide an amazing platform to keep on top of latest developments in visual field. I would like to personally thank Peter Kirn, Jaymis, Vade and all the other contributors and tipsters that make our days little more inspirational. Would love to meet you all eventually…I'm sure it will happen 🙂

    openprocessing community!! woot!!! !!! wooty woot!!!

    Infact I would pat anyone on the back who put great effort towards development and promotion of visual field this year or prior. There are way too many artists and professionals that do amazing work and so it is really difficult to determine as to who is the best!! Best is only matter of opinion!

    All the best in 2010 everyone!!! Keep your eyes open!

  • oiraM, thanks for reminding me of Blu. Mindblowing animation work there. He really belongs on a list such as mine which is mostly seen from the bunker, not the trenches.

    Oh, and on the tech side, Blender 2.5 is finally well underway. This is huge for me (and for anyone wanting to do not only offline 3D animation, but for realtime dome theater and stereographic projections as well).

    It's in alpha at the moment, but already we're seeing new simulation features for smoke, liquid and physics (that in some cases rival RealFlow / Houdini), as well as cranked up visual fidelity. More resolution + faster rays + better render farm / GPU support. Oh, and everything will be animatable and extendable through Python. On top of that, the long-awaited interface overhaul has begun.

    I look forward to a release stable enough thet I can learn it myself and hopefully do a few tutorials for visualists. But that's really – fingers crossed – for the 2010 list 😉

  • For me the best of 2009 – both music and visuals is definitely Moderat. A collaboration between Appart + Modeselector + Pfadfeinderei. The music and awesome visuals are combined in a way I have never seen before – it just becomes one emotional piece, instead of just music and visuals separately.

    Links: (check the intro movie, that's part of the DVD they released) (the VJ the musicians collaborated with)

    — Frank Bongers

  • Not quite top visualists, but for me this has been the year when open source for visualises has started to shine – as has been said already; Processing, Blender 2.5's perculations, but also things like Animata. I started off the year cynical about Linux/open source's capabilities for the visualist after myself departing from being a user, only to come round full circle somewhat. With things like vlmc video editor on the way 2009 leaves me more excited foe what's to come.

    2009's also seen the Unity and Unreal engines go free for visualists, and I think there are depths there yet to be plumbed!

  • Alva Noto @ LEV festival in Gijón, Spain was the best I've seen this year. Super simple, just horizontal lines but just amazing.

  • Saw how QC stuff grow up in this year. We got many usefull plugins from and from Vade, and i loved to see when new developers makes new plugins for QC. Here is a short list:

  • Most inspiring use of live video/performance for me, (wasn't there but wish I was); Alexander McQueen Spring Summer 2010 Plato's Atlantis Part 1

    2: my cohort Steve Byram's VDMX video-work for
    Christoher O'Riley, playing Radiohead's Paranoid Android, Miller theater Columbia university, NY; March 2009.
    Live Video-mix and mash-ups by Steve Byram & Jonathon Rosen.

  • The most impressive visuals were presented to me through CDM. I thoroughly enjoyed Ólafur Arnalds – Ljósið by Esteban Diácono. After seeing these impressive visuals I could not stop showing it to my friends and fellow University of Michigan digital artists. Everyone who saw it was transfixed by its simplicity and beauty.

  • tim

    I love the work of Karl Kliem aka Dienststelle:

    ps Alva Notos visuals are created by him

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  • Beebles

    No one voted for Memo yet?

    He makes awesome visuals, and continually gives out code to the community – that seems like a "best visualist 2009" way to go about things.

  • These are some great suggestions.

    So what I've done is to do a list of tools. I want to go through and profile these people the way they deserve, and cast a wider net through some of the folks we know who are watching the scene worldwide.

    Thanks for all of this, though. It's a reminder that what we need, more than a year-end list, is to begin with better profiling all of these folks. It's amazing that so many amazing people are working away in relativity.

  • TommeeT

    Yep definite big ups to the awesome team @ Create Digital Motion – thank you Peter Kirn, Jaymis, Vade, et al – without whom many of us wouldn't have been introduced to these awesome works/artists listed above. Choice! Time to get our 20:10 vision on…

  • Name dropping, name dropping (for æsthetic or technical reasons or a combination of both, not strictly 2009 but having extended their influence well into 2009) :

    Karl Kliem (Dienstelle) for the Alva Noto stuff
    Leander Herzog
    Marius Watz (,
    Memo Akten (
    CEB Reas
    Karsten Schmidt (Toxi, PostSpectacular)
    Andy Gilmore
    Marcus Wendt & Vera-Maria Glahn (
    Aer Studio
    Robert Hodgin (aka flight404)
    Eduardo Omine
    Pedro Mari (synesthetic bird/defetto)
    Erik Natzke
    Shado (Synsyn+, Lynx, Purple Analogue,
    Alvaro Posada (
    Reza Ali
    Toneburst / Machines Don't Care
    _blank (

    Top tech happenings in 2009 (will be big in :

    Snow Leopard and QC 4
    OpenCL & GPGPU in general
    Realtime Raytracing & other GPU-based realtime rendering techniques
    Audio reactivity consensus that goes beyond the FFT, thanks to DJs standardizing around the Ableton Live performance model.

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  • Bruce Ferguson (The Darkroom) – awesome motion graphics & next level projection mapping. For more check:

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