My visit to this year’s edition of Mutek was not as Artengine’s AD, but as a band member of Ottawa group If Then Do. It was great to see the festival from that angle, and they do a great job at taking care of the details for artists. Kudos to the Mutek team! (…and as I put the final editing on this blog post I flipped through the photostream on Flckr, and it looked like some great events transpired over the weekend, mad me sad I missed the tale end of the festival.)
I have collaborated with Simon Guibord and Nathan Medema of if then do on a number of projects over the last few years, but this was the first time we have done a live performance together. We where also joined by transplanted Ottawan, Ross Birdwise, who produced many of the new sounds we used for the performance. With only a short time to prepare (read 5 hour rehearsal in hotel room) we where pretty happy with the result, although I was a bit disappointed with the video component as the venue had too long a cable run to the projector and a great deal of detail was lost in transit. But this blog post isn’t meant to be about my work.
I thought I would combine a short review of my Mutek experience with some fun demonstration of the new point and shoot we picked up for Artengine. We purchased a little Casio Exilm, which by most accounts is a pretty average point and shoot camera, except for a few special features. It shoots 30fps in burst mode which 6MP shots, which is nice, but what is radder than rad is that it shoots 480 x 360 video at 210fps!!! As if that wasn’t enough it shoots 410 fps at 224×168 and 1000fps at 224×64. Needless to say we have been shooting endless amounts of this video, on the street, on the train, at the water fountain, from my bike and the list goes on. Below are some highlights:
We start with this excellent quadrant of video that we used for a finale at Mutek in an effort to take the seriousness out of our generally dark performance. I think we each gave ourselves headaches from this…
Obviously shooting at this frame rate means the camera is super light hungry, but at an electronic music festival there seems to be an endless river of strobing light so we tried to see if this would lead to some great indoor crowd shots. The strobes couldn’t go fast enough to give us the stream of light we wanted, but we did get a great glimpse of this man kicking it to Mouse on Mars but it did not translate in the YouTube upload. Instead we have nice wide shot from above. I am sure I risked major hearing damage for these shots, standing near the ominous speaker stacks. The sounds where so loud I seriously thought it was going to lead to brown noise. It wasn’t just loud near the speakers though. Metropolis was so aggressively loud even with ear plugs we did not last very long, and I could still feel it in my organs an hour later.
I didn’t bust out the camera for the opening A/Visions night we took in on Wednesday, but it was a special night. Nicholas Bernier and Martin Messier began with a unique work that combined electro-acoustic composition and performance with custom built antique sounds machines. I am a huge fan of both of their work individually, and this piece showed some of the theatrical influences I think they have experienced more recently as the work has almost an element of musical pantomime. Matmos played a great set with a sprawling 15 minute retro future track to end their set. It was majestic and cheeky in all the right ways.
Closing off the night was The Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers by [The User]. This work has not been presented for over a decade, and it is a majestic and beautiful piece. I was very excited to see this work again, but did fin myself drifting 2/3 of the way in, however when I closed my eyes the richness of the project was really revealed. The visual element of the printers on stage is beautiful, but the micro focus of the cameras on the printer elements was not nearly as well executed or composed as the sonic aspect. When I removed that from my experience I really felt as if I had been shrunk and stuck inside a dot matrix printer that had found its artistic side. The subtle textures of the ripping and grinding are so well put together, and what is fascinating is that the work still seems very fresh. It is a kind of legendary work, and because of this many people feel it familiar, but if you removed this historical context from it and saw it for the first time it would still seem like an incredible artistic production. I think that [The User] are two of the most important Canadian artists that are hitting their stride in they enter the senior phase of their career. I hope they begin to garner the attention here at home they deserve.
Back to the 210 frames per second….