Videobass band- Chasers

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photos by Remi Gros/Joshua P. Kristal

Chasers
2012-present
Videobass A/V band
Concept: Angie Eng
Guest performers: Cécile Lacombe(Videobass), Atau Tanaka (music), Akio Mokuno(Videobass), Maria Chavez (DJ)
See article (in french) by Jocelyn Quélo

All stories have been told.  Today we are arrangers. We recycle, appropriate and re-contextualize preceding narratives. To quote Barthes in ‘Death of the Author’- the writer can only imitate a gesture forever anterior, never original; his only power is to combine the different kinds of writing, to oppose some by others, so as never to sustain himself by just one of them; if he wants to express himself, at least he should know that the internal ‘thing’ he claims to ‘translate’ is itself only a readymade dictionary whose words can be explained (defined) only by other words, and so on ad infinitum’.

Chasers follows the trajectory of art movements of the last century that contributes to a renaissance of the non-singular Author and back to the communal story: The Cubists with Picasso’s newspaper clipping paintings, the Dadaists ‘cut-ups’, the Surrealists ‘ready-mades’ and today’s mixologist sampling masters who borrow and open-source their interpretations. The film performance Chasers examines cinematic storytelling using variations of the collective group. Its members are not the artists/performers themselves, but all moviemakers and their viewers. The artists are digital marionettes whose strings are attached to visual and audio symbols that trigger cultural memories. The arrangers or composers remix films as citation, homage or mirrors. But Chasers is not just  jogging our memories of stories retold. Chasers adopts a sampling technique of visual rhythms and soundscapes to seduce the audience to experience cinema beyond their individual narrative goals.

Unlike appropriation or re-contextualization art which makes anew of pre-existing source material, Chasers is about simuli of moving images’ influence upon one another. Films from different countries are selected based upon genre, scenario or a remake. They are positioned as doubles, side by side (i.e. Kurasawa’s Seven Samurai and John Sturge’s Magnificent Seven who’s latter producer bought the rights to the former 6 years after its release.) In this set, one can analyze how different cultures interpret the same story according to their respective countries. In the case of Charlie Chaplin, whose character is the story, we get to see and compare his alter ego and inspiration, Max Linder.  In another pair with spy heroes, James Bond AKA 007 and Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath AKA 0SS-117 one is not sure which is the template of the other. Jean Bruce (b.1921) a prolific euro-spy novelist and his American peer, Ian Fleming (b. 1908) were brought to silver screen roughly at the same period. 0SS -117 Rio ne repond plus is a parody of euro spy film of the 50’s and 60’s which are either inspirations for or from the American James Bond films.

Each film is re-edited into short 10 second to one- minute loops according to gestural categories (e.g. opening of a door, turning of the head, delivering something, character moving from left to right, an eye glare, etc.) This Cartesian categorization system reduces the narrative to basic Gestalts (spatial shapes) in order to re-examine a story as successions of movement within a frame. The loop becomes a story bit in itself as a rescan of all the instances of a similar moment.

Images are echoes and/or surface dialogues which are automatically generated by one screen’s proximity to another. The artists/performers play with our cognitive processing of unrelated images and sound to create false narratives. (e.g. A close up of deck of poker cards being dealt is juxtaposed with a pair of legs walking. The voice of a woman personifies a red light, as her words seem to correspond to the blinking illumination. ) Some of these false scenarios are pre-structured while others are happenstance as a result of the improvised live event.

Original storytelling included music, theatrics, poetry, pictures and text. The narrative was presented as collection of sounds effects, melodies, gestures, analogies and linguistics. Chasers falls closer to this primitive narrative. Videobass players trigger their digital chords to reveal a succession of rhythmic visuals containing groups of gestures of emotional situations. They respond to one another as well as the improvised music. Audio is extracted from the films’ sound tracks and also remixed into loops.  Musician Atau Tanaka plays samples using smartphones as his instrument whereby sound effects are generated by hand gestures.  Neither concert nor film screening, nor theatrical performance, Chasers is an event of double scenarios radically reduced, but like a gene, it still contains all the expressive information to comprehend a whole story.

The Videobass

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In 2009 Eng contacted Swiss engineer/ artist Michael Egger who makes custom video instruments. Since 2003 Michael has been developing a computerized video instrument that he named the Videobass.  Like myself and many live video artists he wanted to play images as one plays music.

At its internal core lies a USB sensor box he calls the GNUSB. The instrument runs with Max/Jitter on a miniMac hidden underneath foam in an SKB case that also houses a collapsible screen. Sliding my fingers along the chord against a sensor strip allows me to select a clip and launch it via Playstation knobs. Various other buttons allow digital effects such as brightness, color, lumakey, scrubbing through a clip and capturing a live camera feed.

(Currently the Videobass is only a visual controller and does control/play audio.)

More information on the Videobass see Michael Egger’s website.