Re: [-empyre-] interactive video software
The Voices in my Head tell me that on 3/4/05 11:21 PM, Jim Andrews at
> This is the main 'interactive video' global scene, I believe. Not
> interactive video for the Web/Net, but for live performance where the
> interactivity is not typically controlled by the audience but by the
This subject is so close to what I do, I am shaking right now as I write
this. It's probably because I'm really tired, but I am also very nervous.
I don't know where to begin, as this is so "at my core."
I am in the process of writing a (hopefully mercifully short) book on this
very subject, which deals with some theories of what I call "Performance
In September 2003, I put together the San Francisco Performance Cinema
The info for that event is here:
Through this event I met one of the listmoms here, Christina McPhee, who has
become a good friend of mine, and led me to this place of Empyre. Through
Empyre, I have become re-acquainted with a number of people from my past
(Hi!) and become friends with others. So, through the event I organised
around this very topic, much in my life has changed. Dramatically.
I see several essential differences between Live/Performance Cinema, and
Internet based (or even traditional film) based cinema. They all centre
around what I call the cycle of cathexis. Since I can't include graphics,
please forgive the lower D representation of a higher D figure:
artist - > art - > audience - > artist
is one cycle, and it is rather essential.
I have been performing as a musician for... (snip) a really long time...
You get to "know a crowd" pretty quickly, and one's personal presence is
*crucial* to the character of the cathectic flow. Being in front of people
in a live context is a very different thing from a web based situation.
A simple example:
I tell you that in a live chat there will be 150,000 people reading what you
type. This is a daunting prospect.
But - if I push you out onto a stage in front of 150,000 people, it's a
whole 'nother ball game.
In situation A: the flow of energy is purely symbolic, while in situation B,
you have your own senses to deal with.
I have never performed in front of 150,000 people. I have performed in front
of several hundred at one time, at most.
I would also distinguish the difference between interactive video and
performance cinema, and I would tend to question much of what constitutes
the "interactivity" of "interactive" video, as much of what I see as
"interactive art" (much less video) is not much more than various
elaborations on a boolean if/then decision tree, which I find to be
completely, and too often profoundly, UNinteractive.
I have A LOT of problems with VJ material. Most of what I have seen of it is
just awful. There are some brilliant exceptions.
One I would recommend was the performance I saw of the Light Surgeons, who
deconstructed the film "The Fountainhead" based on the book by Ayn Rand.
You can find out about them here:
I have only seen one of their shows, and I was deeply impressed. They were
very much taken with their relation to DJ culture, which I found absurd, for
as far as I know, DJ culture started with poor blacks spinning disks on the
streets or in places like Washington Square Park in the 1970s.
[I remember, because I would ditch high school and go there to buy joints
(or acid or hash or whatever) and hang out... I remember seeing people make
these weird multi-turntable/close-and-play mixes of funk and soul music. At
the time, I thought it kind of sucked, *a lot*, and thought it was really
irritating, but when scratch and scratch video got big in the 80s, it all
made sense to me...]
We, as human beings, are hard-wired to respond to other people and be
sensitive to other s when in their presence. I'm sure we have all written
things in email where we've said things we probably wouldn't have said if we
were faced with the target of our ire. That presence creates cathexis - an
evocative and psychological response and investment. People who have
problems with cathectic responses and investment are usually classified /
pathologised by their deficiencies in this regard:
Sociopaths, autistic, or, inversely, FORM 2 Inwardly Directed ADD, etc.
Throw yourself onto a stage in front of a crowd and tell me you don't FEEL
their presence... That sense is their investment in you: cathexis at that
point is so intense, it becomes palpable.
That kind of investment is often completely missing in internet based work.
This doesn't mean that internet based has *no* investment - it is simply of
a very different nature. How one defines the "stage" in that case becomes
problematic, and interesting, which is one of the reasons why I had Gregor
White from Scotland speak at the SFPCS.
The text of his speech is here:
The other aspect that differs Live vs. Other Cinematic practices
(interactive or otherwise) is a matter of synchrony vs diachrony.
A movie is diachronous - it is essentially identical from one showing to the
next. It can be shown to an empty theatre. It exists as a loop outside of
A performance is synchronous - it will always differ from one performance to
the next: even if the performance is a film and completely diachronous, the
reaction of the audience will differ, making each performance unique. It
exists Only in time.
As the internet allows a kind of fractal dimension of time (kind of like 1.2
D) where the arrow always goes forward, but it can stop for a while and skip
around that which has occurred, it obviates most of the possibilities of any
real live cathexis between the audience and performer through the vessel of
the art and the environment of the art work itself by the very exigencies
involved with what it is to use the internet.
I really need to get some sleep.
I will write more on this tomorrow.
THIS CONVERSATION MATTERS.
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