Montreal: Mutek 02 – A/Visions 2 – RAPID-EYE DREAMERS

Joseph Sannicandro / June 3, 2011

A/Visions 2 @ Salle Pierre-Mercure | Thurs. 2 June | 8pm

Note: As with the night before, the wonderful sounding Salle Pierre-Mercure didn’t allow photography of the night’s A/Visions set.

It’s really a shame that the organizers scheduled Murcof‘s audio-visual collaboration with Simon Geilfus of AntiVJ the night after Amon Tobin‘s amazing installation for ISAM Live. Following that act on night 2 minimized its impact, though it was still an enjoyable event. The musical accompaniment seemed just that; not the main event. The  ambient and Kosmiche elements of Murcof’s music were played up more than on his recorded output, generally more abstract to accompany the live visuals that seemed to permute with the various parameters of sound.

Three projectors were set up across the stage projecting across a wide screen, the two performers situated behind the opaque screen, barely visible save for some lights from their gadgets and the ubiquitous glowing apple. The images started off very minimal, and gradually advanced through generative processes to reach beyond the confines of the screen. I thought perhaps we would be taken on a narrative journey recounting the history of such quantitatively generated images, but instead it became an old school screensaver  in Fantasia. A sort of MIDI art, for everything that connotes. At some point, it was like watching someone else play with my Thicket, a feeling I also got seeing the accompanying visuals to an Ezekiel Honig show recently. Maybe this speaks to a larger shift, that more and more visual experiences call for direct participation from the audience. Unimpressive after the night before, further demonstrating for me that we need new narratives and new ideas for audio-visual art.

I was impressed by the relationship between the music and the visuals, and how the two together seemed to change our perception of time.  By generating visuals that move into depth in this way, we are able to take on the perspective from a new vantage point, and it seems the novelty of this hasn’t worn off yet.  (Traditional animation cannot move into depth very convincingly and tends to rely on lateral motion.)  Perhaps it’s in the nature of electronic music (though I think not), but  the visuals are too rationalistic, and one can imagine a dismissal of them on the same grounds that many dislike Mondrian or Le Corbusier.

At its best, the music took on beats not too far from the influence of Trent Reznor/NIN. The visuals were most impressive when they ceased moving into depth and focused on shifting relationships between circles and lines, something that seemed appropriate for a musical art form that is at its core 0s and 1s, sine-waves and saw-waves and square-waves moving in and out of phase. An enjoyable performance to be certain, but I maintain that the artform has a long way to go. Too often, both musically and visually, artists seem to be showing us only that they have acquired new techniques. Sure, it’s generative, and partially improvisational. The processes look like fun to play with, but what else is put forward? Show us something more.

Albertan Comaduster opened up with his own audio-visual performance called “Scrape,” a simple yet effective pairing of shifting visuals and ambient-drone music with a tendency towards glitchy beats. Unlike Murcof’s set, one could sit back and be enveloped in the music without relying on the visuals.  Comaduster himself appeared dressed in black, with a tie and black cap on, giving a slightly awkward and humble bow, though he’d clearly earned a right to be on the stage.  Looking forward to his future output.


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