Techgnosis, hypnosis, osmosis

Gail Priest

Jaqilen Pascoe, Video Combustion Alpha Release

Jaqilen Pascoe, Video Combustion Alpha Release

Jaqilen Pascoe, Video Combustion Alpha Release

Performance Space is elegantly reconfigured into a diagonal wedge, angled screens to the left, wall to floor screen on the right; breaking the hard lines are diaphanous spirals, cylinders, cubes, bending and absorbing projections to their own image. The eye is drawn to the proscenium arch where there is a breathtaking orchestra of equipment—tiered rows of computer screen lit bodies, concentratedly clicking away, live mixing the sound, video images and realtime feeds into the sensory immersion that is Video Combustion—Alpha release. It is hard not to worship at this altar of technology.

An archetypal cybermistress greets us. Slicked-blonde and cold-scary—her whitened naked body projected upon and filmed live, overlaying her prerecorded face—she has been “digitally re-membered.” This apparition in the flesh and machine (Jaqilen Pascoe) is our guide, advising us to question the “nutritional value of our information diet”, a constant reminder of the “meeting between meat and machine.”

The tangible commodity is atmosphere. With 11 video projectors, every surface is textured. Images surround us at 3 million pixels per second, sound pulses the air in our lungs. Transitions are viscous, sections merging and evolving like an organism growing itself. We are kept abreast of the action by screens showing us the score—who’s on first, who did what, what’s over there. Another mode of watching is required, a kind of holistic ambient viewing. However the configuration and size of the space creates a static, seated environment, requiring the audience to concentrate for 2 hours on streams of video consciousness. With so many points of focus it is frustrating to be stuck with a limited viewing perspective. The second part of the evening opens the space up to wandering, but by then the performance focus has dissipated. A larger space would allow an audience to roam this world, to stumble upon the more performative moments.

I try to tease out specificities about sound and image, but they seem fused, like melted electrical cables. Video Combustion is a surge—energy that is absorbed rather than experienced as vision, as sound. Integrating performance into this fusion is the ultimate challenge. Pascoe strikes a balance between absorption and visibility, her spokenword-scapes (created with Wade Marynowksy) and live interaction are cool and slick, her prowling presence arresting, if a little familiar. Working beside and against projections, Momo Miyaguchi achieves the beginnings of a dialogue between image and live body. While the dance pieces of Talia Jacob, Annie Robin and Helen Bergan are thematically focused by video images of classical ballet and live overlays, the dance style is naive and conceptually unchallenging. I offer a thesis: the human body is not that interesting to project upon—the surface area too small, and the body too nullified by mandatory white lycra. The work is more engaging when the live body works actively with projection or is chewed up and reintegrated into image, as in the opening sequence of Pascoe’s face multiplied and affected by her own reprocessed presence. This is where the tensions and fusions of interdisciplinary work become electrifying.

The scale of the collaboration, the mastery and marshalling of technology and the degree of hybridity in Video Combustion are impressive. At the conclusion of the evening Justin Maynard (co-director along with Cindi Drennan) thanks all those who have helped “propagate chaos.” Interestingly, I have seen none—the event is calm, genteel even, bordering on reverent. Perhaps it was necessary to tame the multi-cabled beast for Alpha Release and in its next incarnation to loose the bonds. This beast feeds on hybridity and can only grow stronger through closer connections and knowledge of each artform. Therefore I send out the call to arms—video artists, see more performance—performance artists, experience more new media. Blast through Sydney’s discrete scenes and see everything!

Video Combustion—Alpha Release, produced by tesseract research laboratories and the vidi-yo network, Performance Space, June 22. www.videocombustion.org

RealTime issue #50 Aug-Sept 2002 pg. 27

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2002