This October I was invited to MUTEK Mexico in Mexico City. MUTEK Montreal has always been a very special festival for me, because I can attribute my inspiration to build Oculon and perform visuals to my early experiences at MUTEK. After 4 years of performing at MUTEK Montreal, it was a treat to experience its incarnation in Mexico.
I was impressed beyond my expectations by MUTEK.MX: the venues, the programming, the audio/video production quality, the staff, the crowd, the hospitality (!) and the overall vibe. It was one of my best festival experiences, and stayed true to the MUTEK spirit which I haven’t found elsewhere.
I got to play visuals for Shackleton and Lotic on a bright, crisp LED screen at FMCC. Orbital Mechanics was also participating in the festival with a showing of their immersive dome film, “Dark Matter”, and visuals by Diagraf.
This will be my final performance using the current version of Oculon. The codebase has grown outdated and unwieldy, making it very frustrating to work with. So I’ve decided to completely rewrite the engine and interface from scratch, and port over any content I want to keep. I’ve struggled with this decision for over a year with several false starts, since a rewrite is daunting and time-consuming, and I am still in the planning stages.
MUTEK.MX has given me new inspiration to go forward with the project, because it reminded me that I do still enjoy performing visuals; I just need my instruments and processes to evolve.
The idea for the Trinity video originated over two years ago. One of the earliest modules I built for Oculon, named Tectonic, showed seemingly random blips with crosshairs on a black background.
These were actually the earthquakes from the past 30 days positioned on a hidden map. The data came from the US Geological Survey and the blips were sized relative to the quake magnitudes.
One night I was re-watching the documentary, Trinity and Beyond, featuring a great collection of restored archive footage of nuclear tests. At this point it occurred to me that there must be a database of all these tests, and if only the data included timestamps, location coordinates and magnitudes, then it could work with the existing Tectonic code.
After some research I came across a few data sources. They all seemed to vary slightly, and had discrepancies in the number of tests. I chose the one with the most complete data set, Johnston’s Archive and also the Australian Government Geosciences Nuclear Explosions Database as cross-reference.
Also during this research phase I found that another artist, Isao Hashimoto, had already created a very similar project in 2003, titled “1945-1998”. This is a great piece of work and I encourage everyone to watch it.
At first I was discouraged, thinking I should abandon the idea since it was already done before. After some time passed, this turned to inspiration instead. Trinity would tackle the same subject with a different aesthetic both visually and aurally, and would use the data in different ways. There is always room for multiple interpretations of the same data and different ways of exploring the same concept.
Once the data was formatted and the code could parse it, there were quite a few technical challenges to overcome before this hacked together VJ module could be turned into a presentable data visualization sequence. I worked on these problems intermittently for a while, without making much progress.
Earlier this year, I realized that 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the Trinity test, as well as the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I thought this would be an appropriate time to release the project, as it would resonate and serve as a means to reflect on these events and the proliferation of nuclear weapons thereafter. Having a deadline is also a great motivator.
From the start, I knew this project would be nothing without sound. My initial experiments with generating audio with cinder did not yield promising results, and this had to done right. I called upon my fellow mechanics to handle all the sound. Patrick (Diagraf) created the background soundscape and Phil (Rusty Faders) created the detonation sounds. The sound design on both fronts really took the project to the next level.
To maintain tight synchronization and use the data to manipulate the sound properties, the visualization was run in real-time in Oculon while it sent MIDI data to Ableton, essentially like a live A/V set. This had the added bonus of allowing me to make adjustments on the fly, since nothing was pre-rendered or pre-recorded.
I’m very happy with the final result, and the reception so far has been truly incredible: currently at over 860k views and still counting! It was featured in Huffington Post, The Guardian, Vice/Motherboard, Gizmodo/Sploid, The Independent, Fast Company, and selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick, among the social media frenzy. I’m flabbergasted.
The response has certainly been a great source of encouragement, and we have big plans for expanding on the Trinity project in the near future. We’ve also seen how data can be both beautiful and powerful when combined with visuals and sound, and plan to explore further into this domain. Stay tuned!
We are three-dimensional beings living in four dimensional spacetime. While we can travel freely through space, we only experience a single moment of time: the specious present. Our perception only extends to this slice of the timeline as we are propelled forward through it. We remember the past with memory and simulate the future in our thoughts, but these instruments are entirely subjective. Our minds struggle with accurate time measurement and reliable data collection.
To address this limitation, we have developed various tools such as clocks and calendars.
Clocks point you to the present, the “you are here” sign for the fourth dimension. Calendars mark points of interest on the timeline. Alarms tell you when a future point of interest becomes the present.
These tools generally focus on the present and future, but our picture of the past remains fuzzy. If I ask you when your next doctor’s appointment is, you can look it up in a calendar instantly with minimal mental exertion. If I ask you how long it’s been since your last visit to the doctor, it will take more effort to answer. Maybe you can look up the date, but to answer the question of “how long has it been” will require another mental calculation on top of that.
Hindsight is an app I made for iPhone and Apple Watch that remembers past events and calculates time intervals. By unburdening your mind from these calculations and making the information readily accessible, it gives you a new sense of awareness and perception of the past.
It helps you stay on top of anything that needs doing regularly, without requiring you to plan ahead.
Awareness can also be a powerful motivator for changing behaviour, to reign in vices or encourage good habits.
A histogram exposes patterns in the frequencies and intervals of occurrences to give you new insights at a glance. Alerts notify you when a certain amount of time has passed.
And being a timekeeping tool, of course you can access it from your wrist.
It’s a simple tool to make navigating the fourth dimension a little easier. I hope you find it useful as I do.
This was cross-posted on Medium
After a summer hiatus, I joined forces with Diagraf to perform visuals at Bacchanale Story w/ RØDHÅD, Groj & Adam Solomon b2b Alessandroid. The elephant screen is the work of AV Exciters. Another great underground event organized by La Bacchanale Montréal. More photos here.
This year the MUTEK and ELEKTRA festivals joined forces as EM15. It was a week-long audio-visual extravaganza, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate. I performed four separate shows, which really pushed my limits. On Friday, May 30, SWACK took us to the moon and beyond the stars and Alicia Hush got all the juices flowing to close the night. Saturday night at the MAC, Fake_Electronics took us on a mind-bending journey; I particularly enjoyed playing this set. Later that evening I accompanied the ambient soundscapes of Chat Noir.
I thoroughly enjoyed all the music I got to work with, and most importantly, I had the chance to perform alongside friends. A big thanks to SWACK, Alicia Hush, and Fake_Electronics for meeting up for practice and working with me as we all prepared for the festival. This helped me create some new material for each artist, to match their music and give each show a different feel. This year’s MUTEK was quite a treat.
Here’s a small glimpse of found footage. You had to be there.
On May 23, continuing our collaboration from MUTEK_IMG, I performed visuals for Mateo Murphy‘s live set at the Nocturne Numérique at the Musée d’art Contemporain in Montréal. This was a special opening event for various digital arts festivals and exhibits taking place at the MAC, including BIAN and EM15. These events are part of the Printemps Numérique digital arts season taking place in the city.
This winter I played visuals at Montreal’s infamous Igloofest outdoor music festival, one night with Alex from Tokyo and another with Mayssam. The new Videotron stage was a giant enclosure made up of stacked cargo containers, creating the largest projection surface I’ve worked with to date. It was loads of fun and I got to showcase some all new material.
And here’s a video retrospective of the event:
MUTEK_IMG 2013 was the first edition of a new visuals-centric festival in Montreal. I had the opportunity to participate by giving a talk at a VJ showcase featuring many of Montreal’s talented visual artists. I also performed visuals live along with Mateo Murphy for the closing night of the event. This was definitely my most high-profile performance as I was up on stage instead of in the back of the room where the VJ usually resides. We setup OSC communication between Mateo’s Ableton Live setup and Oculon for better synchronization. This was also one of the first major performances I did using only real-time rendered content.
I am very happy to see a festival with more focus on visuals, it was a great opportunity to see the work of other visual artists and get technical with talks and workshops. Big thanks to MUTEK_IMG and Centre PHI for putting on an excellent event. I look forward to future editions of MUTEK_IMG.
Update: Video of the VJ showcase was posted (my talk starts at 31:30):
In November 2013, I was invited to play visuals at the opening night of Festival Nemo in Paris with Laurel Halo and Electric Indigo. This was my first international gig, and also the most technically challenging. I had to output at 3840×1080 resolution to two projectors. Even with a recent computer upgrade, my machine was barely able to handle running both Resolume and Oculon at this resolution, so I had to keep layers and effects to a minimum. The video was output using a Matrox DualHead2Go, which creates a virtual monitor but outputs separately to the 2 projectors.
I followed Ryoichi Kurokawa, who performed one of the most striking audio-visual shows I have ever seen. I prepared material to fit Laurel Halo’s latest album, Chance of Rain, sticking to monochrome colors and minimalistic patterns. For Electric Indigo I let loose a bit more. As my hardware could barely keep up with rendering in real-time at such high resolutions, I commissioned some help from Diagraf, who generated some high-resolution video content to use along with Oculon.
The rest of the festival was also very interesting, showcasing many new media artworks and installations at the impressive Cent Quatre arts venue. It was a privilege to take part in this event, and getting flown to Paris to VJ wasn’t too shabby either.