Widespread enabling technologies and a few decades of community infiltration by VJs1 has bred small armies of garage laptoppers, artschoolers and youtubers all adept at manipulating video in real-time. A few subcategories can help surveying such an amorphous field.



Visual Synthesis
The creation and manipulation of moving imagery in real-time, is pleasurably pursued by most live visualists, with an almost alchemical combination of software and hardware, new and old. Squeezing abstract imagery out of the latest in generative software2? Try Andrew Gadow, Samuel Bruce and Peter Newman, all on Sydney’s demux audiovisual label, where the ‘art’ is just as much in the creation of unique software processes for generating patterns and imagery, as it is in the end results. PreferĀ  visualists? Harnessed for it’s visual feedback3 techniques (mixer to screen, to camera to mixer etc) by artists such as Botborg (Brisbane) to create live abstract imagery. Fluid application of visual effects processes can also lend itself to near formal explorations of the image. For example, the founders of Tesseract – Justin Maynard & Cindi Drennan, James Loveday – blogger on the internationally popular createdigitalmotion.com, or the ‘light paintings’ of Perth’s VJ Zoo – a Perth duo also curating both the Byte Me festival, and regular Perth Plug N Play events.

Lighting & Location Design
All this giddy conjuring up of shapes, patterns, textures and layers, is ultimately harnessed by many VJs as rhythm, light and colour, to transform the atmosphere of indoor and outdoor spaces. Cicada’s Re-Squared project in Sydney 2003 remains an Australian benchmark in outdoor projections, custom fitting their typically luscious work onto a collection of concrete columns in response to soundscapes by Ben Frost. The ever cheapening of projector technology offers increasing opportunities for provocative outdoor projection – Melbourne’s Digital Fringe facilitated drive-by projections in 2006-7, with artists projecting onto both buildings and the web (via a live camera stream from the mobile projection van), while video projectors are being increasingly recognised as incredibly versatile lighting controllers, with much more subtlety than traditional lighting rigs.

Sampling & Collage



From stuttery channel surfing through to loose and fragmented narratives, sample-based VJ-ing exists in a wide spectrum of styles. Artists such as John Jacobs (of Video Subvertigo infamy) or Guy 7U? continue to refine the visual equivalent of the free sound system techno party aesthetic and politics. Abject Leader in Brisbane perform expanded cinema with multiple 16mm projectors and handmade film. VJ Nosis (Melbourne) beautifully layers and combines her samples in evocative ways and Emile Zile (currently touring Europe as VJ for Melbourne freak-hoppers ‘Curse Ov Dialect’) brings a kind of Harmony Korine aesthetic to his dense live video collages. Collapsicon extends hiphop aesthetics into all kinds of visual terrain – sample based video creations, turntable video scratching, and even embryonic audiovisual sequencing in 3D game engines. Sonic objects on conveyor belt anyone?

Audiovisual / Live Cinema
Severed Heads pioneered live audiovisual musical creations, and founding member Tom Ellard continues that quest to sequence and mutate AV live. Relatively few acts are developing dedicated, live audiovisual performances though, where the video isn’t just a responsive backdrop to the music, but an integrated and interwoven part of the performance. The demux crew definitely fly the A+V flag, especially ringleader Wade Marynowsky (I have a soft spot for wearable kangaroo suits that trigger audiovisual loops!), as have Roly Spender and ChrisM + Fenris from Perth, and thematic audiovisual performances in Melbourne have long been performed by Future Eater, Anna Spanna & Suckaphish P Jones (MC battles vs onscreen beatboxing monkeys) in collaboration with Jean Poole (aye, the writer of this very article). The tightly synchronised live AV sequences of ‘Keith D & Cory’ (Melbourne) are worth catching too.

Video & Performance
Improvisational video skills lend themselves wonderfully to theatre, creating all kinds of interesting screen vs actor interaction and juxtaposition. As well as her screened material, Kirsten from Cicada found herself onstage alongside the actors in ‘Beasty Grrl’, processing her video. A fantastic ‘shakespeare as hip-hop’ performance by Morganics (ex Meta Bass N Breath), featured a wonderfully executed interaction between live performance and pre-recorded, live triggered videos of himself in various disguises. From another angle, VJ Morph (Sydney), prides himself on maintaining a highly active and visible ‘performance mode’ when VJing. A few Melbourne video artists (Lindsay Cox, Tim Webster, John Power) extend this with art-performances where their unique analogue processes of image creation (live cameras, mechanical objects, shadows, liquids, processing etc) engage audiences as much as the video.



Data Visualisation
Beyond mouse-clicking, live video is popularly triggered, manipulated, generated or adjusted using data extracted from gestures, movements, proximity sensors, weather patterns, data feeds etc. Within this realm of sophistication, live video artists create work in a wide variety of contexts – nightclub VJ screens, venue installations, or integrated art-performances. David Wolf’s performances with custom software integrating live flickr photo feeds are continually progressing, and again the demux crew are at play here, with label co-founder Wade Marynowsky’s various max, nato and jitter software patches4 over the years transforming ever stranger data inputs into a range of provocative and perverted performances (culminating nicely with his recent Autonomous Improvisation v.1 installation). Robin Fox gets the last shout, for although not strictly a video artist, his short-burst dimensional laser performances are some of the most captivating and compelling translations of data into vision.

References & Read More

All artists referenced are linked to from

VJ resources :

[1] Performing visual artist who manipulates video in real-time on public screens.
[2] … generated, composed, or constructed in an algorithmic manner through the use of systems defined by computer software algorithms, or similar mathematical or mechanical or randomised autonomous processes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
[3] A commonly utilised process of pointing a video camera at a screen displaying the camera’s output, creating unusual distortions harnessed by video artists (similar to the way guitarists play with feedback in amplified sound pointed at microphones or guitar inputs) http://softology.com.au/videofeedback/videofeedback.htm
[4] Patch based software refers to a genre of software which provides a graphical development environment for creating customised music and multimedia software. Prominent examples include Audiomulch, Pure Data, VVVV, Processing, Quartz Composer and Max /MSP, whose history outlined on wikipedia, references most key developments and current popular applications http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_(software)

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