The Pixelache 2010 festival report
I was invited to the Pixelache festival to hang out and network. For once I didn’t have to perform or give a speech, so I could indulge fully in the activities. I only went friday to sunday and got straight from the airport in to the Bar Camp session at the Keravan Taidemuseo located in one of Helsinki’s outer suburbs. For those who are not familiar with the term “Bar Camp” I could describe it as a user generated conference where the content is provided by the participants, anyone can post a subject to discuss. This went on the whole day and several interesting discussions went on parallel, so it was pretty hard to pick. I went between groups dealing with guerilla gardening, software presentations, audio visual experiments and open source technologies. The day ended with the opening of two exhibition at the Kerava museum, How to Build a Dishwasher and chmod x+ art and later a Pixelache network dinner in Helsinki.
There were a couple of things from the Bar Camp that I found extra interesting. One is the open source project Puredyne which is a GNU/Linux package for artists. It’s an operating system bundled with a load of open source software for artists and the whole system is bootable from a USB stick or a CD and will run on your Intel machine.
The second thing was the project Brainwave Music Lab where they were making music from alpha and beta brain waves. I’m not going to tell more just watch the video, it give me the chills, you know, in a good way.
The Saturday started with Breakfast Club III, a breakfast with a discussion about open source technology led by cyber feminist Nathalie Magnan. It got pretty interesting, with many different views. There were the extremists looking for the utopian open source society, there was Li from Shanghai who explained how Open Source was not relevant for young people in China at the moment since people don’t think software costs money and then of course the people complaining that they will become less productive with Open Source applications. For me personally, the more interesting discussion about Open Source technology was on the boat back to the hostel where I came to speak to Italian design students, Emanuele Bonetti and Loredana Bontempi from the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, who are in a program that runs only on open source software. They said that they couldn’t really find good replacements for the standard design applications but they had other applications that let them do other things and take their designs in new directions. That sounded very appealing to me and we immediately started bouncing more or less realistic ideas.
After lunch there was the Fritzing+Arduino workshop. Arduino is an open source prototyping platform that makes it easy for artists and designer types like you and me to create physical interaction devices. Fritzing is an application that let you document your electronic prototype and help you take it steps closer to production. I’ve been wanting to get in to the Arduino for a few years and this was the perfect time to get started. I bought the neat little starter kit from the Fritzing people that had an Arduino and some basic components.
At night I went to see The Urban Projection Lab, that was an architectural video mapping on the front of the Finnish National Theater. The environment was a little bit to lit up for my taste which made the projections a bit washed out. We actually walked past in without seeing it and had to circle the block. If I understand it correctly we saw a visualization of Helsinki’s energy consumption in form of bubbles going up the facade.
The night continued at IHME Party located at the Vanha Student House. The night started bad with some hipster DJ playing the a Finnish version of a Pippi Longstocking tune and drunken Finnish girls dancing awkwardly. BUT then came the Black Horse + VJ Sakke Soini performance that was AMAZING. It’s rare to see such good band + visuals combination and they got the lighting and smoke to blend in as well. The band and the VJ had never worked together before and it was the band’s first live performance ever. One of those magic moments.
I never got a chance to speak to Sakke Soini that night but emailed him to ask some questions.
(TMT= The Midi Thief/Me, SS=Sakke Soini)
TMT: Your style with, what looks like old optical experiments or maybe just fx part out of old sci-fi movies, is that found footage or have you created it yourself, or some combination in between? And how do you work with your compositions while VJ-ing?
SS: Yeah, they are all my creations. I utilize the same techniques I use for my illustrations. I create clips that are easy mix together a sort of a continuum of each other. Therefore it is really easy for me to mix dynamically during the performances, create dynamic changes quickly and with the music.
TMT: What hardware and software is involved in your creation process as well as the performance?
SS: Mostly I create my graphics with Illustrator and After Effects. During the performance I use Resolume 2.4 running on my Macbook through Bootcamp and a MIDI controller.
TMT: Why are you using Resolume 2.4 in Windows and not Resolume Avenue in OSX?
SS: I tested Avenue a bit when it came out on my white Macbook, but I didn’t see any point upgrading. The program was a disappointment. And why fix something that isn’t broken. But I do very little post-processing during my live show anyways. I mainly just adjusting the colors.
TMT: Your visuals works extremely well together with this music (Black Horse) but what music do you normally VJ to? And how does the look and the tempo of your graphics work then?
SS: I basically have two vjing styles. The one you saw and the other one is more vector based. For the more uptempo i use the vector based stuff. The clubs i normally VJ for is more Electro/Disco/Dubstep oriented.
The second performance of the the night was Swedish Slagsmålsklubben and VJ Motorsaw aka Sune Petersen, an awesome Danish guy that I shared rooms with at the Hostel on Suomelinna. The extremely happy uptempo music of Slagsmålsklubben seemed to work really well with this crowd and so did the visuals. Sune had a project set up in VVVV that he based his whole performance on. It looks like vector lines but is really to slanted rectangles, one masking the other that he can tweak the shit out of with a Korg NanoKontrol. I think that one quality that I particularly liked was the possibility of changing the stroke weight. This might seem trivial but I actually can’t remember seeing it used that much. It’s really useful for interpreting nuances in the music.
The classic after party for those who didn’t want to go home or those who couldn’t get back to Suomelinna took part at a design agency. Slagsmålsklubben, Sune Petersen the Mal Au Pixel crew and others from the Pixelache network. All kinds of alcohol appeared auto-magically when some other alcohol ran out.
Don’t think I really managed to do anything productive the following Sunday. There were a few performances I would have liked to have seen but I missed them and then had to leave for the airport.