Light in the darkness
VJzoo by Minaxi May
Met by the smiles of Kat Black and Jasper Cook aka VJzoo, we connect through our affection for the visual medium, music, film and the art of the remix.
Influenced by her art teacher Grandma, Kat commenced as a painter, illustrator and lecturer, Jasper in photography. In 2003, studying Fine Art at Central TAFE led to their collaborations jokingly dubbed ‘Gilbert and Georgia’, referencing UK artists Gilbert & George. Once discovered, VJing software became their giant funnel for photography, video, sound, painting and any other medium. Live VJing allowed immediacy and performance – their ‘aha’ moment launching them into pluralism.
Abbreviated by VJzoo to ‘visual jazz jamming’, video jockeying is described as a performance that combines the visual possibilities of filmmaking with the improvisational pleasures of jazz. Kat and Jasper are remixers, sourcing, selecting and, as with commonplace collage, resampling and recontextualising images, seamlessly stitching together voraciously collected visual clips. Movie buffs, they talk about their work as “video painting using nostalgic, niche, retro/vintage material” including excerpts of film noir dancers juxtaposed to contemporary beats. They re-assemble for the postmodern audience’s, unrestrained eclecticism. VJzoo know their encyclopedia of over 5000 clips intimately, providing an accessible, synchronised, ephemeral audio-visual experience.
Long time resident VJs at the Llama bar, Subiaco, their nocturnal practices wound up this year. Now, outdoor projections such as the first Western Australian Projections on High (2011) and public art projects have allowed ‘normal’ sleeping patterns. The Bunnies (2013) are four kitschy, bright, super-sized night-lights, which proved controversial when installed for the Key City Worker Housing Project, East Perth. Although designed to comfort the shift worker inhabitants, they sparked debate amongst the public. But, Kat and Jasper buzz in consecutively, “We are fairly medium-agnostic, we have an idea and then go about finding the best way to produce that – we endeavor to have as much artistic freedom in our projects as possible.”
Their projections have increased in scale, such as the 2013 Art Gallery of Western Australia visual canvas Illuminites. Performative events have included cultural collaborations with the West Australian Ballet. Currently, digital interactive work is being completed for the redesigned Princess Margaret Children’s hospital. The pair reflect that public art is “rewarding but different”, without the immediate high of VJing in clubs, yet encompassing their 1920s European art influences of montage cinema.
VJzoo are both experimental and conceptual innovators. Their themes include memory, the night and a sense of wonder. Part entertainment, part art, operating in the overlap of the two, they prefer their work to be accessible.
“There’s something really magical about light in darkness. Memories of the ship of lights on the Old Swan Brewery are some of the most vivid from my childhood. We’d love people to have similar memories of our work,” says Kat.
No stranger to this pair’s magic, for me being reacquainted was to converse like geeky aficionados of film. They are plugged into a supportive, technically efficient, international network of VJs. VJzoo have become leaders of VJing in Perth and have a global network, obvious from the diverse locations on their website track (play) schedule. “We make video art and we also VJ commercially… ARTY and PARTY!” It’s enough to get my dancing shoes on.
Minaxi May is a contemporary artist living in Fremantle. She returned from Artsource’s Basel, Switzerland residency this year. Minaxi is currently a sessional academic at Curtin University and the Special Projects Co-director at Paper Mountain (ARI). She is in the final throws of her PhD candidature at Murdoch University.
This article featured in the Artsource Newsletter, Summer 2014/15