Performance at Casa Obscura

Last Wednesday, the collective Basmati (Audrey Coianiz and Saul Sagatti) Detheux Jean and I have made a visual collective improvisation with the musicians Jean Derome, Joane Hetu and Isaiah Ceccarelli, as part of MercrediMusics at Casa Obscura in Montreal. I had met Audrey and Saul in Macchiagodena in Italy last May during the IOProject where I participated with them in the Alkemax workshop. It was already expected that they would come to Montreal in September and we agreed to try organize something together in the same spirit. I suggested to Jean Derome to schedule a performance in the context of MercrediMusics at the Casa. He immediately accepted, and I invited Jean Detheux to join us.

All this without really knowing how we were going to connect the three sources of image of quite different nature and character. They were indeed heterogeneous sources. The only common thread was that they were all “live”. I work in drawing live with dry erase felt pen on a white board, which is immediately captured frame by frame and digitally manipulated. The result is very graphic and can easily remain fairly minimal in terms of occupation of the screen surface. Audrey and Saul work in handling different materials (sand, painting on glass), no capture, with live processing on a computer. The resulting image is made off large contrasting masses. Jean Detheux draws live on a graphic tablet and combines these images to prerecorded background material. This is a very painterly and very detailed and it occupies evenly, “all over” the entire surface of the screen.

In the course of prior discussions by email, I came to propose a quite radical option: to combine the images of our three very different styles together, superimposed on the same screen and improvise in direct contact with each other so to create a coherent composite picture. The proposal, to my knowledge, had no precedent and was quite risky, especially in a context where it was not possible to repeat. This would require much “listening” and deference from everyone. Upon the arrival of Audrey and Saul, we had direct discussions and agreed to a performance in two parts.

The first part was done with three screens, where each of us had its own screen. The three graphic universe were simply juxtaposed, next to each other. It is in the second half that we tried the superposition of three different sources on the same screen. To do this, we installed two video mixers Edirol V-4 in line so as to superimpose the three images through”keying”. He agreed that the Jean’s image would be at the bottom because of its all over character, the image painted on glass by Saul and Audrey came in second because of its large black areas that allowed good keying and mine was on top because of its low occupancy of the screen surface. There was little risk that any of the three images would be completely hidden and obliterated by the other two. The idea was that the “keying” was to be set at the beginning to get a good balance between the three images and that thereafter it was everyone’s responsibility to work in maintaining this balance. The critical point was the relationship between the image of Saul and Audrey and Jean’s. It was the burden of Saul and Audrey to be careful to always keep the black areas sufficiently large for Jean’s image to remains visible. This worked very well and there was no need to change the mixers settings en route.

I first thought that we were going to need a sort of score (eg one solo each) to organize the course of the performance, but we would have needed rehearsals to really assimilate the score. Given the circumstances, it was best to simply dive in and the result seems to have been quite surprising. I have not watched the capture of the performance yet (excerpts will soon be available on YouTube) but the public reaction was eloquent as well as the musicians who have obviously seen more than us what was going on. For me, a demonstration was made about the possibility of working with three sources on a single image in a relation as direct as in the case of a trio of musicians. Jean, Audrey and Saul were delighted with the experience, which rejoyces me. I do not know what will come out of this workshop but it was certainly an important and fruitful moment.

See the VIDEO.

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