performance and improvisation


I came to video through an initial engagement with the contextual meaning and emotional impact of music within film. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to bring music further up the production timeline of film production, hampered by the chemical nature and processing delays of getting to see shot film footage [XXXXXX see]. Video was an instantaneous revelation. I was struck very early by the  potential equivalence of the video medium to music making [XXXXXX see].

A natural intuitive jump then was to try to “perform” video in real time as if it were a musical instrument [XXXXXX again see], but using imagery instead of sound. So it was that live performance, and improvisation within it, were a central  aspect of my extended early period of video production, in conjunction with flautist and composer Simon Desorgher, and he collaborated on all the video pieces in the Seventies. He is an accomplished improviser and was a crucial contributor to the development of our performing practices. I loved his wide-ranging definition of music as “organised sound”, and his ability to conjure other-worldly soundscapes starting from traditional instruments, then processed electronically. Other influences were jazz and Indian classical, both of which have strong improvisational elements.

These influences, plus the technical difficulty of editing video with any subtlety for complexity in those early days of the medium, combined to result in an aesthetic based around simultaneous live performance of sound and visual production and an unedited recording. Both, or all, participants had live visual and aural feedback of what was being jointly created and recorded. Virtue was made out of the difficulties – because of the technical complexities and consequent limitations on detailed visual control, it was natural for these performances to develop strong elements of improvisation. This period was also of course characterised by the wider emergence of “performance art” in the artworld.

See also Videotape Improvisations [XXXXXX] and Video Work [XXXXXX]