Live cinema narrative

Live cinema performance, as a relatively young artistic practice, poses new questions and defies existing conventions. One of such questions is how the concept of narrative can be translated into the context of live audio-visual performance. Artists such as Solu argue that live cinema breaks free from the requirements of narrative storytelling in order to create purely audiovisual experiences. According to Solu, one of the goals of live cinema is to evoke feelings and sensations in the audience, without the need of traditional film devices like   linear storytelling and dialog, but by means of the live, non-linear manipulation (editing, mixing and filtering) of visual and audio material.

Kaamos, live audiovisual piece by Solu.

This idea of purely audiovisual – even multisensorial, synaesthetic – experiences has many antecedents that can be traced back to the Absolute Film movement in Germany in the 1920s, by artists like Walter Ruttmann and Oskar Fischinger, or the Whitney brothers in the United States. Later work in the 60s and 70s by experimental filmmakers and video artists (Malcolm Le Grice, Tony Conrad, Bruce Conner, Kenneth Anger) pioneered the exploration and questioning of different aspects of the film practice, some of them related to the narrative and semiotic codes of the medium. The questions posed by live cinema today might be a transposition of the questions posed 30 or 40 years ago, and at the same time they occurr in an environment where audiences are familiar with hyper textual narratives and non-linear, networked structures, and where the screen is ubiquitous at the individual scale.

kino21 upcoming performance “An Improvised Movie”

Even in an entirely abstract audiovisual piece, the audience will construct some kind of narrative, since it is a natural tendency of our brains to make sense and build stories out of the information we apprehend in any situation. So perhaps is not a question or whether or not live cinema goal is to create a narrative or a story, but how the specificity of live digital performance extend the notion of narrative, specially in relation with the highly mediated and hyper linked environments we live in today. In particular, something as basic in traditional storytelling such as the existence of a definite beginning and end need to be evaluated under the light of these factors.

Timothy Jaeger talks in his book “VJ: Live Cinema Unraveled” about the idea of mixing and filtering as narrative: “The narrative and dynamics of rhythm in the mix becomes the narrative of the performance itself”. Perhaps in a hyper linked world where we jump from one story to another with ease, or keep multiple stories going on in parallel, the overall narrative is defined not so much by the content of each individual story, clip or loop, but by the networked structure that results from mixing these stories together.


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