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interview: Mia Makela, a.k.a. VJ SOLU
- part 2

JP: What's the Barcelona scene like for exploring video?

MM: Quite active. There is a lot of interest for video, amd this is the city of film festivals! It's easy to get big audience for almost any kind of digital art event, sold out noise concerts, etc. There was a live visual boom some years ago when everyone got a laptop and walked in front of the audience instead of staying at home nibbling with Macromedia Director.

The game modifications visuals scene got particularly strong (Glaznost, Retroyou, Jodi) and also there were many NATO processers. And of course now there is the Pure Data generation who go through the same community gatherings as the NATO crew did. Actually Yves Degoyan, developer of Pidipi lives in Barcelona as many other PDactivists.

I was part of creating the multimedia A/V scene in Barcelona around 2000-2003 as (late), organizing workshops of NATO, hacker techniques, and so forth, and audiovisual events and exhibitions and parties. It's a really exciting period. I continue organising workshops on audiovisual realtime creation around Spain and Europe, trying to help the next generation getting "air under their pixels". Telenoika organized the VideA VJ-festival already for many years in Barcelona. It's said to be the first VJ festival in the world.

There are a lot of VJs around but not so many live cinema projects. I wouldn't say there is a live cinema scene here at the moment. But ask me in one year time and hopefully the situation will have changed.

JP: What's your general process in preparing for a large video performance?

MM: Going through my video clip library, modifying my Max/MPS/Jitter patch if necessary. Usually I have some ideas I start with, develop videos I've shot with DVCAM. And I start to process that material after capturing and editing it into perfect loops. I've noticed that the best stuff comes from doodling, just trying things out and then boom! something strange starts to happen. That is the joy of processing a video signal.

I very rarely use video material as it is. I tend to synthetize it, break it down into its most basicelements and start to build from there. I think I have need for processing as some have a need for patching. Normally I do that on my own and then show my "results" to the public in the format of live composition and some processing parts if it fits the show... this is the practise for a VJ gig.

For a performance like "hiding in the clouds", the theme was a kamikaze lost in the clouds. So I searched for visual material, scanned, captured, edited, manipulated and processed it in order to show a "narrative" story. In other words there was a message. Even though it was symbolic, using dragons, and Saint George killing the dragon -- the dragon being the symbol for knowledge and Saint George a keen christian, like Saint George Bush -- the whole show ended with ninjas fighting in slow motion. So with these kind of shows the process includes intense practising and collaboration with the musician, in this case david Dalmazzo. I also included improvised live speech in the show, and used Photoshop live to draw directly to the screen.

With a street dance theatre piece, the process again was very different: I watched for days the dancers practising, imagining how the visuals would fit them on the stage and also there were a lot of technical things to think about like the distance of the projectors if they should fill the whole stage, also floor, etc.

So as you can see, different approaches... depending on the project.

What's your connection with the notorious 'NATO' software?

MM: Thanks to NATO we are doing this interview now. I actually started with it as it was the first software that gave me the push to start exploring the live visual world.

Before that, I did video art. And in the art school I most enjoyed the nights sitting in the S-video editing room, making analogue video, and imposing graphics with an Amiga. But somehow I ended up doing multimedia and internet projects, as they seemed to offer more possibilities. And not until founding NATO did I return to pure video.

The earlier mentioned distributed NATO in the beginning, and invited Netoschka Nezvanova various times to Barcelona. My connection with NATO was quite close but I never fell into the NATO fever like many who were then later kicked out of the community during the cold war with cycling74. For me this whole thing was a great tragedy as I really liked NATO, and I was surely one of the last persons to hang on to OS9 just to be able to keep on working with it. But then the need for updating grew too strong and I gave up.

Now I'm using the "enemy" software, Jitter and sometimes Isadora. The thing is, I find Jitter far more complicated and more made for engineers/programmers than NATO, which was basically a video object library for Max/MSP, which was more fun. And as NATO was also an art project, so there was a certain comradeship with it. It seemed always so fragile, and easy to lose.

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