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The Escape Artists Society (TEAS)

  Camille Baker


Camille Baker a.k.a. Swampgirl gives us a brief background to her motivations and introduces the work of The Escape Artists Society, the reasons for its existence and examples of past and future events.


One of my interests since 2002, perhaps even preoccupations, has been investigating live or performance video – both as an artist/producer and as a curator. This form of video art has its roots in the rave culture of the late 80's and 90's and I have been aware of it since the late 90's as I was getting into video production and filmmaking. But it really peaked my interest and became more intriguing to me, when I became the lead curator for the 2003 and 2004 New Forms Festivals ( www.newforsmfestival.com) here in Vancouver .

In 2005, I got out to Mutek for Montreal 's annual electronic festival, to check out their audio/visual program (which I was told was not their best year for this type of work, but intriguing in any event). I've since been trying to get more personally acquainted with this practice in my own work, learning a couple different VJ software packages and playing around with effects. I've also incorporated an introduction of this video art performance practice into my 2 nd year video art and production course, Moving Images, in order to try to inspire a new crop of performance video artists. This course goes beyond most video production courses, touching on film and video history, the basics of video production and software skills, video art and installation, web video and streaming, and this year I'm adding a guest speaker, Julie Gendron, a video performance artist and event producer at the Video In, an artist run center here in Vancouver. Ms. Gendron will show students how to present work on multiple displays, live feed, creating feedback, connecting multiple sources, how to do hardware-based mixing, source materials, mix with sound, involve digital and generative video sources, work with short form video loops and how to make a gapless loop. So I'm hoping we can inspire more artists in this area.

As a PhD student at the SMARTlab at UEL in London, UK, traveling there several times a year, my research project involves VJing in a collaborative way using remote cell phones and biosensors to trigger video in a live performance setting and sending out the collaborative visuals back out to the phones for a wider live viewing experience. Thus, I am working with many different technologies, collaborators, sources of material and triggering methods in this work. It will prove to be a big undertaking, crossing domains in my project, including: VJing or live cinema; locative media and wireless devices in media art and performance practice, live / performance art history and practice, body-machine interfaces and sensors, liveness, presence, networks, wireless and communication technologies, theories of virtuality, media art reception and interactivity, social mobility practices and more.


The Escape Artists Society (TEAS)

The Escape Artists Society came in to being due to the frustrations, in terms of limited ability to curate and present new and invigorating forms of performance and media artists, experienced by myself, Camille Baker and my close friend, Victoria Singh, both of us event curators in local arts organizations. Both of us felt that, while our respective organizations and others locally were mandated to show emerging artists in the performance and media domains, many were passed over for more established artists and methodologies of presentation and program development. This was due to the fact that the funding lies in seasoned artists and putting money into emerging artists isn't in practice what many orgs do, so we wanted to try to. It was in this environment that we, as curators both felt the need to step in and create a collective to help fill this niche artistic domain.
Victoria is from a more traditional Performance Art background but also works in painting, music and has curated works of new technologies including Stelarc. I work as an artist and curator primarily in new media, video and music. We decided to put these two strengths together. The Escape Artists Society's mandate then, is to be involved in showcasing a diverse range of artists that demonstrate artistic innovation and ingenuity in performative approach and style. Works we focus on include: multimedia performance art and dance (a hybrid of interventionist, ritual based, action based and artists working with new technologies), new media artists working in public spaces and large scale community based projects, wearable technologies art, VJ or live cinema performance and networked or locative media performance projects. These events have been and will continue to be performed/shown in site-specific indoor and outdoor locations (non-gallery or established performance spaces: ‘unlikely venues').

The Knitting Circle is a monthly Performance Art discussion/support group co-presented by The Escape Artists Society (T.E.A.S): it originally began in May 2005 as a co-production between The Escape Artists Society (T.E.A.S) and the Western Front Performance Art Program, but now has a new home at Video In. It is a discussion group primarily, focusing on current performance trends, issues that are affecting performance art, the work of performance artists- past and present, and a variety of other topics that affects this discipline including "performance for video" as a genre in itself and the place of technology in works of live performance art. This has become Victoria 's baby, as she has stepped down as co-ED, due to overwork and exhaustion and I have taken over all programming with the board.

For one of the 2004 New Forms Festival events, we presented a night of performance video or audio/visual performance, as it was called. I assisted the curators of the event, Ed Jordan and Stephanie McKay of The nomIg. Collective, in producing the event within the context of the rest of the festival. The event was still so new to Vancouver audiences that we didn't know how to properly promote it to reach the different types of video art and electronic music cultures, who might appreciate the works. Yet there were some stunning works from the Montreal artist team skoltz_kolgen (Herman Kolgen and Dominique Skoltz) and local filmmaker Velcro Ripper that year, as well as in 2003 by The nomIg. Collective themselves and the French Canadian film artist Jean Piché.


TEAS Highlights of the Year 2005-2006

As a curator, I try to bring these interests into my work and here are a few examples of the work that TEAS presented in 2006 that have some relevance to live performance cinema or video in non-typical environments:

COMMON (August 20th/06)
A Live Video / Audio-Visual Performance and Projections, by Vancouver established artist, Jamie Griffiths. A visio-sonic exploration of sound, image and poetic story of release, surrender and reconstruction, told with sound, imagery and simple movement. An interactive new media event, featuring: an overhead circular screen of video projection, that responds to sound.

Video Art Podified (June 22/06) featured the curated presentation of video art designed for and displayed on Apple's new video iPod. Artists and guests were able to ‘rent' one of three video iPods (each featuring a different artist's work) for short periods to enjoy, share and discuss the works amongst themselves. The evening also featured door prizes and 16 mm films. During the event, we auctioned off exclusive 6 week viewing rights to the artworks! Works not purchased at auction are archived here on the T.E.A.S. website. After 6 weeks, all artwork will be available for viewing and Download.


Upcoming Events for TEAS in 2007

“Other Stories”
This performance builds on a body of work involving live performers and realtime representations of their movement in images and sound. Called ‘other stories', it stems from a desire to reveal the dynamic between self and other, occurring both within one person and across people mediated through digital technologies.

This project aims to explore the strangeness of captured human motion across different visual and temporal registers. The otherness will be rendered, literally and metaphorically, by using the Vicon motion capture system. It will be deepened and explored through movement improvisation in rehearsals using the Vicon system in the studio.

‘other stories' will begin with a performer extending herself through the visualisations and sonifications that emerge directly through her movement processed by the motion capture system. The performer will engage with her data in real time. Next, the performer will engage with her pre-recorded data, transitioning with the real time data – the question here is whether the shift from present (real time) to past (pre-recorded) alters our reading of otherness. Then to enhance the degree of otherness, the performer will engage with data that is generated by an other body, both in real time and pre-recorded. The duet is effectively expanded across bodies: improvisation will reveal the stories that emerge across these temporal / digital / physical duets. The stories are expanded further by introducing algorithmically generated data in combination with the data taken directly from the bodies: in other words, machine generated movement merged with human generated movement. Finally, the captured data will be transmitted to smartphones where audience can manipulate the movement of the visuals (through menus or touchscreen interactions) and send this back into the space for the performer to respond – effectively integrating remote distributed movement data into the improvised performance.

“Embodied Transference / Transcendence” - Locative / Mobile Live Video Performance Project
This is a prototype of my PhD project and will help inform future versions: For this performance piece, TEAS will present work-in-progress implementation of a media performance event series. The media performance work involves creating networked performance event from a streamed and archived database of video diaries created and uploaded from video recording cell phones, to be retrieved and streamed into a live VJ performance(s) - to form a performative, collaborative, non-linear narrative or montage; putting into practice the critical theory and discoveries of the performance(s). The participants are also the performers, in collaboration with a live VJ, to create live “mixes” and unique performances from video cell phone blogs - to converge the before now, distinct technologies, but also to simulate collective consciousness in a new way. The new media performance, will explore transference / transcendence as a participatory project, using mobile phone technology. The participants will be involved with exploring altered consciousness and dream states, embodiment, communication, and the use of media tools to express such experiences. I will invite participants to become attuned to their own minds and bodies to record, transfer/exchange, and mix these experiences through technological techniques.

performa.net: Electro Salon
Co-presented with Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society in various locations primarily Tinseltown International Village mall storefront projection performances. This is a project I've been trying to get funded and organized for some time and hope we can present it this year. Unfortunately, being a new and small organization in BC, and in Canada in general, it takes time and energy to get funders to notice you as they usually want to see you doing something out of your own pockets for 2 or more years to prove yourself as of interest to audiences and the community. Since so much or our work requires funding that we've already gone into debt – mostly out of my pocket or other Board Members' pockets. So we hope to make this event happen this year.
The event's selected works are intended to demonstrate performative elements using a network environment, like a new “happening” phenomena of the networked performance, specifically the sense of play and collaboration that is instilled between performer and the users/audience: for example the users/audience becoming the performer and the perceptual shift in the concept of “live” that ensues.
Works will demonstrate new directions in working with existing forms of video and film, as well as new forms in a networked environment, such as Video iPod art or Cell-phone video. An open call for submissions will be sent out with a focus on soliciting the work of emerging artists.
Artists' performance works must address additional topical issues of themes of inter-relationships, variety, complexity, balance, organism, and non-linear approaches to space and time, sustainability, lateral relationships within the parameters of:

· Performing in the Network
· Telepresence
· Cultural Dynamics and Sub-cultures
· Consciousness, Complexity/Chaos and Humanity
· Materiality, Virtuality and Connection
· Game Culture, Pervasive Play + Immersive Gaming

Unlike a traditional cabaret where all of the events are housed under ‘one roof' the performa.net: Electro Salon cabaret will occur at various locations, possibly even across the country or globally and present six-ten pieces over the course of one night. However, several downtown locations, such as a couple restaurants, cafes or other similar locations, or mobile locations (like cars or taxies) will feature individual projects with localized viewers throughout the city, as well as live-streamed projections in a centralized location, in a storefront in an inner-city mall and multiplex movie theatre complex.

Media Minefield - outdoor event
All will perform at the Trout Lake Park with projections onto the water and sand- also an additional three artists to be chosen via a call for submissions.

  1. Julie Andreyev, Four Wheel Drift (remix), Video, cars, sensors devices and GPS, Vancouver established artist. She will present the piece in-person (in cars) and give an artist talk afterward.

  2. Bobbi Kozinuk, Diffractions, aerial projection, Vancouver mid-career artist.

  3. Kate Armstrong, PING, GPS and mobile devices, Vancouver established artist.

Wearable Technology Fashion Show, featuring Joey Berzowska (April 2008) showcasing Montreal established artist / technologist/ fashion designer's wearable technology fashion artworks. Tentative location: radha Yoga Studio and Eatery, Vancouver.


VJ Theory: ART
Date published: 19/03/07

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