This year marks the 20th anniversary of Time Warp, an electronic music festival that started in Manheim, Germany in 1994 and since then has expanded to Italy, Holland and now Argentina and New York in November as they go on their 20-years tour across the globe. Keeping busy, they host parties with other electronic music bodies, from parties, festivals and venues such as Brussel’s Fuse and Sao Paolo’s D-Edge, to artists such as Chris Liebing, Sven Vath and Ricardo Villalobos. This year they have hosted parties with CLR in Ludwigshafen, Welt in Farbe in Manheim and Sonus Festival in Croatia. Their next upcoming party will be a big one indeed, as they double the celebration with Sven Vath, who marks his fiftieth birthday in October. With these two milestones, Sven and Time Warp have no doubt reached legendary status, and there are no signs of stopping them. Perhaps some of the reasons why Time Warp is “the world’s most intensive techno party” and has managed to survive such longevity for a festival, are their two distinct selling points: indoor venue and visuals. Not many festivals are completely indoors, and Time Warp does this brilliantly with their famous visual and light shows.
JEM the Misfit is one of the artists who wows the crowd by bending time and space with her utopian architecture and science fiction inspired live video performances as she performs alongside big name DJs that make up the line up. She has clearly got some skills. Originally from New Zealand and currently based in Berlin, Jem is a live video performance artist, or VJ, who has performed visuals for world class DJs. The first time she performed was for Ricardo Villalobos, Luciano, Marco Carola and Loco Dice in 2013 at Time Warp Germany’s infamous ‘Floor 3’.
She has won various accolades and competitions, such as the visual audio & deviant electronics Mapping Festival’s international VJ competition in Geneva, where she skilfully and quickly adapted her visuals with changing music genres and styles.
Sonus Festival 2014. Photo by Jem the Misfit
She recently returned from Sonus Festival, where she performed visuals for a stellar line up, including Chris Liebing, Seth Troxler, Henrik Schwarz, John Digweed, The Martinez Brothers, Robert Dietz, Nastia and Yaya. The list goes on… For a festival a DJ usually arrives on the day to perform a set of a few hours. Jem was performing at Sonus every single night for 5 nights from 11pm to 6am across 2 stages. Often compared to a DJ, it’s clear that the two have their differences. We caught up with her to learn more about VJing, her experience as an audiovisual performer, her relationship with audio as a visual person and how exactly VJing compares to DJing….
Can you compare a VJ to a DJ? A DJ selects and alters tracks. Does a VJ do the same but with visuals instead of music?
I often use dj/vj analogy to describe to people what I do because it is easy for them to understand but actually what a VJ does is more like a live electronic performer. There are a huge variety of approaches to VJing; From clip based VJ software where short loops are layered together, through to generative real time graphics. Unlike Dj’s who buy and play existing tracks from other artists many VJs are performing with content they have created themselves and as such tend to have very unique styles and ways of performing.
To what extent do you work with a DJ during your performance?
It depends on the event. With most of the large festivals where I am booked to play for the whole stage I have very little to do with the DJ’s. However I prefer to work in direct collaboration with musicians to create cohesive AV shows. I am currently working on two separate collaborations with musician’s Paula Temple and André Uhl.
New HYBRID AV Show. Visuals by Jem The Misfit.
Is there a particular DJ that you like working with the most, and why?
Currently I am working with producer and DJ Paula Temple. We are touring our Hybrid AV show, which is an evolving audio-visual collaboration. I love Paula’s music and our work just seemed to click since the moment we began collaborating.
Paula Temple at 2014 Krake Festival, Berlin
Can you describe the relationship between visuals and audio? is it a strong connection? What is stronger, visuals or audio? How do the two complement each other?
I believe that there is always a connection between audio and visual, we make a connection unconsciously even when there was no intended connection. The two are inseparable in creating a certain atmosphere, any change in either sound or visual can radically alter the emotion of a show, space or event. It’s like watching a movie with a different sound track or a music video with another song. The whole vibe can be completely different. I think the context makes a huge difference to which element is more important. At a dance music event I would say the music leads the show and the visual elements (video and lighting) are there to enhance the atmosphere created by the music and to create a show or spectacle. With AV performance in a dedicated performance space there is less distinction between which is the leading element. They are a cohesive whole where one cannot exist without the other and have been created specifically to exist together.
Do you perform visuals for the music or with the music?
That is an interesting distinction. I would say with the music. As my work is largely improvised I have my own flow that I develop “in the moment’ with the music as it progresses.
Can you describe the relationship between visuals and the crowd? How does a crowd react to, participate with and influence a visual performance in a dance music setting?
I think the visual elements of a show have a strong influence on the crowd in terms of heightening the peaks and troughs of the music they are experiencing. In certain contexts the visuals can also tell a story or bring the audience into certain landscapes in their imagination. The ability to have highs and lows, light and dark point that flow with the music and with the crowd’s vibe are incredibly important. I have seen a lot of VJ sets where the screen is at full brightness, flashing 3+ layers of visuals constantly for 10 hours and it is very draining and eventually monotonous for a crowd to experience this. I always try to develop and grow the visuals over the night, using brightness to enhance the intense parts of a set, whilst contrasting that with subtle visuals or even having a black screen for lulls. When you bring back light and colour at the peak of the music it makes a real impact and you can tell the build up has been enhanced for the audience by their reaction – timing is crucial though!
How has VJing changed in the past 10 years? Have there been any significant changes in the way you work?
The big changes I have noticed have been in technology and the maturing and diversifying of the art form.
This an interesting time for Vjing or live video performance – as I have been describing it more recently. I think some clubs and festivals have reached saturation on the more traditional modes of vjing – this random mash of multicoloured multi layered visuals. There is an incredible range of technology and software available to enhance audio and visual interaction, mapping and content generation. Video performance artists are moving into areas such as interactive installation, mapping and generative video design.
Audio Visual performance, with direct collaboration between visual and audio artists is where I see the most interesting and successful live performance work being produced and where I am moving with my practice. There is a growing recognition for visual artist – mostly through their direct collaboration with musicians or stage design and mapping rather than the regular club vjing. More and more I see musicians taking an interest in their stage presentation and collaborating directly with visual artist to create an immersive AV production. This is where it gets really exciting and I why I am very excited about the collaborations I currently am working on.
The main changes in my work have been the incorporation of new technologies especially mapping software, which allows me to work spatially with video or to create geometric structures within my imagery. My work is now more conceptually driven and more related to my artistic interests and to specific projects. Having a deeper conceptual layer to the performance has enabled me to create unique and distinctive work. Now my style is about subtle colours and textures, geometric structures, experimentation with real materials and a considered use of digital techniques.
What does your set up look like?
Laptop running VJ software Resolume and mapping software MadMapper and Millumin (depending on the project). I use a CodaNova midi controller for performances
Is there usually a narrative in your performance?
Yes and no depends. The project “Creatures” in collaboration with André Uhl has a strong sense of narrative that we developed through the visuals and the music. The performance takes the viewer on a dark and unnerving journey through the distortion and eventual disintegration of the body.
With my festival VJ sets I try to have sections that develop abstract narratives where it is more about forms in transformation, growing, morphing or a landscape to be traversed. However when performing for multiple artists it is difficult to have an over arching narrative.
What type or genres of visuals do you usually use?
I create my own visual and the style changes a little depending on what event I am working on. I am very interested in geometric and crystalline structures and use these heavily in my performances. I also like to find the magical in the everyday objects around me. I often film materials in such a way that they resemble foreign or science fiction landscapes. I enjoy the dichotomy of an image that looks fantastical but is actually something very mundane. A pile of dirt with a dusting of snow becomes a mountain-scape, a sculptured mass of pink jelly, back lit becomes a glittering sci-fi world. I want audiences to leave with my performances with feelings of wonder, hope, curiosity and the ability to see the world around them through new eyes.
What elements influence you during a performance?
The music, the context and the vibe.
What is it about utopian architecture and science fiction that inspires you?
To me, Utopia is an idea or place that can never exist because of it’s all round unachievable perfection. I have always been interested in depictions of utopias/dystopias and future or alternative worlds, so science fiction, utopian architecture and related philosophy have been influential on my work. Utopia/dystopia are one and the same thing for me – one person’s perfect world is another’s nightmare.
I have investigated different aspects of ‘Utopia’ throughout my work since art school and what intrigues me is the longing for perfection in design and planning. I find the architectural model incredibly interesting. Designing at a small scale, everything perfectly in place, you can imagine these buildings or cities as the wonderful places the designer intended – however often when these buildings and city designs are turned into reality they do not live up to the dream, the perfection of the model. So I have been using scale models in my work, filming things on a small scale and making them look like much larger structures or landscapes, creating imaginary structures and terrains.
The geodesic domes of Buckminster Fuller are particularly influential on my practice and geometric structures constructed from triangles are all through my visuals.
As well as Utopian Architecture, movies such as Fritz Langs ‘Metropolis’, Blade Runner and THX1138 (The first movie made by George Lucas) and literature including: Orwell’s 1984, Tad Williams Otherland series and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood are all influential in the formation of my projects and thinking.
Can you use three words to describe your artistic vision?
Transformation, Geometry, Magic
You have performed visuals for many renowned dance music festivals, such as Time Warp, Love Family Park and Fusion in Germany. What was your favourite dance music festival of the past year?
My two favourite festivals this year were Time Warp (DE) and Audioriver (PL). Both because of the investment of thought and time that went into the visual setup for these festivals – for both lighting and video.
Ben Klock playing for Time Warp 2014 – Celebrating 20 years of Time Warp
Can you describe your show at this year’s Time Warp? What was your artistic concept/vision?
Personally I enjoy experiences that transcend my everyday life, I like to be transported to new spaces, to ‘another world’. Time Warp really is another world already so I planned to take the audience on a journey through evolving, other worldly landscapes, crystalline forms and abstract structures that expand and transform in relation to the techno sets on my stage.
This year Time Warp celebrated its 20th year in Mannheim, Germany. How special was this event?
This was a huge event, which was fitting for such a big milestone for an electronic music event. 20 years is great achievement and it was an honour to be part of the celebration.
You performed 10 ho
rs of visuals for the main stage during Time Warp in Utrecht. How was this experience? Is this a record breaking t
me for you?
It was exhausting ha ha. It’s not a record breaking set, I think I have done 12 hours before but 10 is definitely a long time to be concentrated on a live performance.
These two shows are part of the Hybrid AV tour with Paula temple. They will be incredibly intense shows aurally and visually. Paula’s music is very powerful and I am crafting the visuals to have times where this intensity is matched but also times where there is a sense of calm in the visuals. And of course there will be a new range of geometric forms in the imagery created specifically for the Hybrid tour.
How did you come up with your name, Jem the Misfit? If you could be a cartoon character would you be Jem from Jem and the Holograms?
Ha ha yes my Vj name originally came from Jem and the Holograms. I was definitely a fan as a child. I didn’t want to be Jem the Hologram and the Misfits were pretty cool too so I went with Jem the Misfit – which has taken on other connotations of being a misfit or someone doing their own thing (which I quite like).
Yes if I was going to be a cartoon character then I would definitely be Jem! Who wouldn’t want a magic star earring that can connect you to a super being named synergy in the form of a synthesizer??!!
Check out Jem the Misfit’s exciting projects on her website
Early Bird Tickets for Time Warp Netherlands 2014 on the 6th of December are available now.