HC Gilje

HC Gilje: In 1995 I started working with Director and simple sensor-triggering. My first experiences in live contexts were with x<>pose, one of the first video-triggering programs: connecting a keyboard to my Mac through MIDI, I triggered different Quicktime loops.

Then I was introduced to Imagine, created by Tom Demeyer at STEIM in Amsterdam, which was a much more powerful tool for manipulating and mixing images, and adding input from a live camera. Imagine was also designed for real-time purposes and control from MIDI input, but lacked the ability of scripting for making more interesting relations between input and output. So I started experimenting with Max on one computer controlling the behaviour of Imagine on another, which I used in the installation node. Max is a programming environment for building control structures usually based on the protocol MIDI.

The fall of 1999 saw the start of something important for real-time visual work: the first version of the nato.0+55 video objects for Max was released by the controversial Netochka Nezvanova/antiorp. With its later releases, nato has become a series of very flexible objects for recording, playing, combining, creating and manipulating video in real time (and a continually growing library for working with internet/networks, 3D, text and sound). The learning curve is still pretty steep, as you have to learn Max and the nato protocol to obtain interesting results. The essence is the combination of visual material with a programming structure which becomes as important as the visual material itself. Max and nato make it possible for artists to design their own video programs without the knowledge of a programming language like C. At the same time, more and more artists are actually learning C to create their own objects for use with nato and Max. (...)

A lot of real-time video work is really slow. I have started working with small systems that communicate over local networks, so it would be very interesting to see good systems for collaborating with video over the Internet, since the current solutions are too slow. We will see what the new network collaboration software Keystroke, developed at De Waag in Amsterdam, has to offer when it will finally be released. In summary, I would like to see software that enables better network handling between machines and the physical world; a more sensitive computer.

Andreas Broeckmann: There are groups like The Hub and Sensorband who have made attempts at doing translocal performances using ISDN and Internet connections, but they often suffer from the time delay and limited bandwidth, even when using only sound or MIDI data. The same goes for the streaming media experiments of the Xchange network. Have you made experiences in the field of networked performances? And do you think that it will be a question of overcoming the technical limitations? Do you think that the conceptual ideas are in place for multi-user online performances using, for instance, nato?

HC Gilje: I am participating in some of the collaborative projects initiated by Motherboard that have tried to incorporate networks in the performances and installations, either locally or over the Internet. The performances included use of CU-SeeMe, IVisit, IRC, Realaudio/Realvideo, with guests contributing text, images and sound. For instance, a guitarist would play from San Francisco, while a singer performed in Cairo and somebody was dancing in front of a webcam in Toronto, still others contributing text from elsewhere. We did an installation last fall with works from five artists linked locally, which also included Internet remote control of a light tower. The colour mix in the light tower could be geared by changing the colour on a website.

In January 2000 at Bergen senter for Elektronisk Kunst (BEK) in Bergen, Norway, Motherboard arranged a two week worklab/performance, Hot Wired Live Art, with artists from different backgrounds and various countries, together with two of the developers of Keystroke. As the organizer of the next edition of HWLA, Canadian artist Michelle Terran points out, live, networked collaborative art emphasizes an ongoing process and de-emphasizes the final product. In August this year, HWLA2 will be held in Banff, Canada, where we will be focusing on physical interfaces and telekinematics, using Max and Keystroke mainly.

In the summer of 2000, HotWiredPartyActionPlan took place in two sites, Momentum in Moss, Norway, and Interaccess in Toronto, Canada, each involving a local public and hosting several events. The network between the two spaces involved mostly webcams and Keystroke, but we found it very hard to get a true collaboration going. It is difficult to find a focus if something is happening simultaneously in a physical space and in a remote space, as they compete for attention. From the experience of these projects, I have come to think that the network works best in one central place with guests contributing material. The goal for me would be to create a single space consisting of elements from several sources.

As concerns nato, I believe it offers a range of possibilities for networked collaborations, but when it comes to streaming video between machines, it is really slow, partly because of the size of video and limited bandwidth. (...)

I think the problem with network collaborations is that, while the process of actually doing something with somebody who is somewhere else is very interesting, the artistic result is often less. For the performers it is an exciting situation, but the spectators hardly ever sense the presence of ”the other”, which is why they only get something out of the actual visual/audio output.

I took part in some Keystroke sessions and also watched quite a few. Sometimes you obtain some really nice results when there are two people networked. Adding more people usually just messes things up, and the performers become frustrated. When there are no rules, meaning some sort of loose structure on a jam session, the performance is likely to be of little interest.

Network collaborations are a performers’ medium, and as long as the audience is not directly involved in the interaction it is hard to distinguish between network, random and pre-programmed behaviour in the resulting work. I guess this is mainly a conceptual problem, namely to either include the audience in the network or to find ways to visualize this interaction for the audience. In any case, the experience of being part of these small exclusive performance networks shouldn't be underestimated as a performance only for the performers involved.

Source: Interview with HC Gilje, by Andreas Broeckmann, June 2001.
From the Shadowgrounds catalogue made during Gilje’s residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien.
http://www.bek.no/~hc/text_html/getreal_txt.htm(external link)

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