ISEA2002 :: Cat Hope

27th – 31st October 2002 :: Nagoya, JapanMy Professional Development Travel Grant Funding was to extend an existing Arts WA funded tour to Europe, to include a visit to ISEA in Nagoya Japan en route, for which I had successfully applied to present a performance.

As time got closer to departure on the 22nd of October, the ISEA organisation had made little contact with me regarding technical requirements. Around three days before departure, the organiser of the music program, Japanese composer Mikako Mizuno made contact and we commenced discussions regarding technical and practical issues. And then, the day before departure, she informed me that two of the five performers had withdrawn and asked if I could play 45 minutes instead of 20! So I made contact with a video and performance artist Anne Walton, who was also attending and happened to be in Perth at the time and we discussed the possibility of collaboration. I said 30 minutes was possible, and agreed to give an artist talk after the performance. Many artists commented on the lack of communication regarding technical issues, perhaps the cause of the large number of withdrawals from ISEA.

I was to perform in the DACS (Digital Audio Control Skirt) – a projectable garment, which also featured audio controls. The garment went on board the plane as a separate piece of luggage. This piece never arrived in Japan. After frantic conversations with the airline, who were unable to trace it for me, I asked them to taxi it to my hostel in Nagoya when it was found. On the day of the performance, it had still not arrived, and I called the airline to tell them to send it to my home address instead. It arrived in Perth the day after the concert. So as a result I had to change plans rapidly, and decided to perform with video projected onto a screen behind me, devised and controlled in conjunction with Anne Walton.

The program of ISEA was divided into electronic theatre (video art), installation, performance (often music based and DJs) and concerts, the latter I think were intended as pure music events. I was featured in the first of these 2 events, which unfortunately also coincided with an opening party at another quite distant location, where most of the symposium took place. The music concerts were in the centre of Nagoya; everything else was at the port. Some days later other artists told me they didn’t even know about the concert.

The venue was the very illustrious Aichi Arts Centre, a very formal concert hall. The concert took place in a wood paneled rehearsal room, with improvised seating. An excellent amplifier, to my specifications, was provided, and a great sound engineer who handled the difficult mix situation very well. I played bass guitar with effects and ran the DACS control keypad (which luckily I packed separately!) to my G4 laptop. This is a controller for a MAX patch I have constructed, which acts as a live sampling device that also modifies the samples to my design. The program takes live samples, stores them, and allows the performer to manipulate them from the keypad on the instrument (eliminating the need for “machines” on stage). The program (using the Jitter plug in) also runs video and triggers various effects, taking images from cameras fitted to the DACS and mixing them in with other material. As I didn’t have the DACS cameras or wiring, I modified this to control the video to some degree (speed, stills, and loops). So, as the show must go on, I made do with what I had and the result was good, I thought.

The artist talk that followed was difficult, with the interviewers knowledge of English quite limited. The need for translation, a little at a time, made it difficult to explain technical aspects. Anne also contributed with some comments about her input into the performance.

There would have been considerable problems with DACS – the doorway into the space was too narrow to accommodate entry in the skirt, and the lighting was not very flexible. The assistant I asked for to help me dress never materialised. We used the video as a light source in preference to the cold, hard rehearsal room lighting.

But the performance was ultimately rewarding and a fantastic experience to be included amongst so many other artists from around the world.

The 2002 ISEA featured a broad range of art forms and was representative of many countries. There were a large number of screen-based installations and performances, but not much experimentation regarding the screen type. Many of the installations featured sound, but in my view the sound usually became more of an afterthought in the design rather than an integral part of the artwork. The use of large warehouses at the port added a gritty dimension to what I found to be mostly ‘cold’ works. There were of course many highlights, and I attended many talks during the day. Some of these were simple readings of the papers included in the journal of the symposium, others more interesting discussions of aspects in the papers. Highlights for me were many, and there was a day devoted to sound and installation, as well as music/theatre/video interaction.

I attended the whole period of the symposium, and went to as much as I possibly could, making the experience ultimately rewarding and a fantastic chance to network with other audiences from around the world. As often happens in these big meetings of artists, it validates your art practice as worthwhile and real, and in the context of your artform, gives you the impression that maybe you’re just as good as anyone else there!! As an artist living in the remote city of Perth, this means a lot. And in such a fantastic place as Japan! Special thanks to ANAT for making it possible.

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