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11th April 2013
Leading lights
Title of film: Super Everything Live Cinema Performance
Director: Light Surgeons
1.4 talks with the Light Surgeons' media artist Christopher Thomas Allen about live cinema

The Light Surgeons were one of the first collectives to blast out creative light installations whether it was huge projects projected onto buildings or intimate art shows. How do you see your work has evolved over the past 15 years?

We started experimenting with projected light back in the early 90s, mainly using analog film and slide projectors, so the technology has changed a hell of a lot in 15 years. We developed a lot of our early projects through collaborations with music, bands and record labels – creating countless light shows for various indie and dance acts. This was a fun period of time but gradually became formulaic and a bit meaningless really, I think that’s what drove my interest in documentary film and storytelling really – wanting to bring meaning and humanity to our work not just style, aesthetics endless abstraction.

I began to collaborate directly with musicians and develop more audio visual work around the time Jude Greenaway joined the group and we started doing shows with the onedotzero festival at the ICA. We presented our first feature length live cinema show there just after 911 and the SuperEverything show we are currently touring is the 4th feature length live cinema performance we have produced. Each show has been a development in different ways, in terms of research, film production and music production.

How would you define “live cinema”?

For me, live cinema is something that’s still quite undefined and evolving, it’s the synthesis of the cinematic, musical and performing arts into a single experience. It’s probably the best way to describe our live audio visual performances because they’re very holistically produced, the music and the video inform each other. We also bring together elements of film narrative, our background in club culture and VJing; along with live and electronic music in order to create a single experience.

It’s a very exciting place for lots of reasons. It’s a place where the creative disciplines blur and converge. I am very keen to encourage others to make work in this way and I’m actively working towards establishing a new foundation to focus it as it tends to fall between the cracks of people’s definitions of culture. If people are interested in getting involved they could check out here for more info. It’s an artist lead, not-for-profit organisation and we plan to have regular networking and performative events – so get involved!

Your work in the SuperEverything project adds an extra visual element to the documentary message. Please tell us about the exhibition work brief and how you developed it.

SuperEverything is an exploded, live documentary film – somewhere between video art installation and a music concert. We use a dual screen set up on stage, one super wide screen at the back and a theatrical transparent gauze that covers the front of the stage. This is a format we have developed over the last 12 years with different touring live cinema shows and it still hold lots of potential.

We have also worked on many exhibition projects and currently have two major installation projects in London museums, LDN24 at the Museum of London and Voyagers at the National Maritime Museum.

Who is your audience?

We get a very mixed audience at our shows, which I think is great, all ages and backgrounds. I think it’s really important that this type of digital art reaches out to new audiences and isn’t preaching to the converted or only understood by the art crowd or hipster digitrati. Shows like SuperEverything have an immense amount of work in them, research and journalism and we really want our audiences to be elevated to contemplate the world around them in a new way. Although this project looks specifically at the themes of identity, ritual and place in Malaysia, these themes are universal and relevant to everyone. So our audience is SuperEveryone, we hope!

What are the key lessons you’ve learnt from your creative work experience?

Your ideas should always be central to your approach, try to strip out the fluff and get down to the bare bones of things as much as you can. Artists and designers get very distracted these days by the possibilities of all this technology and trying to keeping up with the latest trendy aesthetic – just because it’s video mapped, interactive or features lots of triangles doesn’t make it good art – it’s about what you’re saying, it’s about the idea you are communicating and how that effects your audience and effects their perception of the world.

Embrace the chaos and love the accidental. Seek and you will find but always know when you’re lost. Content is king – don’t worry about the cash – that will come later. If you believe in yourself others will follow but being alone can sometimes be very useful. Be nice to people on the way up, because you will meet them again on the way down. The over sharped blade blunts quickly and video projectors are bad for your ‘elf.

What next?

We’re just starting work on a major interactive installation project with Getty Images exploring there moving image archives which should be really interesting project and at the very early stages of developing a new live cinema project in with a University in Texas looking at Energy. Tim Cowie, the other multi talented creative part of our core team is going to be based in New York for a while so we are hoping to open up opportunities over there too. I’d also like to look at ways to turn this show into a more straight up, edited feature film at some point and in general, explore new ways to publish these types of projects as App’s or webdocs. We shall see!

Super Everything is currently touring the UK with a live cinema performance at the Hackney Empire, London on April 19.

LINKS:

Light Surgeons

SuperEverything

Credits