As software developers, one of the things that gets us really excited is seeing people using new kinds of display technologies in creative ways. A few weeks ago we saw some photos online from Julia Maria Morf that involved using transparent screens for installations and live performances, and of course we had to find out more about her stunning work!
Who are you and what do you do?
Hi, my name is Julia, I was born 1978 in Zurich Switzerland and still live here.
In the first place, I define myself as video artist. With my multi-art group pulp.noir we develop projects that combine music, noise, voice, dance, acting and video to transdiciplinary projects. They can have may forms in the end: Installations in museums and art spaces, audio-visual concerts in music clubs, performances in theatres etc.
Basically we are a duo. My partner in life and work, Thomas, is head of conception and the musical part. I do everything visual: stage/room, costumes, props, lights and video.
Musicians, actors and dancers are hired a new for every project. We like overwhelming masses of materials and trip-like moods. We combine serious topics and philosophical thoughts with enjoyable aesthetics.
„Ecstatic adventure“, „visual-sonic trip“, and „audio-visual chrystal meth revelry“ are descriptions of our work (by the press) that I really like ☺
I do all the technical stuff myself. As we began working with video, we learned very fast, that it is unaffordable for us, to hire technicians. And I discovered, that I have a passion for it... (yes it’s always much swearing and drama but it uses to work in the end...).
As pulp.noir’s work is a quiet experimental, I cannot make a living of it solely.
So, I work as video designer (and technician) for theatre and musicals, I make music videos for bands and similar stuff.
On the other hand I work as production designer and costume designer for Photo, Film, TV and Commercials.
I really like the duality of working analog and digital. One field inspires the other...
What tools (hardware, software, other?) do you use in your creative process?
I love compositing. Making collages with different media is a very pivotal practice in pulp.noirs projects. And every media is a collage in itself. Mostly we do not use much generative footage. We shoot actors, musicians, dancers and objects on green screen to combine them with stock footage.
I have a Mac Pro from 2012 with two graphic processors, which I use for everything. For compositing, I work with Foundry’s NUKE, for editing with Adobe PREMIERE. For Performance it’s VDMX since 2012 (Big Love!) and MadMapper for Mapping.
When I work for theatre and musicals, I mostly program the shows with QLab, because it has to be simple in handling at the end.
As Midi Controllers I use two Livid DS 1. For wireless control a Numark Orbit, a Sony playstation controller and the Iphone via Touch OSC. And I bought a Roli LightPad Block, but my computer is too old for its wireless technology (I hope the new MacPro will be released this year!). And I bought me a leap motion controller which is really fun, but I could not make it work stable enough to really use it live. My newest gadget is a reissue of a Competition Pro joystick with usb connection. (Reminds me of my first gaming experiences with the Commodore64). Sometimes I use a matrox triple head to have more outputs for more projectors.
Tell us about your latest performances using transparent screens!
I love transparent projection materials. I can arrange them in the room without making it smaller, Performers can play in front of it or behind, I can dissolve performers into pictures and the other way around. There’s a touch of magic in it. Therefore we worked in several projects with Stuart Warren Hills Hologauze and Prodisplays Clearview Acrylic Screens. In earlier projects we worked with venetian blinds that we could open and close or drive up and down.
Plato’s Cave is a Sound Word Video Installation and Performance. It’s theme is the state of growing uncertainty in todays world and the possibility of a blind flight into undreamt-of hights it might allow us.
The work is basically a reinterpretation of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. But whilst Plato was shure to find eternal truth outside of the cave, we now know that mankind just has to deal with the situation inside. We have to live with uncertainty. But is that really that bad? In our cave videos cast poetic shadows onto the walls, speech is transformed into singing echos and everydays noises into ecstatic music. In Platos Cave by pulp.noir, mankind is waiting for unchangeable facts and eternal truth unsuccessfully, although the world of shadows and echoes gives us many possibilities for interpretation and imagination, and to see things in another light. When uncertainty can’t be eliminated, we might use it as freedom.
RADIKAL ANDERS - Eine Polyphonie (Radical Alterity - a polyphony)
RADIKAL ANDERS is a theatre performance on the topic of living together in a globalized world.
The OTHER fascinates us, because we don’t have it and surely it is often an impertinence too, because it relativizes ourselves.
Four radically different voices, represented by four different artists - a dancer, a musician, an actress and a video artist, try out different forms of playing together.
They fight and encapsulate from each other, they compromise, give themselves up and become all identical. They search for an utopic place, where it is possible to accept and respect ones borders and be porous at the same time. Where they can play together in a radical polyphony. It’s rules:
the purpose of a polyphony is the interplay between different voices
every voice is different from the others
every voice keeps its sovereignty and is equivalent to the others
the whole is more than the sum of it’s parts
To unleash the musician and video artist from their tables, we used different wireless controller and trigger stuff: I had my gear spread over the hole stage, used 3 fix spots with a screen, mouse, keypad and a MIDI controller. I used an orbit, triggered video with a laser barrier and an old typewriter etc. We had a live cam for some scenes as well.
Silly Works - a theatre automation
The veteran factory “Rote Fabrik” in Zürich is finally converted into a place of work again. Let’s forget about culture, New Economy and the monotonous processing of information. Let’s get back to real and physical work, to sweat, smoke and soot. Steamy machines run by lucky operators make happy noises. How peaceful it will be. And mankind will seize every moment and opportunity trying to find answers to the three big questions:
Is the work worth the effort?
Do I really want to do this again and again?
Is Sisyphos happy?
Sisyphos is our hero: condemned to repetition, he’s working hard and is never reaching his goal. In accordance, our performers on stage are perfectly good at working utterly hard and still never reaching their goals. They’re supported and even surpassed by their avatars and numerous machines around them while interacting and building something like a paramount room in which they all interweave text, scenes, video and sounds evenly. Let’s see if they’re able to reach their goals all the same that must necessarily be a theatre without performers.
Do you have any initial suggestions for working with transparent screens? What are some of the difficulties?
The main issues are:
Black is not available as color. Because everything black is just transparent.
Dark images without much contrast display do not work well.
Part of the picture is falling trough the screen. So if you have more than one screen in a room, you have to plan the positions of the projectors well, because the picture might fall through the first screen and is seen of the one behind it.
Very focused lighting is very important, as the screens are very sensitive to light. Diffused light is barely an option, and you have to protect the floor from reflecting light onto the screens. We always use black carpet in our theatre plays.
The new possibilities of working with transparent screens for live performances seems absolutely outstanding – sadly photos / video on a screen hardly do it justice. If you would like to see more work from Julia, and keep up to date on her latest projects (hopefully to see them live for the full effect!) make sure to visit her website!