Visual artist John Dekron is a rising star of the art and video installation world and now uses a Jazzmutant Lemur at the core of his control set-up...
When it comes to visual artistry, few can match the critical acclaim that John Dekron has had heaped on him of late. He's probably best known for the famous light façade that adorns the Kunsthaus Graz in Austria, a fusion of visuals, light and architecture that has breathed life in to the east side of the famous art museum.
But it's not just the grand scale projects that capture John's imagination. He's also worked on projects such as RealiTV, commercial endeavours for Formula1, and he's even developed his own VJ tool named ES-X (currently at revision 1.2). But between this love of programming and visual technologies, there's one product that has made a serious difference to the way John operates: Jazzmutant's Lemur, the multi-touch control surface that has fundamentally changed the way he interfaces with so many projects. We caught up with him in his native Berlin...
You started dealing with VJing, club visuals, film and VJ tool programming back in the early nineties. What's the story behind John Dekron?
I started in the realm of experimental film. First I used Super 8 and 16mm material but soon I got hold of analog video technics. Meanwhile I began to work in the movie industry where I ended up on advertisement and music video clip productions. This was the time when the first club visuals crossed my way. I was fascinated by the idea of possible reality shifts caused by coincidences of music, club environment and visuals. In the late nineties I thought computers were now fast enough to handle videos in realtime. Except there was no software tool that I liked...
How has your work changed and developed since the early days?
Compared to the initial ideas, my approach has fundamentally changed. As opposed to showing off aesthetic (and aesthetizised), more or less narrative material, I now focus on the process of the machine, e.g. the influence of changes in the underlying algorithms on the generated output. I would now consider a process as good when it delivers aesthetic outputs, independent from precomposed material.
How important has it been for you to develop your own tools for creating realtime club visuals?
At first I just disliked the syntax of the few realtime tools I got hold of. I was looking for a more intuitive control over my video presentation. In some way like playing a musical instrument where you don't have to reflect the correlation of your physical movement to the effect on the output any more. This is in contrast to the common approach of using the mouse on a more or less complicated interface. Translated into the metaphor of music, this would mean a guitarist who always has to look and think about where to put his fingers for the next chord.
You are involved in projects for architecture like the famous light façade of the Kunsthaus Graz, you are working on your own stuff, such as realiTV, and also commercial stuff for Formula1 and other high profile projects. You also mentioned that you've developed your own VJ tool names ES-X (currently at version 1.2) based on Max/MSP/Jitter. How do you balance your work between all these different tasks and contexts?
It is true that in conventional art business it would be quite hard, if not impossible to handle all those different tasks. Not only timewise, but also because of the undefined profile. Since the area of realtime visuals is quite new and the definition of what a VJ does, or better what 'good' visuals have to be like, the borderline between the different domains is unverbalized. One day a piece of work can be commercial while the other day it may be art. Speaking of myself , this is quite a comfortable situation. I do not have to agree to too many compromises, because what I do I would do anyways, no matter if it is called art, commercial or architecture.
How have you integrated the Lemur into your daily work?
Before I started using the Lemur I had gathered a bunch of MIDI and Human Interface devices. I had tried to integrate those .as closely as possible - and as flexibly as possible - into my software developments like ES-X. Initially I started using the Lemur the same way. My idea was to build an interface on the Lemur that I could then adapt to any sliders, buttons, multisliders etc. After a while the Lemur has pretty much changed my way of developing software tools. Now I totally integrate the Lemur in the building process. The entire multitouch interface is generated from the beginning. There is no more need for a graphical user interface on the computer screen. As I program using Max/Msp/Jitter, the JazzServer and JazzClient objects that can be obtained from JazzMutant are very handy for direct use. Just type in the name of the controller as an argument and the data comes out of the corresponding outlet. No more need for mouse controlled sliders.
What initially drew you to the Lemur?
I was interested in this multi-use, multi-surface, multi-touch interface that should be as flexible as my approach to realtime visuals. One tool that should fit all my needs.
Can you summarise your use of the Lemur in one statement?
The Lemur as a tool is totally integrated in my daily work with the computer. It is not an add on to an existing environment but an essential part of my artistic setup.
How does the Lemur affect your workflow?
Now I don't spend unnecessarily time coming up with a computer screen interface but integrate the Lemur very tightly in my new developments. This changes the approach to software quite a bit as in my opinion the user interface has a considerable influence on the whole piece.
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