All Hail the VJ

Electronica-Optica presents VJ_TV

An old culture is finally getting the recognition it deserves. For years VJs and visual artists have been an assumed backdrop for our music culture. Now a whole new generation of visual artists are breaking through, looking to take center stage with their visuals and production.

Electronica-Optica has surfaced from the San Francisco artist community, developing a backbone for the emerging visuals market. "It's an amazing time to be a visual artist," says Radley Marx (aka VJ Oz), the founder of Electronica-Optica and VJTV. "So much new creative technology has made itself available to the artists that there's a total VJ revolution going on."

Could he be right? Electronica-Optica's VJTV is gaining in popularity, partially because it's the only show of is kind in North America. Now in its second season, the VJ show is spreading out from San Francisco to Chicago, New York, Toronto, San Jose, Los Angeles, Denver, and other urban centers. All this -- and its only a public access cable show.

"I think public access television is fundamental to the existence of VJTV. I'm looking forward to other visual artists and VJs sporting visuals and mix shows on their local stations in the near future," says Oz. "Public access isn't so commercial that we have to deal with difficult licensing issues. Most visual producers work directly with the audio artists, so it's a mutually beneficial process. Artists are still free to express themselves as they've been doing at live events. That kind of freedom is something we just don't have with traditional commercial programming right now."

VJTV is a monthly one-hour program dedicated to promoting VJs and visual artists. Each episode spotlights two guests, each with a short interview and a 15-20 minute VJ mix session or audio/video performance. Interspersed throughout each episode are VJ related articles and unique works by other artists. The show has gained respect because of the wide range of talent VJTV has attracted. On the show have been artists such as Addictive TV (UK), HoneyGun Labs (NY), VJ Culture (SF), Absurde (France), Robotkid (NYC), as well as internet media artists like gMunk and WDDG (World Domination Design Group).

And the show is growing. Coming up this season is a mix of both known and unknown artists. Names like 66b/Cell (Tokyo), VisualAudio (Chicago), Madame Chao (Brooklyn), OVT's VJ V2 (LA), and Johnny Dekamm - touring VJ for the recent Delta Heavy tour with Sasha & Digweed.

"I think a big part of the success of VJTV comes from the welcoming support of the VJ community and our work as Electronica-Optica. Instead of trying to do another music-video show promoting musical artists, VJTV focuses directly on the visual artists themselves."

To respect the nature of public access television, VJTV is co-produced by local hosts. A portion of the show is dedicated to local content, as well as content shared between the local producers. Twice a year they show a "Best of VJTV" episode with an hour-long mix of visuals, overlaid with interview clips by the producers of some of the visuals.

"The best part of the show is the interviews with the VJs. Most of them have been unrecognized because the market is really focused on what's selling now, which are the DJs. When we get these artists to open up and share who they are with the work they're doing, I think that's what makes VJTV so special."

Electronica-Optica began in 2000 as a VJ event and production crew. In the last year they've stepped into the role of international distributor for visual content. The visuals movement has evolved to the point where visual artists are beginning to release content at the same rate as early techno artists in the late 80s, including VJ singles, DV Clips (mixed digitally using VJ software), and VJ-mixed DVDs. "It seems strange that it hasn't happened already. But then again, radio came years before television."

The VJ culture is starting to gain attention from high places. Moonshine, America's premier electronic music record and DVD label, has jumped in full force behind this movement, releasing their AV:X series of visuals with producers such as Addictive TV and Atmospherex. "Yeah, they've been a real boost for all of us," says Oz. "Visuals have been a really hard idea to sell to the shops. With Moonshine's identity and name behind these artists, and with most major dance artists demanding custom visuals for their performances, VJs are becoming an important identity in the production."

VJ Oz's alter ego is Elemental, a well-known rave flyer designer from the Bay Area and respected DJ. "I've worked that way exclusively for about 8 years because early on I was told that producing visuals was a dead end. A couple of years back I pretty much peaked out with rave design and didn't want to move into corporate design. Instead, I spent all of my time since then working on adapting the DJ market to my needs as a visual artist. I'm personally hoping to see what other flyer designers will eventually create, designers like Stimuli, Airline Industries, and Chipmunk, you know? They'll blow this scene away."

As a new distribution company, Electronica-Optica is working on offering visuals to VJs all over the globe. They preparing for the VJ culture to expand. "Right now there's so many different forms of VJing - it's offering visual producers limitless creative opportunities. And there's a growing demand for those VJs who have mad skills to mix visuals like DJs do with vinyl."

He adds, "I expect what I'm saying sounds radical -- because it is. It's beyond the next new sub-genre of dance music. It's all leading up to a whole new level of experience that we've been missing. The simple allure of all of this is that it's something beautiful for our eyes, not just our ears and bodies. A new era is awakening for electronica culture."

A new era to see indeed.

VJ_TV starts in Chicago mid-July.
Feel free to check the VJTV website for airdate and time:


submitted by radleymarx - 2002-06-18 13:13:55