We’ve collected some of our favourite audiovisual works from a year in which creativity was made more difficult, and more vital, than ever.
This year Fact Magazine broadened its focus, presenting short film, audiovisual work, movement and performance art alongside the electronic and experimental music we have always championed.
More importantly, this year proved to be one of the most challenging faced by artists the world over, with the pressures of a global pandemic, major cuts to arts funding and the sustained struggle of millions of protestors, who continue you to show extreme bravery and strength across the globe, making creativity more difficult, and more vital, than ever.
We’ve collected some of our favourite pieces of work that we’ve had the privilege of presenting during this period of crisis, which range from incisive critiques of how we communicate in the age of the Zoom call and lockdown-induced flights of CGI fancy to progressive models for releasing AV art for an online space and vital work from some essential emerging Black artists.
To go back through all the incredible work we’ve presented throughout the year, check out our Audiovisual archives.
To mark the one year anniversary of his stunning debut album Barker enlisted the talents of Reza Hasni to share the visual accompaniment to its gorgeous title track, ‘Utility’. “This video is dedicated to Judy and Jo Barker, my mother and sister and the stars of this video, who first inspired my love of music”, he explains.
“Before my sister Jo was born with Down’s, my mother Judy was a school teacher who loved singing and playing guitar in her spare time”, he continues. “With Jo, she started to combine these interests, viewing music as an essential tool to support her literacy, social and creative development, in a less tedious way than standard rote learning. As such we spent a lot of our childhood singing and playing together, making a lot of noise, chaos, and occasionally music, which I only later understood was a strategy to give Jo the best possible education.”
“Judy went on to train as a special needs teacher, and developed her own methods using music as a learning device, writing song books and giving after school classes for children with autism, Down’s, and other learning difficulties. For this reason, I grew up surrounded by musical instruments, and was encouraged to learn them – essentially so I could be part of that process.”
With 7h3 p1c7u23 0f f4c371m3, Freeka Tet puts a satirical spin on the concept of a live streamed performance, swapping larger live broadcasts to anonymous audiences for more intimate, one-on-one virtual performances for his friends. Riffing on the contemporary necessity for DJs and producers to maintain a presence on social media, 7h3 p1c7u23 0f f4c371m3 is a critique of how people use their own image. Tet uses face-mapping technology and real-time generative sound design to literally perform with his face, hijacking FaceTime to trigger sounds and images with different expressions and gestures.
During his set of internet-scraped audio bricolage, original productions and edits of Amnesia Scanner (with a cameo from their A.I. collaborator Oracle), Giant Claw and EPROM, Tet also hands the performance over to his audience, allowing them to physically participate in the immersive work in a strictly online space. In this way both the artist and the audience appear on screen as oscillating between various virtual and ‘real’ online identities, going back and forth in a schizophrenic digital dialogue.
Using generative motion graphics and an architectural approach to spatial design, artist and director Florence To condenses her interests in psychoacoustics, neuroscience and computational methods into ambitious sound and light installations.
With ‘ALUCIIN’, the artist turns her attention to her dreams, examining the relationship between movement and time by rendering conceptual visualisations of her different dream states. “There is no rational experience but indispensable ambiguity between the temporal and conceptual”, she says of the piece. “The textures evolve into advanced repetitive variations inherent to contradictions and dualities”.
“Holes are ontologically parasitic – they are always within something else and cannot exist in isolation.” This is the central conceit of Aperture, the debut album from SVBKVLT mainstay Hyph11E. Seeking to illuminate the philosophical and biological significance of holes, over the course of the album the producer shines a light through this concept and in so doing creates an aperture.
“Holes accompany us throughout our lives, dilative and devoured, fillable but indispensable”, explains Hyph11E. “On one hand, they are the driven force for evolution, on the other hand, holes are also the layer of scab that signals growth.” In the visual for the record’s second single, ‘Barnacles’, we are invited explore a natural occurrence of one such hole.
In the video artist and designer WangNewone takes us down into the depths of a mutated, sci-fi rendering of the titular barnacle, travelling through its mouth to view its grisly inner workings in microscopic detail. Descending through a series of undulating biochemical mandalas, Hyph11E’s breakneck alien industrial track soundtracks the exploration of what exists inside the aperture.
Interdisciplinary poet Julianknxx wants to write what he calls a “history from below”, making work that dismantles elitist historical, political and sociological narratives through a movement towards a “new moral imagination”.
Bringing together poetry, music and film, he aims to look past the obvious to engage with his subjects through close observation. “My goal is to inspire those who see my work to look more carefully at the world around them”, he explains, “to discover beauty through the lens of a black light.”
In Praise Of Still Boys is a reexamination of the artist’s childhood growing up in Sierra Leone through the lives and experiences of young boys living and growing next to the blue waters of the Atlantic ocean.
On her latest album, Loom, Katie Gately responds to the tragic loss of her mother to cancer through intricate acts of sonic manipulation. Taking the sounds of howling wolves, screaming peacocks, slapping meat and raging earthquakes, the experimental musician weaves together an audio patchwork on an epic enough scale to approach her emotional turmoil.
“I felt like my world was being shaken,” she explains. “I was losing the person who created me, and it seemed an appropriate time to sample earthquakes.” ‘Flow’ was written from the perspective of her mother confronting her illness, the song’s lyrics exploring grace in the face of extreme suffering.
It was this aspect of the powerful composition that inspired filmmaker Jola Kudela to create the stunning visual accompaniment. “I particularly loved the tone and the subject of Katie’s song”, she explains, “it’s hauntingly beautiful, it’s about how to find peace in your grief and pain, and how to accept it.”
Pedagogy is the collaborative project from artist, sculptor and electronic producer Nate Boyce and avant-percussionist Eli Keszler. Having performed live at festivals including LEV and Unsound, this year the duo unveiled their debut release, a cyberfunk reimagining of French composer Olivier Messiaen’s piano work ‘Mode de valeurs et d’intensités’.
The original composition is considered Messiaen’s most cerebral work and is the first piece by a European composer in which pitch, duration, dynamics, and modes of attack, or timbre, are organised numerically. “When Eli and I started playing together we bonded over our mutual love of Messiaen’s music”, explains Boyce. “I’ve been obsessing over this piece for about a decade and working with a MIDI transcription of it for a few years now.”
Boyce describes his visual accompaniment to the piece as “a kind of abstract, kinetic notation”, which is reminiscent of the same kind of skeletal, bio-mechanical imagery he so memorably brought to Oneohtrix Point Never’s MYRIAD “concertscape”.
Throughout his expansive four-part video work Africa Is The Future, Franco-Congolese artist Nicolas Premier moves through quotidian human experience, skimming the flattened surface of pop culture before soaring into the cosmos.
Across four evocative video collages he explores the links between Africa, Europe and The Americas, links that stretch from the present far into the past, envisioning a future shaped by African and Afro-Diasporic experience. He underpins these images with an epic score, which sees Premier weaving together bittersweet instrumentation with evocative vocal samples.
In the fourth and final movement, we arrive at a point unfixed in time from which we can observe present crises unfolding as the result of centuries of colonialism, capitalism, slavery and imperialism, while at the same time look back to where these crises have come from and forward to where they might take us.
“Maybe your memories need an architectural container – to keep them at one place,” posits one of the disembodied avatars we are introduced to in Mario Mu’s virtual exploration of mnemonic architecture, Sites Of Encounter. Using the video game engine Unity, the Croatian artist has created a digital ecosystem that serves as a site of both memory and loss for two characters to unpack the emotional spaces they find themselves in.
Taking the form of an existential dialogue, Sites Of Encounter takes the gamification of the conditions of labour to its natural extension, following the two avatars as they navigate literal sites of labour as though exploring the open world of a video game. This hybrid virtual world built by Mario Mu takes the sterile interior of an office space and corrupts it with the continually crackling fire and billowing smoke of an industrial wasteland, an impossible amalgamation of old and new forms of labour.
Multimedia artist and animator Marta Stražičić, aka Pirate Sheep, spent a large part of her lockdown in Croatia consulting Claire Davies’ The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide For Pain Relief and Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual, two essential texts for practitioners of trigger point therapy.
This neuromuscular therapy was developed to combat myofascial pain and, according to these texts, can help to reduce tension, heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and respiration problems. In the face of the relentless anxiety and stress that is symptomatic of life in the age of COVID-19, Stražičić wants raise awareness of the essential benefits that this therapy can grant. For this she needed to summon a Massage Fairy.
In Trigger Point INKlings, our protagonist is tasked with combatting the discomfort of Stražičić herself, who appears slumped in her office chair, beset with tigger points, or knots, highly irritable localised spots of exquisite tenderness within nodules found within palpable taut bands of muscle tissue. These trigger points are represented by a series of mini bosses, animated with the help of the artist’s sister, Tea Stražičić, also known as Flufflord.
object blue and TSVI operate at the bleeding edge of contemporary club music. Both fixtures of the London scene, the former’s discursive sonic experiments provide the perfect counterpoint to the latter’s high tensile percussive explorations. “I was curious to see how TSVI and I could merge our sounds”, says blue, “whether we could supplement each other without eclipsing one another”.
Inspired by “ever-present conversations about machines and sentience”, Thought Experiment sees the producers ricocheting blistering synth patterns around a dense and seething percussive landscape to create what they term “body music”. This becomes the perfect score for Italian-born, London-based artist and director Matteo Zamagni, who also makes music as Seven Orbits, to explore a mysterious, hyper-real digital world in the frenetic visual accompaniment.
Overthinker Mob describe themselves as a new disruptive force within what they term the “young music bubble” in their base of Berlin. The collective are not content with simply diagnosing some of the myriad problems of the contemporary landscape of cultural production, they intend to try and solve some of these problems as well.
At present, their output takes the form of a newsletter, Thought Cue, which is a periodically published document of reflections on the music scene in Berlin intended to inspire conversation and instigate cultural evolution, and a digital imprint, set up “to anonymously publish the overthought music resting on artists’ hard drives”.
For the label, Overthinker Mob are taking a fresh approach. Rejecting conventional formats for releasing music, the collective have shared ‘The Biotech Issue’, an audiovisual moodboard featuring music from a group of producers, listed alphabetically to ensure their musical anonymity, including Diessa, Eno Gata, Mordio, Niklas Bühler, Polygonia and Porter Brook. It marks the first in “an open-ended series scraping the spectrum for innovative pieces that the artists wouldn’t have made public otherwise.”
Back in 2017 artist and filmmaker Sara Bonaventura began an ongoing project bringing together vintage analog video synthesis and electronic music composed using analog synthesisers.
Initially joining forces with Caterina Barbieri, the first chapter of the project, As if the color was looking at you, features footage of choreographer Annamaria Ajmone manipulated using voltage controlled oscillators and patches, resulting in a mesmerising, multicolour triptych.
For the project’s second instalment Bonaventura has collaborated with Camilla Pisani, an audiovisual artist and analog synthesist based in Rome, setting another sequence of manipulated footage of Ajmone’s movements against Pisani’s seething, exploratory epic, ‘I’ve Never Been Able To Wedge My Smiles And My Panic Attacks’.
Back in June the beloved black metal super group Violent Magic Orchestra assembled in east Shinsaibashi venue Conpass for an intimate performance as the group’s members took part in a secret ritual performed behind closed doors.
Bringing together members the 10-piece “brutal orchestra” Vampillia, including Mongo and front woman Zastar, as well as visual artist and programmer Kezzardrix, the group’s first live performance since lockdown began in Osaka took the form of a ferocious and cathartic musical ritual.
Looking forward to the near future, Ritual 2099 sees the group combining pummelling blast beats, euphoric, soaring synth lines and cavernous industrial noise, providing formidable sonic architecture for Zastar’s scorched-earth vocal delivery.
London-based audiovisual artist Weirdcore is a mainstay of experimental and electronic music scenes across the world. His unique, maximalist style has provided the basis for unforgettable visual work for Radiohead, Tame Impala, Charli XCX and Oneohtrix Point Never and, perhaps most memorably, spectacularly glitched-out live visuals and videos for Aphex Twin.
With [ -0º ], Weirdcore takes us on a lysergic spin around a chilly floral landscape, accompanied by the eerie orchestral sounds of an original score by James Leyland Kirby, also known as The Caretaker. Developing the hauntological themes of memory and loss that run through Kirby’s releases as The Caretaker, with [ -0º ], Weirdcore makes the familiar strange, stitching together a hallucinatory vision from dizzying digital effects and quotidian imagery.
Watch next: Fact 2020: Movement