The Nextwave Festival 2004 commissioned myself and performer/musician/animator/artist Louise Terry to create Electric Dreams, a colourful genre-hopping hybrid theatre / audiovisual performance work. I worked collaboratively as a co-director, writer and performer, as we formed the Artesian AV Arkestra with Paul Bourke and Michael Prior. The show became an hour-long mix of live physical performance, interactive video performance using a custom-built midi Theremin to control Vjamm2 AV software, and musical performance – live soundtrack to sample-based video montages. We based our story on the life of Leon Theremin, inventor of the first electronic instrument, and ended up performing a kind of wacky cinematic essay about the clash of communism and capitalism, and the relationship of economics and power to art.
We also performed a version of this show at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival art spin-off festival Teknikunst in 2005 at the Incinerator Arts Complex. It was an ambitious project, for a small team, that I worked solidly on for 18 months – that included writing, performing, sampling, editing, animating, making music, getting our own midi-Theremin built to specification and working with my collaborators to direct staging, sound and lighting design. From our poster (design by Lachlan Conn):
Electric Dreams is a colourful genre-hopping audiovisual zine performed by the Artesian AV Arkestra – a small experimental band bent on exploring the potential of performance iwth live video. In Electric Dreams, The Arkestra utilises a custom-designed midi-theremin to sample their way through the 20th Century, examining culture, politics, propaganda and its effects on the artist.
We follow the story of a troupe of young Russian performers after the Revolution, who escape to the West to pursue artistic freedom and celebrity. After finding some success amid the excesses of Hollywood, the patina beings to darken on the surface of their American Dream – they are kidnapped and taken back to Russia by the KGB who consider them to be a thorn in the side of the Soviet regime.
In a bunker deep under the Kremlin, they are cryogenically-frozen and forced to act as human guinea-pigs in an experiment to use their brains as an organic-electric media filter and intercept capitalist propaganda embedded in Western mass meda. This newly designed machine modulates radio and television frequences, using a theremin (the first electronic instrument ever made) to inject these sine-wave oscillations directly into their temporal lobes, in order to track subversive Western pop-cultural patterns and trends.
Live-action and video collides onscreen with cut’n’paste animated collage, glitching out with interference bouncing around our media-saturated globe. Our sonic palette ranges from the pre-industrial, to sinister snippets from the golden age of the musical – synthesised into 80s electronica.