Interview with Nicolas Boritch of Cuisine/Anti VJ

Nicolas Boritch is part of ‘visual label’ Anti VJ and club night Cuisine. Anti VJ orchestrates visual events and recently performed at Light Up Bristol, using the city’s council building to project their works onto. The Cuisine club night offers Bristol’s clubbers the opportunity to see Europe’s finest VJs. On both projects he works closely with French artist Crustea (Joanie Lemercier) – who performed at the Light Up Bristol event – pictured left. The thing is… tracked Nicolas down to get the promoter’s perspective on club visuals.

What is Anti VJ?
Anti VJ is focusing on big outdoor productions and video installations – anything that’s not a club night. We are into using projectors to create a light environment.

VJ Crustea of Anti VJ projecting on the council building on Bristol’s College Green.

And can you tell us a little bit about Cuisine?
It’s been running for a year and a half, I was running a night before called Chien, where I met with VJ Crustea. The main concept was to make sure that the visuals had the same importance as the headline DJ. We fly in people from France, Germany, Switzerland…

So is there an established European circuit?
It’s getting there, we find people through VJ forums, looking at peoples’ videos on the net and VJ Crustea has been playing around Europe for a year and a half now. We’ve got a network of people we like to work with. France, Germany and Swizerland seem to have a lot of talented VJs at the moment, things are really happening there.

It’s interesting that you go abroad to source a lot of your talent, is that because there isn’t so much going on in the UK, or just because that’s where your roots are?

The style of people like VJ Anyone, who I know you’re speaking to as well, is an example of the UK ‘style’ of VJing, although I don’t want to generalise too much! Its quite graphic design based and less abstract and ambient than what we are into. There are definitely people who we haven’t got in touch with who are doing stuff that we would be really interested in, but there is less of a mix in the UK of VJing technology and arty/forward thinking VJing. Here it seems to be more about clubbing.

How does the Cuisine aesthetic differ from that?
We are really interested in visuals being more an element of décor and the architecture. We think of it as light engineering, in the sense of lighting for theatre stages – using the lights to create a visual environment. We’re not just projecting graphic design and extracts from films onto normal screens. We are very interested in using projections as a source of light to create an atmosphere.

From what you’re saying the lighting you use is a lot to do with creating an ambience, do the visuals at your nights tend to be synchronised with the music?
It depends on the environment, and what equipment people work with. With Cuisine people do all the visuals live, and loop the video live to follow the music. They try to make the loops build up in the same way as the music.

What kind of equipment do people tend to use at your nights? I’ve been discussing this topic a lot with the other interviewees, particularly with respect to having a standard DVD decks/mixer set up.
It would be good to find set ups like this in clubs. I think things are moving that way and we can hope to see changes in the next year or so. It’s quite similar to what happened when DJs started to ask for decent CD decks or specific mixers with effects. Having said that, DVD decks are just one way of doing visuals, and a lot of people use laptops and can’t do what they want with DVD decks.

The most significant change for us will be when you can turn up at a club and there is already a nice set-up of 3 or 4 projectors, in the right place, all cables ready and you just have to plug in at the back of your laptop! Imagine if DJs still had to move the PA where they want it and plug everything in themselves, every night!

Do you get many people using unusual equipment?
We’ve had a couple of guys from Cornwall called Fata Morgana who do something really different. Instead of using a computer they use 5 or 6 8mm projectors which project onto a little screen, which is filmed by a camera and then re-projected. They use old film, physically slow it down, and scratch it live. It’s totally different from anything I’ve seen before.
We are also working on using mosquito nets cut into strips which hang from the ceiling in many layers which we project through. It gives the impression of visuals being suspended above your head; it makes it much more immersive.

I wanted to talk to you a bit about the practical aspects of promoting a visual oriented club night. You’ve mentioned that you want to put the visuals on an equal footing with the music, do you get people coming down for the visuals?
Very few, it’s not something that’s in clubbers’ culture. There are more and more people paying attention though, and even if people don’t know what’s going on we get feedback from people who enjoyed it and remember about our night because of the visuals. The idea is to get people a bit excited about something they haven’t seen before. Even if people know Timbuk2 [the venue for Cuisine] we want them to feel a bit lost inside.

What have you done to promote the visual side of the night?
We did something called Electropicnic, where we took a generator, a small PA and our projectors and went to the park and did music and projections.

Electropicnic on the waterfront in Bristol and video of a Cuisine night headlined by Feadz and Uffie

Did you get permission for it? How long did you get away with it for?
No we didn’t but they all went really well. In one park we did it on a couple of occasions for 3 or 4 hours. We did some right in the middle of Bristol which didn’t last as long.

I know that Bristol’s police aren’t always that happy with that kind of thing, how were they with you?

The police were always very professional and really nice about it. Sometimes they just assumed it was official or that we were students doing a project or something.

You’ve had experience of promoting club nights without the visual aspect, how much extra work do you think the visuals make?
There’s different ways of doing it but there’s quite a lot of stuff to learn. It’s going to take you a few hours just to set up the technical stuff before the night, you have to know what kind of equipment your VJs want to use and think about compatibility. Just by doing it you start to find all this kind of stuff out. It’s like having people perform live music – a lot more work than just having a DJ.

I’ve had various responses when I’ve asked people about whether the visuals scene is getting bigger and more popular, what’s your view on this?

It’s a tricky one because it is more common to see moving images in a club environment, but I think it will go the same way as music. There will be a lot of local clubs projecting MTV wallpaper crap. But it’s a good thing because it means that VJs won’t have to take projectors out with them. There are more and more specific live visuals events happening, so that’s going to help to build up a culture and a community. Also, this year we’ve noticed a lot more interest from cities in running big outdoor light shows and projecting onto monuments and buildings. That’s become much more common over the past year.

Do you think that’s due to people becoming aware of the technology?
Yeah, but it’s still expensive. The kind of projectors you need to project on a building are between 25-50 grand to rent a few projectors for a few days, and there still aren’t that many around.

Is there any technology coming up in the near future that you are really looking forward to?

Yeah, every few months you see something on youTube and it looks incredible. We are really interested in holograms. I don’t know if you’ve seen the film Minority Report, but the “touch screens in the air” should actually exist very soon, so that’s pretty exciting.

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