Radical surgery at the cutting edge

Now that club visuals are gaining in credibility, star VJs like the Light Surgeons are moving from dance floor to gallery space, reports Bridget Virden
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Indy Lifestyle Online
THERE are two sides to Nineties DIY culture, as the Light Surgeons are rapidly finding out: one involves touring the world with chart-topping Cornershop, The Propeller Heads and the Sneaker Pimps, the other struggling to fill enormous gallery windows in Hoxton Square with a box of Meccano. As a collective, the Light Surgeons (they operate the lights) are an engaging and successful crew of designers and film makers who are taking their distinctive blend of club visuals to a wider audience through gallery spaces.

Chris Allen, Andy Flywheel and Andy Firman work with Super 8 projectors and slides more often than video. Perched up high, balancing on planks, clutching film projectors in nightclubs, the Light Surgeons provide visual showmanship that goes way beyond dry ice and a strobe. Refreshingly low- tech in attitude, they "sample" visuals.

"We just use found materials, our approach is very hands-on. We have built up a big library of loops and samples that we use like a DJ does with a record collection," says Chris Allen.

Star Wars graphics, Kung Fu movies and belly dancers feature in the Light Surgeons' repertoire. Most requested (people ask for film loop requests as they would for a record) is a film sample of Oliver Reed in a drunken stupor. "That's just one of those film loops that make people laugh, we use it a lot. One of the things that's kept us going is that every time you play a loop with a DJ or a band, it looks different - it's a good way of generating experimental work."

Leslie Felperin at Sight and Sound magazine is all for the Visual Jockey. "Clubs are now multimedia experiences offering many different kinds of pleasures. VJ-ing offers people in clubs the chance to see films that are new to them, for example, scratch videos from the Eighties. VJ-ing is a whole new art form that deserves recognition on a level with the DJ."

Commercially, the Light Surgeons can give visual depth to an act that is in need of a facelift, which is what they call "cosmetic surgery", though this is not necessary with big beat supremos Wall of Sound, with whom they are currently touring the UK.

Collaboration is central to the Light Surgeons' success, an attribute that they put down to the spirit of cooperation in club culture, working with others in lighting (Vegetable Vision and Lazy Eye) rather than against them. Moving from clubs to gallery spaces has been part of the collaborative process. After being given a grant by the London Film Makers Co-op, the Light Surgeons performed an hour-long set at the Lux centre last year, which was then taken to the Rotterdam Film Festival. Seems artistic rather than cosmetic surgery is the way forward.

The Light Surgeons are at the The Big Blue, The Blue Note, 1 Hoxton Square, London N1, on Tuesday 31 March in aid of the Big Issue

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