What do videos mean to you? A trip down to Blockbusters to collect Steven Segal's latest? Well, it's probably time you wrapped your spools around Video Positive 97, the UK's biggest-ever festival of video and electronic art. Split between Liverpool and Manchester, the event showcases the work of more than 200 video artists from the Netherlands to Australia - from "virtual road movies" to the shock-edits of dance-floor VJ-ing.

At Liverpool's uberclub, Cream (Fri 11 Apr), groovers can take to the dance floor with film artist David Ward's ephemeral projection, Skater, a glistening platinum-bathed ice-skater who'll be gliding through the crowd, cutting up a few unsuspecting dancers before jumping into the air, hitting the ice, and disappearing. Meanwhile, at Manchester's Hacienda (Wed 16 Apr), punters are invited to Escape Gravity with VJs Hex, Tony Crompton, Woof Cinema and Nancy-Reilly McVittie, who will attempt to juggle a melange of video, audio and open-mic improvisation.

"VJ-ing has been going on for a long time," explains John Large, organiser of Escape Gravity, "maybe not with videos, but certainly with film projections. Dadaism saw animators like Hans Richter creating musical ballet and theatre, while in the 1960s, Warhol and Velvet Underground were very into projected images." The technique really took off in the 1980s, however, when videos came down in price and Acid House encouraged young clubbers.

"Anyone can make eye candy," sighs Large, "and a lot of the VJ-ing is very naff. Playstation even sponsor Ministry of Sound to show images from their games." Large wants to escape visual cliches and to provide clubbers with bite-sized agit-prop instead. "It's hard to get anything across when people are bouncing about. My videos are complete narratives, but I'm probably the only one who'll ever see one all the way through."

The future, Large reckons, lies in "the full integration of audio and visual. Sampling from cameras at the venue is a bit tacky, but that's an example of real-time graphics. In the future, images will be responsive to the music and the mood of the crowd. In a megaclub, you might have video walls triggered by retinal contact, so that the closer you get to the screens, the faster the images move."

The future's bright, the future's not Betamax.

Video Positive 97, 11 Apr to 18 May. Hotline: 0151-707 9533)

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