Archives for the month of: May, 2013

dBx

It’s about time David Kwan is recognized for all his artistic work, and I’m happy to facilitate this. He is a close friend and one of the hardest working people I know. Learn about his efforts for Decibel as a graphic designer and VJ. You can catch him doing visuals live tonight at my Vermillion show. This event has been put together by Tremel; DJ, producer and writer for Disco Droppings and features performances from himself, dod, Max Taylor and me. Hope to see you there. 

DD What drives your graphic design role in Decibel? Are there major themes or concepts being focused on in 2013, for the 10-year anniversary?

DK This year’s creative drive captures the essence of Decibel. Each year of the festival is like a layer of ideas that builds upon one another. The approach was to capture all those ideas from the early beginnings and refine those sets of ideas. In the process I reviewed the profiles of past dB artists, listened to samples of their music, and went through tons of old photographs, down to observing the personalities of the staff. I wanted the 10-year brand to be about Decibel’s community and culture, not just what looks cool. What I discovered was an array of dark tones, which made sense being that the root of Decibel began from the deep underground–no pun intended. 

There was an untitled quote I read one morning on Facebook which said, “You can’t live a positive life without a negative mind,” which made me reflect a little further about this year’s theme. That quote rang true for Decibel and a lot of other things the more I thought about it. In a nutshell, you can’t have yin without yang, and you can’t discredit either. Historically, Decibel has hosted many stark and obscure events, which is what I wanted to extract and condense for this year’s theme. In doing so, participants will be able to witness and experience Decibel for what it really is, and be able to better appreciate it. The night might not be as bright as the day, but it sure as hell is sexy.

DD What led you to become a VJ, and what role do see visual artists playing in a show environment?

DK The funny thing is that I didn’t intend to become a VJ after I was done with college. Being a graphic designer is my full time job, but one of the tools I use to conceptualize new ideas stems from motion graphics. It’s important to understand the different fields of art to help enhance what you do as an artist. Knowing art is good, but it’s not enough to help you evolve creatively. Similar to being a plant biologist, if all you do is focus on plants, you might be missing key knowledge from other fields that may help you discover something groundbreaking. In the end it’s all about holistic thinking; that’s how I stumbled upon becoming a VJ. 

The VJ arena is still very much in its infancy and growing rapidly. It’s sort of overshadowing an era of expensive physical stage production and moving more towards affordable virtual reality as technology advances. That’s not to say building heavy stage sets will become obsolete, but it does mean that stage production is shifting towards a new paradigm. There is a time and place for physical stage sets — plays in theater, for example– but it’s not very practical when you’re talking about a low budget music show. The nice thing about having a VJ during performances, is that it grants stimulating visual access for musicians and their audience, which in the past might not have been possible. In many ways, VJ’s helps the musicians tell their story a little better while helping their audience understand their music a little more. A special dynamic occurs when you combine music, visuals, and a lot of serotonin resonating from the audience.

TobinAmon Tobin, ISAM / Visuals by LEVIATHAN

DD This will be our third time collaborating on a performance. How would you describe the direction of the visuals this time around?

DK This time around we’ll be entering a dystopian science fiction environment, where I’ll be taking everyone though space, then back to Earth and beyond. I don’t really want to spill the beans for anyone, but the goal is to follow the theme of the music set. With that said, your fans could probably imagine the journey I might take them on. Did someone say neo-noir genre? Yep, there’s going to be a lot of that in the visual set. I’m pretty excited to roll out some new eye candy.

943021_4900462314343_1993084720_nJimi Jaxon + David Kwan @ Bok Bok Showcase via Kyle Young aka Tremel

DD Your work as a graphic designer and VJ puts you in the background, where audiences may not see whose behind it all. Do you enjoy this perspective? 

DK “Lord of Light! Come to us in our darkness …'” sorry I couldn’t resist throwing in that “Game of Thrones” reference. I actually enjoy working in the shadows, it gives me the opportunity to focus on my craft behind the computer or behind the stage without a lot of distraction. Sure, it’s not the same as getting full attention from the audience, but I am touched when I see sparkling pupils of joy emanating from the crowd. Especially when I hit the soft strobe or fade in a scene of slow crashing waves headed straight towards the audience. If they’re happy, then I’m happy too.

dakwanDavid Kwan @ Andy Stott Showcase w/ Kid Smpl via Mollie Bryan

DD Where do you hope all this effort takes you in the future? 

DK I’m not really sure, but since I am in the business of creating virtual realities I guess I can go anywhere. :]

dakwan3David Kwan w/ Giraffage

– Jimi Jaxon

 

chemtones

My ringtones just got a lot more interesting. Noticed that my friend Wheez-ie contributed a ringtone to this free Club Chemtrail compilation (it’s a dark little bit called “This Is IT”). Currently getting hyped on “RING TONEZ” by Schwarz, “Swine Shrieks” by Massacooramaan and “Text (txttone)” by Divoli S’vere. This is a rad idea, and an underused approach to sharing sounds. I’ll be eagerly watching the Club Chemtrail crew and their future moves.  

Club Chemtrail – Soundcloud

– Jimi Jaxon 

ftm2

 

My friend Korma turned me onto this mix from Total Freedom. It’s dope as fuck. Slick mixing the whole way through and some wild, diverse beats. He’s a member of Kingdom’s Fade To Mind crew. You can see him live in Seattle on May 29th @ The Crocodile with inc. & Kelela. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this dude in the future. For now, sit back and take this in.

Total Freedom – Twitter Facebook Soundcloud 

– Jimi Jaxon 

stealth-wear-jan17

I feel it’s quite appropriate to post this interview on a Tuesday. This day now has a more sinister nickname, “Terror Tuesday”. Every few weeks, President Obama, John Brennan (new head of the C.I.A.) and other members of his national security team decide who lives and who dies via drone strike. A recent Gallup poll showed that a majority of American’s supported drone strikes in other countries against suspected terrorists, but most do not support strikes against U.S. citizens both at home and abroad. In addition to the secret drone program to kill people around the world, the U.S. is implementing surveillance drones on its soil for the first time in 2013. This invasive approach threatens the privacy and safety of American citizens, giving them no protection from these robot spies. There is one individual doing his part to give power and privacy back to the people, and his name is Adam Harvey. He’s created an intriguing counter-surveillance clothing line called “Stealth Wear”.

 

His newest project has gotten significant press from news outlets such as Wired and RT and even the artist M.I.A., who tweeted about his camouflage gear. Be advised, these items are no longer for sale on the Primitive London site. But have no fear, Adam will soon be selling them at his online “Privacy Gift Shop”. Harvey agreed to do an interview for Disco Droppings, and we talked at great length about his work and the real life issues swirling around Stealth Wear..

DD I first heard about you in an RT article covering the debut of your clothing line, Stealth Wear. Shortly after viewing this, Abby Martin, the fierce host of RT’s Breaking The Set, named you hero of the day for your counter surveillance line. Do you feel the press and promotion are encouraging more dialogue about drone use?

AH It is definitely encouraging conversation and this is really important. It took almost a decade to start having critical conversations about the impacts of the 2001 Patriot Act. And now, we’re having critical discussions about drone usage, including the banning of spy drones in Florida, even before they’re introduced. Any project that generates positive, critical discussion now is worth doing.

 

DD The Federal Aviation Administration has said that by 2020, the number of domestic drones could be as large as 30,000. How much are Americans aware of this massive domestic drone proliferation, and the scope of domestic surveillance in America since 9/11 and The Patriot Act?

AH Releasing this number also generated a lot of discussion. If evenly divided, that’s 600 drones per state. And fleets of at least several dozen in large cities, like where I live, in New York. I think Americans are smartening up to the impacts surveillance can have on privacy. But this is always subject to change. Safety is always more important than privacy. And so we’re always willing to give up more privacy in exchange for better security. That’s not necessarily a true equation though. Giving up privacy can make you weaker and more vulnerable too. It’s important to think surveillance through before implementing more of it, especially after the recent terror incident in Boston. Most all terror attacks in the US have been due to a lack of intelligence, not a lack of cameras or drones. It’s important to distinguish between the quest for safety and the right to privacy. Fleets of drones flying overhead doesn’t necessarily add safety to our lives, but it is very likely to erode privacy.

 

DD Do you feel it’s important to connect domestic drone surveillance to the overseas drone surveillance and strikes carried out by the U.S. in countries such as Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen? I was reading a report titled, Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan. They point out a large number of unacknowledged civilian casualties, psychological trauma to many in communities where drone strikes occur as well as only a 2% success rate for drones attempting to kill “high-level” targets. They don’t have as good a track record as some people think, and I see a slippery slope, where domestic drone surveillance could eventually morph to include domestic strikes against American citizens.

AH Yes, that’s a very important point to call out. That once unleashed, it may become impossible to know and prevent armed drones from flying above us. At the very least, it will make a good case for 2nd amendment support.

drone

DD The private viewing of your line was on January 17th, 2013, with this “Privacy Mode” exhibition happening from January 18th to January 31st. After you were able to get reactions from the public, how long was it before Stealth Wear was available for purchase?

AH The items went up for sale immediately on Primitive UK’s website. Their were several sales including one burqa. Overall the sales were decent. I still have some items available. During the next several months I will be unveiling a Privacy Gift Shop on my website where items from this show, as well as a few new pieces, can be purchased.

stealth-wear-burqa1-multi

DD One of the pieces featured in this exhibition is an “Anti-Drone Hoodie” and scarf. These are supposed to confuse thermal imaging, which is used by UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) or drones. When thermal imaging cameras are used, warm objects stand out, such as humans and other warm-blooded animals. If for example, someone is wearing these pieces, and a drone is attempting to surveil them, would only body parts such as their legs be picked up, making the drone unsure of the object it is looking at?

AH Yes, that’s basically the idea. Completely masking heat signatures is very difficult. Heat is emitted from your body and this appears as light to a thermal camera. The Stealth Wear garments are made with metalized fibers which reflect heat. This means the outside of the garment reflects the temperature of surrounding objects, and the inner layer reflects your heat. Of course that heat does not disappear. What you end up with is heat signatures that do not match that of a human. This is most effective for automated systems, using artificial intelligence to detect humans. And, to me, the automated unmanned uses of surveillance technology pose the greatest threat to privacy.

DD Your exhibit was presented by Primitive London at Tank Magazine HQ, also in London, England. I read an interview with Primitive heads Lui Nemeth and Andrew Grune, for Still In Berlin in September 2011. They were asked about some of the pieces they carry being pretty extreme. They responded, “Not all the pieces we stock would be considered wearable, but we care more about exhibiting our designers work.”. What attracted you to Primitive London? And, would you describe your “Stealth Wear” as being wearable, and also forward thinking, in it’s style execution and purpose of use?

AH I was invited to exhibit with Primitive through Nick Bates. He was interested in CV Dazzle and we met very briefly last summer at a coffee shop in London to discuss the potential for a show with Primitive. Originally, I had planned to exhibit new designs for CV Dazzle. When I showed Andrew and Lui a prototype for my new idea about anti-drone wear, they were very supportive. At that point, I had only made a hoodie. The next two pieces, the hijab and the burqa were much more directed and provocative pieces.

DD Stealth Wear is in collaboration with fashion designer, Johanna Bloomfield. What do you think are Bloomfield’s strongest qualities as a designer, and how is her aesthetic represented in your new line?

AH Johanna came into this project with a background in men’s fashion and sports apparel. The hoodie is all her design, made to shield the top portion of the wearer’s body and demonstrate the technology. The burqa was our collaboration that went through several revisions. I struggled with the idea of making any burqa at all, which I felt wold only reinforce an oppressive garment. Together, Johanna and I reworked the design into something more sporty. The burqa combines street-wear comfort with Middle Eastern heritage.

ah4resized

DD Have you experienced any opposition from governments that do not understand or disagree with your attitude towards drones and surveillance?

AH I have not experienced opposition from government entities, yet. Though, I am aware that my project did not go unnoticed. Somewhere between art and national security there is a line that cannot be crossed. I don’t know where it is. And sometimes I’m on both sides.

DD Lastly, Rhizome did an artist profile on you back in June of last year. In their interview with you, writers are mentioned as key artistic influences. Who are some of these writers, and how has their philosophies, attitudes and/or themes influenced your work as an artist?

AH Writers are interesting to me because they must create a story to write about or fabricate one. As a whole, I find this type of person intriguing. The most influential writer to me has been Susan Sontag. She made photography make sense to me. Another favorite critical voice of mine is that of Christopher Hitchens. He would stop at nothing to prove his point. That’s an admirable fault to have.

Adam Harvey – Twitter

ahprojects.com

– Jimi Jaxon 

atom-for-peace-amok

I’m cleaning my very messy room, while re-listening to the Atoms For Peace Essential Mix. Throwing away trash, organizing pieces and making space to breathe is a fitting analogy for what Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich have done in this 2-hour exploration. These songs have a distinct place in the musical landscape, not grasping onto cliches and instead taking you deep into the mind and nature of the world around you. On a production and sound quality level, I feel this is one of the more superior Essential Mixes created, since the series began in 1993.

I remember the first time I heard this mix, it was 4 am. I was so entranced by what I heard. Lying in bed with my headphones on, I felt like I was floating in this ocean of sound. I listened through the whole thing, and at 6 am thought, “what the fuck just happened?”. It was wonderful, and it is that kind of reaction that I hold onto as an artist.

Atoms For Peace – AMOK album, Facebook

Thom Yorke – 2013 RA interview

atomsforpeace.info/amok/

– Jimi Jaxon