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Informal, sardine-packed and a little like the Mother of All Uncle Arthur’s Slide Nights, Digita’s takeover of the Binary Bar for two nights was worth its wait in set-up time.

Lisa Gye and Steven Ball, in an inspired piece of adhoc-ery, used a calico sheet over the main window of the bar rather than a clinical projection screen, so pedestrians and that peculiar brand of Melbournian flaneur could—with neat literalism—turn the plane to interface. Apt, really, for a double bill of interactive multimedia entertainment that aimed to put the performance and audience-focus back into an often-predictable point-click Timezoney version of art shrink-wrapped to fit kiosk one-to-one.

As with any decent theatre restaurant, we got some terrific warm-up acts, in this case an experimental video compilation featuring work by RMIT animation students, from scalpel-surreal metallic 3D-morphed flowers to deconstructed faux-naif retro-Astroboy, starring (as enjoyably always) Troy Innocent and Third Eye.

At one end of the theatricalisation continuum were CD-ROM extravaganzas that nonetheless simply multiplied the over-shoulder-starer experience of impatiently waiting for a Riven addict to finish up. Zoe Beloff’s Beyond is an extraordinary cinematic VR narrative, set in an abandoned asylum occupied by about 20 panoramas and 20 QuickTime movies. Hauntingly gothic and dreamily associative, it explores artificial resurrection and dramatises the paradoxes and cross-translations between media technologies over time, mode, fiction, analysis and use, and frankensteining discarded 1920s home movies. But—in addition to the distancing of CD-autocontrol—the poor circus-bear computer got d-drive stutters, dissipating the soundscape, swallowing the scripted-word recordings, distorting the picture.

Then there’s the hybrid inbetweeneries of performed interactivity and projected performances. Regurgitations, a la Dirk de Bruyn, did fractal variations on the diaristic theme in full handheld vertigo mode with palimpsestic layers of text, old family-photo riffs, chanting, live guitar, comic-book iconography and hallucinogenic movement disconcertingly reminiscent of bad improvisational contact dancing. Synthesiser, by Steven Ball and Nicole Skeltys, bounced fractured randomly-generated text off a distressed, Gaussian road movie (broken white line zipping itself up into infinity), colliding with pixillated palettes, tartan swatches, screensize Dulux samplers and other found-objects from the technical apparatus of image manipulation.

But at the other performance extreme, and probably the most entertainingly effective, were those incorporating and engaging the space and audience. Tony Wood’s Interactive boasted live percussion and electric guitar backing CD-ROM projections of abstracted video and photographic kinetic water studies, match-cut and jump-cut with a duelling slide projector. The two competing (and mobile: tilting, scrolling, crawling up the wall, chasing each other across the screen) image-sets framed, overlapped, slid in and out of focus and position, collide-o-scoping sunflowers, circuitboards, snakeskin, peacock-tail oil-patinas, diodes, stained glass, and hieroglyphs. Mesmerising fun syncopated to the live music.

And Paul Rodgers produced two terrific pieces, The Waxing Book and Paul’s Experiments, the latter being the Digita highlight (in all senses), installing a video hook-up projecting the audience-as-film, three light globes that he slowly, surgically punctured with a blowtorch while a fan dissected light, mirrors refracted it, sunspots imploded it, video-inserts and shadow produced a quadrupled puppet-play commentary. Medium as newly-visibilised message and toy: an acute fable for Digita.

Digita Screensavers & Moving Stills, CyberFringe, Binary Bar, October 5 and 19.

RealTime issue #22 Dec-Jan 1997 pg. 27

© Dean Kiley; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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