Time traveling has long been reserved for characters in disjointed films or conceptual beings that have the ability to revisit past and future events as if they were a continuous strip of film, a train that is everywhere it will ever be or has been at once. Yet, Thunder Horse Video is intent on transporting the viewers of their installations and light designs to distant eras, most of them invented and recycled from heaps of discarded VHS tape, faulty projectors, and transposed visions of past and future worlds. Having started on the pursuit of a grimy computerized aesthetic that was prevalent in 3D modeling during the 90s, THV has turned into a video collective that evokes mental spaces, allowing persons to inhabit them and change them.
Having most recently worked with the Suzanne Geiss gallery’s Blasting Voice series, THV is just starting to utilize its light design talents for more performative, time-based practices. Blasting Voice was comprised of an over-amplified stage put together by Thunder Horse. Essentially, performers and musicians the likes of Kyp Malone, Geneva Jacuzzi, and Andrew Felt inhabited the machine put in place. Though the performances themselves sometimes lacked rhythm and coherence, the entire project does set an important precedent for contemporary performance oriented artists: there is an abundant necessity for collaboration between video artists, musicians, and dancers or performers. This necessity demands collective creation that transcends more traditional relations between one director and the vision he assigns to his/her set designer, musician, etc...Having reached a condition where visual artists are beginning to involve themselves with time-based arts, we are left with a crucial question concerning the presence of the body in relation to the new media it now interacts with. How do we develop works where each element is integral and equal to the other? Ultimately, this is asking to go against a strong, self-centered tradition of creation. It is not surprising that university art programs still do not accept artist collectives, but this is for another article. Thunder Horse Video has began to touch on a goldmine of opportunity in regards to integrated multidisciplinary time-based works.
The most relevant example is their project with Gatekeeper and Tabor Robek. As Gatekeeper is a mood driven, electronic music group, it became clear to both the band and THV that a visual, performative element was necessary in order to make a live show engaging. The most recent solution for this dilemma presented itself in the form of a video game by Tabor Robek that mirrors the progression of Gatekeeper’s most recent album, Exo. To integrate the video game and the live performance, THV transported the audience at the album release party to an environment that further mirrors Robek’s video game, which he played in entirety following Gatekeeper’s set. Perhaps this begs the question of theatricality considering that no physical performers were present. Yet, instead of becoming hung up on definitions, one would be wise to consider the possibilities of installations of this sort. As we are approaching the Singularity, virtual environments turn out to be damn similar to Wagner’s utopian Gesamtkunstwerk, or furthermore similar to the same type of utopian attitude found in architects such as Walter Gropius from the Bauhaus and Alvar Aalto. And this is all the more relevant when considering that performance based artists are moving toward installation. When asked about the remaining position for the performer in these virtual reality transportations, Taran Allen of THV concluded that:
“Every situation is unique, but regardless, I view the performer as the source of energy that powers a greater machine.
How this energy is channeled and controlled depends on the performance and the desired effect you wish to have on the audience.
In some cases the physical presence of the body is completely null and void. Through light, effects and sound you remove a defined sense of space and time. The world outside is shut out and the viewer becomes enveloped by the alternate reality.
In other situations, you seek to use these same tools to elevate the performer and draw all energy toward them. To capture the same ancient sense of power and awe that drew commoners to their knees as a great emperor paraded down the street.
As technology progresses and delivery of information and media evolve it's important to understand how the human mind reacts to stimulus.
Though the classic forms of art and entertainment will always have their place, it’s important that we also push to explore to new horizons.”
And I’m glad that he did. I would add, however, that in the constant back-and-forth between establishing physical presence or uploading it to an enveloping environment, there remain lingering traces of consciousness. As the NightBears have proven to me in their residency at the Red Room, a technician can be just as performative as the performer. And installations such as Taran Allen’s Ray of Lite do not necessarily mean that they lack a performer. One could make the claim that the performer has become a technician, spreading the limits of his/her body throughout a physical space, quite literally uploading himself to the projected videos and spinning lights. Within the frame of the discussion revolving around the Singularity, it is still unclear whether our new machine brethren will become mere extensions of the human body, such as automobiles and airplanes, or rather generators that our bodies become extensions of. Probably this will be explored for the following years. Sansmark//Findlay’s piece fractured bones/let’s get lost grappled with the same maddening binary, attempting to give it form so that one may be prepared for the new era.
Yet, when I asked Taran about why he thinks that more time-based artists have not contacted THV, (they mostly work with musicians) he could not give me a definitive answer. Mostly, he is as surprised by the fact as I am. The disconnect between visual arts performers and contemporary performers, discussed brilliantly by Andy Horowitz of Culturebot, presents itself clearly here. Blasting Voice at the Suzanne Geiss space was a good example for the melding of a video-art collective and physical performers. The next steps that we at conectom are searching for are the very rare cases when one visual/video/audio element of a performance does not overpower physical presence and vice-versa. Thunder Horse Video is a bright, young, collective with futuristic plans. Taran's most immediate project is a Halloween installation/time machine.