Liveness and the machine: improvisation in live audio-visual performance

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Cooke, G 2011, 'Liveness and the machine: improvisation in live audio-visual performance', Screen Sound, vol. 2, pp. 9-26.

Article available on Open Access


Live audio-visual performance is an emerging area of new media arts practice that crosses between, and draws upon, multiple artistic traditions and trajectories. Under a range of nomenclatures – VJing, Live Cinema, Live Media, Expanded Cinema – artists work solo and collaboratively with sounds and images, and significantly, they do this in a performance context. Liveness, then, with its associated notions of improvisation, spontaneity, singularity and ‘the event,’ plays a key role in how live audio-visual performance is understood, valued and marketed. Liveness is a selling point, a mark of difference that separates live performance from the recorded or ‘mediated’, such as music albums, films, television. But how live is live? And, to what degree is the live premised on what is programmed, prepared for, pre-arranged or composed? What assumptions are buried in the celebration of the live, the moment, the real-time? In this paper, with reference to my own practice as a collaborating performer in live audio-visual contexts, I shall discuss the relations between liveness and preparedness in live audio-visual performance.

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