Ali Demeril has been the visual partner to legendary Techno DJ/Producer Richie Hawtin for the last eight years. Together they have taken Techno performance to new heights of creative expression with live shows that have redefined the possibilities of visual and music minimalism. Demeril and Hawtin have just finished their first ever tour of South Africa, appearing as the featured act on the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival, and playing in Soweto and Midrand in Gauteng.
Demeril spoke at the first Wits Digital Soiree of 2013, presenting his methods of work, software tools, and his ideology of live visuals. Wits Digital Arts Masters student and UJ multi-media lecturer, Farrell West, was at the seminar. These are her impressions:
Coming from a background of engineering, physics and architecture, Demirel shared his process and technique on how he generates visual elements primarily focusing on minimal imagery and structural compositions. Demirel grapples with the ideology of performing live visuals and discussed his custom developed software 2V-P. This software is based on his modernist, minimalist and futurist approach to live visuals, which he designed with artist and programmer Pascal LeSport.
Demirel took us through a brief history and explained the evolutionary processes of his work. In 2001 Demirel presented his first music video with the Plastikman track “Psyk”. This video represented the aesthetics of minimalism and synchronization and was the start of a long term audio-visual partnership between Hawtin and Demirel. In 2004 Demirel produced a live visual set entitled “DE9 Transitions”, this innovative set was the product of abstract video content. Demirel experimented by using a black piece of paper covered with iron filings, he then used a magnet to disrupt the filings and filmed the whole process. Demirel used this type of abstract video footage during a live show. This first attempt left him feeling restricted, mainly because of the technological limitations as well as the fact that he could not react to the music in real time during the live show, he merely pressed “play” and no live mixing software was utilized.
The next step was to generate a live visual set titled Meta-Control (2007) with the help of Burak Arikan from MIT Media Lab using “Processing”, an open source programme which allows the creation of graphics, animations and interactions using a coding language. The images could be manipulated in a real time environment, Demirel now had the ability to control and synchronize graphics during the show. Due to his limited coding ability and the restricted mixing abilities of the program he turned to utilizing Apple’s node based visual programming tool “Quartz Composer”. In 2008 he produced the Minus “Contakt” shows and gave us a demonstration of how the programme has the ability to entertain the masses with something as simple as a white dot. Demirel could now execute a perfectly synchronized audio-visual live show: Plastikman live.
Finally in 2012, by incorporating a series of networked programs namely TouchDesigner, Abelton Live, Max MSP for live and using Lemur tactile app on his iPad, Demirel was able to perform at an advanced level by creating complex visual compositions with multiple variables. He has the capability to interact with the music by specifically controlling the light and visual design of the performance from sliders on his iPad.
What is exciting is that this process is far from being complete; 2P-V is still under development. The revolutionary ideas and concepts that surround the ideals of a successful live visual performance continue to be explored. The artist can create abstract forms that allow for a collaborative dialogue to take place between music and visuals as well as connecting people through a unique digital art form.