HAPPENINGText: Phil Petty

Saturday night is Optronica’s club night, with the festival crossing the river to East End venue the Spitz for an international line-up of DJs and VJs. The DJs – ranging from the UK’s Si Begg to France’s Joakim and Dutch remixer Legowelt – mash up everything from Kraftwerk and Siouxsie and The Banshees to Michael Jackson (!) and The Osmonds (Crazy Horses!!), backed by a selection of electro, house and techno beats.

Si Begg

Visually, Japan’s Tomographer, France’s eMovie, Addictive TV and Dutch collective Stanzacrew present computer animations, tongue-in-cheek TV/ movie samples and striking motion graphics. But the stand-out VJ for me is Milosh, who presents a dazzling, multi-layered blend of typography, animation, fast-cut video and photo imagery.


The crowd’s reaction through the evening reflects the dichotomy of VJ nights – do you stand and watch this stuff of dance to it? The row of DJ and VJ decks are clearly visible, rather than hidden away in a booth or on stage, prompting many of the more techno-geeky among us to simply spectate at close quarters as the performers go about their work. But as the place fills out and the drinks flow, most people realise that it’s possible – and best – to both watch and dance.

Optronica Lounge

Optronica winds up on Sunday afternoon at the NFT with two events showcasing audiovisual work for film and TV. Optronica On Screen presents some imaginative and original (rather than sampled) work, ranging from 3-minute music videos to 9-minute short film epics.

Still suffering from the (late) night before, I wasn’t looking forward to spending the afternoon in a dark room being blasted by in-yer-face AV light and noise. But the videos shown have enough subtlety and variation to soothe my fuzzy head. Highlights include the post-apocalypse cityscapes of Long Time After; the strange, computer-circuit-board city conjured up in Generator P-730; the sinister, creeping death cloud portrayed in Intramural and Noxious; and the clunky, retro computer graphics of ZX Spectrum’s Orchestra’s Look & Listen.

The final event, The Best of Mixmasters, collects highlights from Addictive TV’s ‘chillout viewing’ series, in the form of 10 minute AV mixes. This selection features some fine work from many of the names who have appeared over the past few days, including Si Begg (in the guise of The Noodles foundation), The Mellowtrons, DJ Spooky and Exceeda.

Overall, Optronica brought together a fascinating diversity of performers to provide an in-depth report from the frontline of audio visual culture. The fact that it took place in the prestigious home of the British Film Institute suggests that AV artists are now stepping out of the underground and into the UK mainstream.

Optronica Festival 2005
Date: July 20th – 24th, 2005
Place: National Film Theatre, bfi London IMAX, National Theatre and The Spitz

Text: Phil Petty
Photos: Matt Cheetham

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