Working in collaboration with co-directors Joey Blue and Gil Wallace along with musician Sam von Horn, video artist Lachlan Turczan tells DN how he brought his experimental approach to dance music video With You – transforming poetic choreography into a fragmenting exploration of the many facets and fluidity of self.
As well as a video artist you’re also a water choreographer, for the uninitiated what does that role entail and how did you get into it?
As a video artist, I became frustrated with a production workflow where nearly everything is mediated through digital interfaces. In an attempt to create moving imagery in a more hands-on approach, I started working with water. I began making these liquid projection systems using sound to vibrate water. When I moved back to LA, I looked for places where I could continue working with water and found WET, the design firm responsible for the Bellagio and Dubai fountains. I was initially hired as an editor and have since started choreographing fountains, designing how the water moves to music.
I spent a couple of months learning this really complicated program – you have to describe elegant movement with lines of code and math. The learning curve was pretty steep, but it’s such rewarding work. Currently I split my working life between producing video content for WET in LA and traveling around the world making water dance – it’s a pretty sweet gig! In my free time I’ve been collaborating with friends on projects like this one.
How did this abstract dance meets VFX project come about?
With You developed organically through a series of collaborations with friends, spearheaded by Sam von Horn. Initially, my co-directors Joey Blue and Gil Wallace set out to create a poetic dance film. The loose narrative portrayed different aspects of an individual’s personality through shifting choreography and wardrobe changes.
My goal in my video practice is to reveal things not visible with the unaided human eye.
Once the first draft came out of the editing room, Sam brought me onto the project and asked if I could incorporate animation to solidify the narrative arc. I fell in love with the choreography and decided to concentrate on the dancer’s movement. After months of experimenting with the footage in After Effects, I settled on a video treatment where the dancer fragments and divides her own body and the space around her as she moves.
Water is used throughout the video as a curtain-call, delineating aspects of our dancer’s personality. As the video progressed, the ocean became this symbol for constant change that I wanted to explore further. I pushed for another shoot day on the coast, a finale where we could choreograph our dancer with the video treatment in mind. My idea was to fragment the dancer to a point where she became an abstract flow of movement – then we are transported to the sea where she is reborn in a modern day take on Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. The result culminated in these highly controlled, painterly scenes where dance becomes fluid data.
What were the movements you wanted to capture on that additional day of filming to augment the material you’d been manipulating in post?
The shoot at the beach was an opportunity to fully showcase and explore the treatment I developed for this video. We have so much dynamic camera movement earlier in the video and here I made things slow down to let the dance and technique take over. I wanted this finale to unfold slowly, deliberately, to sustain the momentum the video had been building towards.
Looking through your work, it’s clear that the interplay of visual patterns and sound is an strong creative draw for you. What is it about these more experimental facets of visual art that attracts you?
I’ve always been interested in creating imagery that responds to sound. A great way to concentrate on that relationship of pure movement and sound is to manipulate footage into pure abstraction. At that point, you’re no longer distracted by narrative or characters and movement becomes enough. My goal in my video practice is to reveal things not visible with the unaided human eye.
What new projects do you have on the horizon?
I’m currently working on some videos with my good friend Conner Griffith. Lots of experimenting with camera movements.