Thursday, June 28, 2007

Perth - Who are we, what do we want to be?

For those of you not from Perth (or those of you who are, but have been hiding under a rock lately) there's a huge groundswell of support for changing the face of Perth from a decorative Receptionist for the Mining Industry to a vibrant, intelligent, creative community that can attract the best and brightest to call this city home.

Last night, we went to a public forum organised by Form where two international experts on creating liveable cities debated (well, agreed on) what Perth needs to change.

From :

"Perth: Great place to bring up kids, great place to retire. But what happens in between? How can we make sure Perth entices and keeps the talented ‘young and restless' demographic?"

While it was all pretty much 'yeah, tell us something we don't know - those with any get-up-and-go, get up and go!', it was great to see people in suits telling other people in suits that the people in the audience NOT in suits (hands up 25-35yo's - about half of the audience that probably numbered over 1000) were the ones who really counted in this equation. So, that was a promising sign.

It's been a problem for a long time. I left Perth in my late teens for Sydney, moved around, lived overseas and interstate for most of my 20's and 30's. I'm back now, and not being the breeding type and having a 20-something husband, realise that Perth is still pretty dull. It's a lot bigger and shinier than when I first abandoned it in the 80's, and it's come huge leaps and bounds in terms of restaurants and the arts, but it's still missing something.

As VJ's, we tour a fair bit, and the some of places we visit - Melbourne, Barcelona, Singapore - have a vibrancy that you can really feel. You walk through lanes and see video projection on a wall, pulling you into some funky little bar that feels like a friend's lounge room. Funnily enough, we expected to find that sort of vibe in San Francisco and New York, but didn't really. We had to leave Manhattan Island and go to Brooklyn to get any sense of a real grass-roots urban culture (eg through street-art and funky little bars). We've certainly had more luck 'stumbling on the fun' in Melbourne and Barcelona - and even Sevilla, where hardly anyone spoke English but we felt more at-home, welcomed and part of an urban culture than we did in New York or San Francisco. Gesticulation and our VJ showreel was all we needed to make new friends.. people who are like us.. in Spain.

We've been doing our best to try to make Perth the kind of place that people like us - "digerati" I guess, or "geek-creatives" - would find interesting enough to stay in. We've been running our Plug n Play for a year now, although since there are no video-art bars in Perth along the lines of Melbourne's Loop, Horse Bazaar etc, we have to provide everything ourselves, lug equipment and furniture to set it up each time. It's a lot of effort compared to the Melbourne one, where 5 organisers take turns to host it, and the majority of the gear is on-site at the Kent St venue. The Small Bar Licence has now been introduced in Western Australia, so technically it's now possible for arty little bars like that to spring up here, so here's hoping.

It's nice to see that some people have noticed the effort, even if they're overseas:

There are a lot of people in Perth doing these sorts of things within their own community groups. WAnimate for animation, SIGGRAPH for computer graphics, IGDA and PIGMI for games-dev, PIP for photography.

Byte Me! Festival is our attempt to bring the work being done by all these somewhat low-profile groups into a more public arena, so that more people can see all the things that ARE already going on in Perth, and hopefully get involved themselves. Perth's already got a lot more cool stuff going on than the average person would realise.

I couldn't agree more with last night's speakers Charles Landry and Carol Coletta though - we need places for these groups to meet in. It probably sounds like a small thing to people who don't live here, but we REALLY need small, funky venues to hang out in, to perform in, to pull out our laptops and play Show n Tell in.

The other big advantage of small bars is that there's less binge drinking and less violence when large crowds of people are spread apart. We often drive home from performances at 2am, and Northbridge and the club-end of the CBD are not a pretty sight. Last week, driving home late from a gig, we saw so many young, drunk, stranded girls standing on the streets in the freezing cold in their skimpy clubbing clothes - one stood in the middle of the road waving her arms to try to get (full) taxis to stop, some were sitting in the gutter trying to ring a cab on their mobile... it was very depressing to see, and I wondered how they were possibly all going to get home safely. It was a complete alternate-reality to the same streets in the daytime and early evening. I'm sure that the obvious lack of cabs is partially to blame, but also the fact that there are so few small venues and so many big ones means that it's inevitable that people just don't get looked after properly and so manage to get out-of-their-minds drunk on fizzy alco-pop.

For all that though, Perth is a beautiful city. It's booming thanks to the Mining sector, and there are a lot of very cool things happening if you know where to look. There is so much potential here.

If you're from Perth, or perhaps a Perthite who's living elsewhere... please participate in the debate to make this a better city, a city that people like you WANT to live in.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Guest Speakers and Performers so far...

Even though it's the inaugural Byte Me! Festival, luckily we know people. And it seems that a lot of them are very happy about the opportunity to come to Perth and share their skills.

You can see more detail about the guests at:

So far, we have Keynote Speaker Posie Graeme-Evans - TV Producer, Lyricist and Novelist. Posie created and produces 'McLeod's Daughters' which is shown in over 200 territories worldwide, so she knows a thing or two about creating niche content for an international audience. She also co-created Hi-5, and on Sundays, she writes novels - which are bestsellers. I have to say, I don't know if or when this woman sleeps, her accomplishments seem almost impossible - so we're incredibly honoured that she's willing to make the time to come over and talk at our Festival.

Still on the Film and TV theme, we have Gen Bailey - guerilla film-maker extraordinaire. Gen is only in her mid 20's and yet has made over 25 short films and music videos that have won numerous awards around the world. Gen's pragmatic 'just do it' attitude is very refreshing, and has enabled her to be incredibly prolific. She's a great example of 'it's about the story' - her docos are extremely low-budget but very successful.

Mo Selle, aka Murni Mastan, is based in Singapore. She's a film-maker and also works in television, but is best known as one of the highest profile female VJs through her residency at Ministry of Sound, Singapore. The list of people she's performed with reads like a Who's Who of the international clubbing scene. She is also involved with Edirol-Roland in developing VJ hardware and software, and so is on the cutting edge of this new and rapidly evolving Industry.

DOTHY, aka Dorothee Sorbier, is a motion graphic designer and VJ from Toulouse, France. Her slick, vector-based content is just the type of digital content that adapts well to any platform - film, tv, web, mobile. DOTHY recently performed at the Mapping VJ Festival in Switzerland to great reviews.

Sue Erokan from Dreamworks Animation has spoken in Perth before at a WAnimate event. For those of you who missed that talk or who want to hear about her more recent work on Shrek the Third, no doubt you'll be looking forward to this one. Also, Sue is an acclaimed teacher of ATS Bellydance, so if you're interested in bellydancing there's a good chance that she'll be doing something in that field as well while she's in Perth for Byte Me! Festival.

Kate Rothschild is a digital content producer whose previous work has included being a senior producer at Nickelodeon in New York. She is currently developing cross-media content and consulting in the digital media field, based in Perth.

Solu, aka Mia Makela, is a Finnish Live Cinema artist, activist and educator based in Barcelona. Her recently completed thesis on Live Cinema is general regarded as the best resource available in this field, and although she claims to have little interest in commercial VJing she is widely credited by many high-profile VJ's as one of the best in the world. She's often called 'the VJ's VJ'. Solu has run practical workshops to demonstrate the usefulness of VJ tools for a wide variety of professions, such as architects.

Tom Ellard is an audio-visual artist and educator who performs as Severed Heads. Severed Heads were an Australian act that achieved international fame in the 80's with hits such as 'Dead Eyes Opened'. We're keen to gain more recognition for the significance of Severed Heads in the history of audio-visual performance. While they gain a brief mention in the handful of books so far published on VJing, there has yet to be a detailed analysis of their role and influence in the international VJ scene.

VJ MoRpH, aka Grant Muir, is one of the longest-established and most respected VJ's in Australia. He has performed at most of the big music festivals on the East Coast. Like VJzoo, he collects vintage Fairlight CVIs - the Australian-made video synthesiser that revolutionised both television and live video performance in the 80's by being the first widely-available device capable of luma-keying. The CVI was also responsible for those awful gimmicky, flourescent effects in many 80's music videos that defined the early look of MTV.

CasioNova also has a thing for vintage equipment. He will be performing using vintage Casio keyboards with visuals made on an early Commodore computer. Should be much fun.

Local acts and speakers are still being organised, although check out the site for more details about those already involved, including DXU:555, Audio Cephlon, Chrism + Fenris, ChiKiTroniX, VJ Trixee, VJzoo and Tomas Ford.

We're also still working on securing more Visual FX and animation speakers, so don't think we've forgotten about those...

Hope there's something amongst all of the above that will get you away from your keyboard for a few evenings in December...


kat black =^..^=

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Welcome to Byte Me! Festival News

Byte Me! is a Festival of digital content, to be held in Perth, Western Australia 1-9 December 2007.

Developing a new Festival is a leap into the unknown. If you're interested in coming along for the ride, check that cord is firmly attached to your ankle and take our hand.

Details will be updated on the website as the Festival develops, but we've started this blog for you to keep up to date as the Festival develops and evolves in the six months leading up to the event itself.

News so far - we've had a competition to develop a 'look' for the Festival.
It was a difficult decision, and in the end it was split between two designers - Tristan Groves for the logotype and Tom Williamson for the colours and toothy character.

A number of international and Australian speakers and performers have already agreed to come - we'll feature some of them over these blog posts and let you know as more people confirm.