Di James (pictured in Coffs, second from right) is a VJ and veteran multimedia artist who is described as “the glue” holding together the creativity and technical wizardry of SWIFF Light Box. Di, under the name 4dlux, has been VJing and creating VR worlds since the early 1990s. She’s a passionate advocate for community arts projects, social justice and environmental causes, and her recent projects include art projections for Murwillumbah Art Trail, at Byron Bay Film Festival, for the Lemon Ruski launch in Sydney and as artist in residence for the Australian Earth Laws Alliance in Brisbane. We chat to Di about what she’s up to for SWIFF Light Box.
How did you move from drawing and into multimedia art?
As soon as computers hit the scene I wanted to use them. I saw them as such a fascinating medium, I just had to get my hands on them. I started an arts degree and used to work at The Byron Shire Echo newspaper, in the art department. I landed an artist residency at Melbourne Uni and had access to their multimedia learning unit down there. It was when it was all beginning – a really exciting time.
How did you get into VJing?
There was a multimedia show on in Byron Bay with a couple of VJs putting their work up on screens and I just went ballistic, I just knew it was what I wanted to do. I’ve worked on architectural design in virtual worlds, on ActiveWorlds, one of the first online virtual reality worlds (pre-Second Life).
See some of Di’s work here:
What does your role involve for SWIFF Light Box?
As associate creative director, I’ve been the go-to person for the artists to submit their work. We’ve now moved into the production phase, so I’m now co-ordinating with the artists to work on storyboards and compile imagery to overlay. Video projection is not about narrative in a linear sense, so it’s not like a storyboard for film where it’s a step-by-step sequence.
There’s a fair bit of processing that the artists’ work goes through for animation, because most of them work in two-dimensional mediums such as painting. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
We go through the work, like in any creative process, brainstorming, throwing up ideas on how we want to work with it, the imagery and put it together. Then we direct the animators on what needs to be done to an image, so we might want to pull an element out of an image and move things around.
How do you feel about bringing Light Box to Coffs and what would you like locals and visitors to experience?
I’ve worked on architectural projections for the Murwillumbah Art Trail, on the theme of past, present and future and related directly to that location. Public art is really important to me and so is involving the community in the art. I’m not really into white gallery walls, that’s why I got into VJing. They both combine elements of bringing art off the exclusive gallery walls for people to experience in their local environment.
The medium – digital art projections – is very relevant because we’re surrounded by and living on our digital devices all day long. Do you think that more people will be likely to relate to it than to art in a gallery?
Yes – it’s moving graffiti. The great thing about projections is that it’s transient, you can put projections up in places where you wouldn’t be able to put graff up on. A lot of people see galleries as stuffy white elitist places and they relate to a culture of art that promotes that kind of elitism. I’m definitely not into elitism, so I like to challenge it in the work I do, and instead bring art to the people. It’s also interactive because people can sit around, chat, it’s in a social environment rather than being in an artificial, intimidating environment.
Obviously a clean white wall is easier to work with than quarry rocks or a jagged building. What does having art projections beamed onto “untidy” outdoor public spaces add to the experience of the art?
It’s going to bring each site alive, and the textures of the rock add their own energy which you wouldn’t get if you were projecting onto a white wall. People can experience the sites in a whole new way that they may never have conceived of. For example with the quarry it’s a indigenous sacred women’s site that holds a historical significance. It’s an opportunity for local indigenous artist Alison Williams to tell the story that’s associated with that site, using those images. And the Forestry Corporation building is a pretty normal-looking building that’s going to be transformed with colours and movement and amazingness.
What would you hope for a visitor to SWIFF Light Box to experience?
A sense of awe. They may or may not get some sense of continuity in the visual imagery – but if they don’t it really doesn’t matter. The fact that people can walk along the street and have a look at some moving imagery, or sit down on the grass and watch it for a while, kids can be playing around, there’s a social aspect, they can talk about it and be in a relaxed natural environment.
Interview by Louden Up! Media