Audiovisual Live Performance

4 Video Scratching

Although analog video synthesizers remained too bulky to take on the road, in the 1980s and early 1990s video decks and some video mixing gear became portable enough to bring to live performances. The first personal computer video processing tools were also becoming available; for example, the Newtek Video Toaster allowed real-time mixing and effects to be performed on a desktop computer.

At roughly the same time, the Scratch Video movement emerged in the United Kingdom. Scratch Video artists such as Gorilla Tapes and the Duvet Brothers recorded clips from mainstream media and remixed them, generally as political commentary. Although Scratch Video work was neither edited nor performed live, it was a major influence on later remix-based performance work. A related but distinct technique known as video scratching was created in the late 1980s by the American multimedia ensemble Emergency Broadcast Network (EBN). In video scratching, short clips from television programs or other found footage are edited rhythmically to give the effect of spoken lyrics to accompanying music. One of EBN’s best-known videos was a 1991 cover of the Queen song We Will Rock You, with lyrics assembled from clips of a speech about the Gulf War delivered by U.S. President George H. W. Bush. This piece gained international notoriety when the band U2 used it on their Zoo TV tour. In the late 1990s, electronic musicians such as the British DJ duo Coldcut began integrating live video mixing into their performances. Coldcut went on to release its own audiovisual performance software, VJamm, and has remained one of the best-known audiovisual performance ensembles.