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Review: Vincent Moon @ Strange Brew

Benji Chapman takes us through the latest Vincent Moon show at Bristol's Strange Brew.

By Benji Chapman, First Year English and Philosophy

When a performance is carried out in front of an audience, we call it live. Each note, each motion on the stage and every facet of the audial-visual experience is unique, unexpected and never heard before.The music no longer simply exists within headphones and speakers, but it becomes live. A live, living experience that carries a sonic fingerprint and history never heard before.

Vincent Moon is a French film-maker and composer who has chosen to reject any form of expression which is not live. Moon, who makes his films in front of the audience live, spliced clips together from a massive library, fading a new setting from one to the next as a new scene blossoms from the fading leftovers of the last to produce a seamless presentation of several settings and communities.

Starting with a flyover of London, accompanied with a droning sequence of synthesisers, the movie soon changed to a dancing crowd of chanting monks, which were met with the appraisal of thunderous percussion and unintelligible chants that entranced the audience. The juxtaposition of rural spaces with the organic demanded attention: it felt jarring at first but the editing was succinct. It served as a reminder that no matter the environment each space is guided by its fundamental sense of community, togetherness and feeling.

Credit: Benji Chapman

"I'm very deeply interested in improvisation" says Moon huddled outside Strange Brew in a fuzzy poncho, handing out small business cards on thin brown paper. "I love chaos. From chaos, you can really see the rise of a very interesting form of poetical order." Between drags from a cigarette held between his fingers, his face lights up in the smoky and amber glow of the ash. There is a profound eccentricity behind the eyes of the man who has just created a film of his own impulsive design. During the performance we could catch glimpses of Moon, who bobbed and pulsed up and down above the heads of the crowd like a turbulent buoy on the ocean. Moon's intention in his work is to reject the sense of art being predetermined, whilst his work is far from having a rich sense of history.

As Moon says, his work creates a new order, one from a forgotten time previously trapped in the past. His films, or "trips," as he calls them animate stories through a kaleidoscopic collection of different cultures, identities and places. His films are journeys both in the psychedelic sense and in the journey that takes place during the runtime, through the various portrayals of human experience and community. His work is spiritual and transcendental of any sense of structure; purely a show to be experienced and nothing more. There was something rudimentary about the selection of videos included through an open-source access library, which appealed to a very human understanding of what it feels like to be present in a moment of cultural experience. It was as if a child could have compiled the videos and music, the show carried a sense of play and wonder throughout a fearless exploration of sound and colour.

The beauty of Moon's films is that each night a different show is put on; he says himself "I believe that's where magic is you know, in the unknown." There is no knowing for the audience or indeed Moon himself what will appear next on the screen or what sound will play, yet some sense of a common understanding unites the clips.

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Moon speaks in a soft French accent whilst he explains to me: "spontaneity brings synchronicities in a way, the synchronicities are what I'm looking for." It is curious, whether you agree with Moon or not, how the tempo of footsteps marching down a cobbled street in Asia matched that of a child experimenting with an electronic keyboard- all "sacred practices" in Moon's words, or free expressions of what it means to be alive. The films hand off their own message to the audience as a passing display of a confused but somehow connected piece of art. The film is entirely subjective, yet carries a united understanding of human feeling. "You find your own meaning. I don't know. I don't even know what it means tonight, the next one is gonna be different".

Featured image: Benji Chapman

Have you seen Vincent Moon??