Time-Based Art Festival 2013

TBA: Peter Burr at the Works

Day 2: Like some electronic shaman, Burr took us on a multimedia vision quest.

By Ally Bordas September 14, 2013

Image: Wayne Bund

Green lasers. Smoke machines. A big screen and a stage strewn with electronic gadgets, baubles, and shells. The site of some electronic shamanic ritual?

When Peter Burr inconspicuously walked on stage and approach the two green boxes set-up to one side with a white skateboard looking ramp opposite, I was uneasy about what was to come. Peering and reaching into one of the boxes, Burr opened the show with colorful diamond patterns dancing across the screen. Then it went black and captions popped up at the bottom stating things such as “me in the bucket,” “the mind is a constant erosion” and “we must delve deeper into ourselves to find the truth,” before transitioning to cartoons with unplaceable accents and foreign languages by the underground video label Cartune Xprez. Before long, Burr’s own face was live projected on the screen, distorted and constantly in flux with the digital graphics, as his repetitious chanting into a microphone was filtered, distorted, and looped, creating a hypnotic electronic soundscape.

Dressed in a checkered robe and spending the show staring and reaching into the two boxes, Burr presumably live mixed all of the visual elements. It seems too simple to call him a video DJ. Between the robes and the chanting, he was more like a deep shaman of animation or a wizard of pixilation.

Starting slow, ending even slower, the show built his distorted view of reality. The colors he used were unabashedly in your face and the woven vertical patterns were garish. The sci-fi cartoons brought forth notions that worlds cannot exist without shiny things that distract or passive creatures that we expel in order to inhabit the land.

I was in a jaw-dropped state of shock most of the night, and I wasn’t the only one. Much of the audience was mesmerized by Burr’s digital realism, by his portrayal of the state of our world and our future. For nearly two hours we watched, some of us finding deeper meaning in his acid trip digital mash ups, unable to contain whispers of “Oooohhhh I like that!” and “I really dig this!”

Many others, however, spent the time trying to figure out what the hell he was doing. What was happening in the boxes he was reaching into? Just how much was he controlling each component of the glistening, chaotic video? At one point, one of the bartenders told me that he thought a documentary of how the whole show was created would be more interesting than the show itself, concluding that Peter Burr was like “the John Coltrane of whatever this is.”

But for those of us who drank the virtual Kool-Aid, “this” was questioning life and existence itself.

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