Oli Sorenson’s inspirations

11.04.11 Words by: Charlie Jones

I first saw Oli’s afro-futurist, Tron-referencing visuals at Leftfield’s show in december at Brixton Academy. An audio visual artist/VJ based in Montreal, Canada, his visual work has a digital, textured and futuristic aesthetic, frequently using the human form, and has worked with MIA, Ricardo Villalobos and Richie Hawtin. Oli’s latest project is mapping and projecting onto a church in Montreal, Canada, which you can watch below.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in LA when my dad was a contract worker, we travelled much when I was little, between France and the US mainly, then when I started school, my mom said we should settle to her native town of Montreal, which I lived between the ages of 5 and 28… You could say I’m Canadian, but I’ve also got US and French citizenship from early childhood…

Where did you study?

I did a Bachelor of Arts (BFA) and then a master’s degree in interactive media, both at Universite du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM)

How did you become interested in video/AV etc

I was always a multi-tasker, interested in many things at the same time. The main criticism I got in and out of school was that I needed more focus, was too much a jack of all trades, but master of none. I resented the need for everyone to give attention to details, I was more focused on the bigger picture, not a specialist but a generalist. At one point in my artist’s career, I was simultaneously producing paintings, interactive installations, single and multiscreen video works, and more radical underground performances.
 
When I was made aware of VJing, it fascinated me because it involved so many disciplines, and I found it amazing to see all these practices housed under a single name. So for long while, I called what I did VJing, and people were happy with that, I didnt have to explain further each little detail of my activities. I had taken my gallery based art into the more public realm of clubs and festivals, but the subject matter of my work stayed unaltered, I went from addressing identity issues in my paintings to calling myself VJ Anyone, invoking the loss of one’s ego on the dance floor.
 
But inevitably, a VJ community of so many affiliations came to grow appart more and more, into audiovisual art, live cinema, architecture mapping, and other sub-genres. By that time my work had taken a commercial turn, and lots of demand came from DJs and bands, asking me to tour and produce a high volume of content for them. So I hired lots of freelance operators and content producers, and eventually made the more trusting ones my partners, under NE1co.
 
And here we are…

How did you become involved with Leftfield?

Actually a friend of mine contacted me, to help him produce video content for the Leftfield show he was pitching to, as a lighting designer. Lots of LDs nowadays offer video backdrops to their lightshow. I suppose I was just so generous with him in feeding him info, on the way not just to integrate video in his light design, but also on how to work out all the stage and lights around video content. He liked it so much that he invited me to pitch along with him, as a collaborative project. We eventualy won the pitch, and it became apparent that Neil from Leftfield was really adament on putting visuals as the main focus of the show, that I was practically every day on the phone with him, playing email tag andwhat not, until the tour started a few months later.

What music is really inspiring you right now?

I guess I’m pretty new school, not a big fan of the strait and narrow sounds of mainstream rock, reggae, jazz and hiphop, just been there too much, too long… I find myself quite taken by very hybrid sub-genre which mix established pop, electro and alternative music styles into nano-movements like witch house, darkwave, guam, freakfolk, etc. There’s something about this music that feels unsafe, threatening, I guess I like to be scared, but I prefer zombies to vampires.


This is my most recent video mapping project, presented on
Montreal’s highest belltower.
 

This is a quick remix we did of M.I.A.‘s current tour visuals
especially done to fit the video mapping setup as a backdrop
for the 2010 Scream Awards on Spike TV.
 

One of my proudest achievements, to have acted as art director for Leftfield’s
current tou visuals, now doing Australia as we speak.
 

This is a short excerpt of the visuals we did at Ne1co for Leftfield show encore
I hope this will give a good preview of what the show can look like
if you imagine a live band, lights and buckets of decibels
pumping your chestplate.
 

Here’s another example of the leftfield show
we edited this way because Afrika Bambaataa couldn’t make it
live onstage.
 

One of the original Bambaataa videos, this is why he’s still such a legend today.
 

Another classic originator of electronic music and visuals never get tired of watching this.
 

One of my favorite videos online, nothing like I would do but quite twisted
in its use of vocoder / voice auto-tuner devices, a refreshing addition
to the old school tradition of sampling popular culture into a music video.
 

A completely different take on machine generated voice technology
candy coated japanese pop, still very scary in the way these synthetic holograms
are completely assimilated as full fledged pop stars in Japan.
 

A good Birdy Nam Nam pop promo, nice electronics with a powerful feel a la justice
the video is inspire by 70 futuristic french animators, I wonder if its even the original animation designers they hired.
 

Nothing related to childhood animes, more to teenage angst american suburbia playlist?
 

Here’s what trashy suburban programmers could be up to with nothing to do at christmas.
 

This is so weird it could be art, but I’m not sure. Music is nice and scary.
 

Another extemely unusual video, continuing the tradition of remixing 50s americana,
there’s such so much available an untouched.
 

Scissor Sister’s take on the recent enthusiasm on 70s suspense horror film
simply beautiful.
 

THX1138 Remix live from oli sorenson on Vimeo.

A personal project with Dan Tait, remixing George Lucas’ distopian classic THX 1138
a flop compared to Star wars, but an underground classic for more than 40 years.
 

Karl X Johan – Flames (dir. cut) from Gustav Johansson on Vimeo.

An uplifting tune by Karl X Johan, with a pop promo exclusively using extreme
and I mean EXTREME close ups.
 

OK Go’s ultimate follow up to their theadmill video, actually much more enjoyable
and less gimmicky.
 

TETRA.TENNIS v3.0 from 1024 on Vimeo.

One of my favorite mapping projects, done as an intro to a tennis match in France,
a good visuals example of getting best results by staying minimal.
 

Continuing in the minimal genre, this time combining music, dance and interactive cameras
to process video into choreographed bodies.

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