Earlier this autumn, we caught up with Video Artist Jack James to find out more about him and what he’s got in store for our audience in The Fruit of Silence at Southwark Cathedral on Thursday 9 November.
How long have you been a video artist for?
“It must be about 10 years. I started in theatre and did a degree in Technical Theatre and Stage Management, which was at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. It’s quite mixed with lots of different things going on; it’s not just about theatre.”
We got to know you because of Opera Holland Park…
“Yes, Flight at Opera Holland Park. And we’re now going to do that with Scottish Opera, which is interesting – the set is very different; it’s much bigger.”
Have you worked with a lot of orchestras before?
“Not really, no – only in an opera context.”
Is this the first time you’re working with just a live orchestra?
“Yeah, it’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to it.”
In The Fruit of Silence, people are going to be walking around throughout the concert and there’s a choir that will also be roaming around the Cathedral. Where are the visuals going to go?
“We’re going to operate mostly in the main part of the Cathedral, so when they promenade off, they’ll be going to places without video and coming back to those moments. We’ll do some stuff that relates to the architecture, and some stuff which is more general and abstract.”
What’s the creative process? How do you go about designing something for a gig?
“It depends. Often we’re working with other designers who have a particular initial overview, so we might take stimulus from the way they design the set. I think in this case that is the Cathedral itself, so that will be the starting point, and then listen to the music and start to get ideas of what it feels like.
“There’s a satisfaction to responding to something; being able to hear something in the space, to change the way you think about it. We try to build it like a kit of parts; get some ideas and try and assemble them into a formal thing over the process, so you can always be a little bit flexible. Sometimes you get somewhere and look at something and think, ‘ah, what this really needs is…’ So it’s not just a one-hit process.
“Different people work in different ways. Some people would map the whole plan out and set off and do it, and some people would react more. And when it comes to music, I think being able to react is quite important, because we won’t be the only people that want to change things last minute. People think about classical music as rigid sometimes, but I don’t think that’s really true. I think there’ll be a lot of changes and you want to see a performance come out as people are rehearsing, and we want to respond in the same way.”
What are your influences and inspirations?
“I’m really fascinated by abstract imagery, and how it can help be a picture that on its own doesn’t really mean much, but when it’s combined with things can represent or evoke a thought or an idea.”
Why do you think that visuals at a classical music concert might be interesting?
“I think it might help people connect with it. There are challenges with classical music, and I think anything that will help people – who haven’t necessarily been to one of those concerts before – get it, feels like it’s worth doing. And it’s such a beautiful space that we can accent parts of it; it should enrich the whole thing.
“People say that it’s very musical; the visuals are not just happening at the same time, it’s more that they are involved or reflect the music. We have to be very careful not to do something that distracts them at the most important bit. I guess we’re giving people something else to do while they’re listening, because it helps them engage the mind.”
Watch Jack James’ projections and visuals in action in our first two Modern Mystics concerts: The Fruit of Silence, Thursday 9 November (7.30pm), Southwark Cathedral and The Book of Hours, Wednesday 22 November (7.30pm), Village Underground.