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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mapping Intersensory Domains

This Friday and Saturday (October 9 & 10), Portland-based indie group Other Lives teams with Steppenwolf Theatre Company co-founder Terry Kinney for Reconfiguration: An Evening with Other Lives—playing the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House at 7:30 PM. Intricately mapping live video, lighting, and projections to meticulously arranged songs from their recent releases, Kinney creates an engrossing audio-visual narrative wrought from the band’s lyrics and Oklahoma origins. At the core of this image-saturated foray lies original animation by Matt Huynh and projection design by Daniel Brodie. We sat down with the two visual masterminds to learn more about their processes, creative practices, lives in Brooklyn and so much more.

Brodie's work for Kanye West at Lollapalooza.

What classes, moments, or other projects have been the highlights of your careers thus far?

DANIEL BRODIE: I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with some tremendous artists and collaborators. I’m especially proud to have worked with legendary puppeteer and recent MacArthur fellow Basil Twist. We’ve worked together on four or five shows, including his new show, Sisters’ Follies, running now through November 7 at Abrons Arts Center. I mostly work in Broadway theater and I’ve also designed video effects for some giant acts like Kanye West and Mariah Carey.

MATT HUYNH: I'm very proud of an interactive comic I've just released with Australian TV station SBS—The Boat. It's based on the acclaimed short story by Nam Le and we spent a year researching and developing an original online, interactive format for comics from the ground up. It incorporates sound design, animation, archival film, and photography with traditional ink and brush illustration. It also let me explore a very personal part of my family's history—post-Vietnam war migration—and speak to contemporary issues in Australia's asylum seeker and refugee issues.

I've also been a regular contributor to The New York Times, have had my illustrated reportage of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations exhibited at the MoMA and had my comics presented on the Sydney Opera House stage.

Huynh's coverage of Occupy Wall Street.
How did you get involved with this project as individual artists? How have you two collaborated since signing on to be part of Reconfiguration?

DB: The director Terry Kinney contacted me through mutual friends. He was looking for a video designer to work on this show and he wanted someone who would be able to work with an illustrator he already had in mind, Matt Huynh. We’ve been passing visuals back and forth and sculpting them into the overall design of the show.

MH: Director Terry Kinney found my work at a local comic book store and reached out to me early on with some ideas. We had kindred visions for what we wanted to do with hand-drawn animation, motion, and live performance and so I was eager to collaborate on this new presentation of a rock concert.

Daniel's been instrumental in setting the mood and tone of the show. Although I'm hand drawing every frame of the boy hero of this journey, I have been conscious of working with the larger visual language and effects he has built with film and computer-generated graphics.

A recent collab between Brodie and Basil Twist.

What has been the process of creating the illustrations and projections? How have you collaborated with Mix Tape Productions?

MH: We combed through the script developed by director Terry Kinney and producer Rebecca Habel to find moments to tell the story of the concert set list the band will be playing. It was important to find what we could show off—and equally pull back from—for the band to shine. That amidst the spectacle, the imminent, direct feeling of something very tactile and tangible came through. I thumbnailed all the character and animated scenes and hand painted each frame with my assistants before we put together these frame-by-frame animations digitally.

Did you know about Other Lives before starting this project? What do you like most about their sound?

MH: I first heard their music over the studio stereo! My studiomate had put it on and it had entered our rotation. Their sound is "cinematic," very expansive, and very visual. When I found out that Other Lives was the band Terry and Rebecca had eyed to work on with their vision for theatrical productions of concerts, I was excited because it has always felt this kind of world building would be a strong fit for the band's music.

What other music influences your work? How do you like to experience music? Live? Alone? Headphones?

A sample of Huynh's work for Reconfiguration.
MH: I'm a big fan of live music and I love NYC for the chance to see my favorite musicians play in a variety of contexts and stage. Music remains a visceral, magical inspiration and it's so exciting to see those who've mastered it play live.

You both live in New York City. Have you ever attended shows at BAM? What local institutions, neighborhoods, artists inspire you?

DB: I’ve been to, and worked on, a lot of shows at BAM! My studio and my home are in nearby Carroll Gardens. I really liked the production of Antigone, and I’m looking forward to Helen Lawrence and Refuse the Hour. I spend a lot of time in Greenpoint and Gowanus where I know a lot of local artists and theater makers.

MH: I've seen theater, music, and film at BAM and am excited about the Next Wave Festival, particularly Refuse the Hour. In NYC, I'm surrounded by a network of artists who inspire me and support me as friends. I keep a studio in Greenpoint and have access to world class illustrators and cartoonists to talk shop with, including influences like cartoonist Paul Pope. My favorite spots for a night of music are Bar LunÀtico and Manhattan Inn.

Reconfiguration: An Evening with Other Lives plays the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House this Friday and Saturday, October 9 & 10, and tickets are still available.

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