DANIEL SWAN’S LUX LAZE – Exclusive Interview Exploring the Retro-Future Film

by JC Gonzo

Young, UK-based videographer Daniel Swan‘s recent self-released project, LUX LAZE, arrives as an extravagant package, emphasizing the materiality and texture of the piece itself. Accented throughout with sharpie drawings and other personal touches, Swan sets a mood, directing our attention to detail.

The piece plays like an abridged epic sci-fi classic, involving a heroic rescue mission in the year 3130. Swan strips away basic narrative and delivers only the essential elements of an epic journey, hinting and referencing well-known conventions but leaving behind only traces of familiarity.

Previously we’ve seen Swan play with retro effects and stylization by using analog video synthesizers to create ultra-colorful, surreal landscapes thriving with geometric neon patterns and stroboscopic shapes. Often would there be nature footage interlaced with the unfamiliar, or the man-made. The artificiality of the video itself is heightened as chaotic, pixelated, layered images merge into each other creating new worlds.

From "Laprascopici"

From "Dark Parallel Cycle"

The work is playful eye candy. This is why it is of no surprise that he has created video work for M.I.A., Rye Rye, Pens, Veronica So (of T3ETH) and others.

In LUX LAZE, Swan aids our recollection of classic narrative form with visual cues and presents humans in a disjointed, artificial future allowing highly synthesized effects to literally interact with the narrative at hand. Swan has tied-in his stylistic video manipulation with a broader concept, affecting his audience with nostalgia on a more obvious level.

What was the film-making process like for LUX LAZE? How much of it is found footage, superimposed, and shot originally?

i started to shoot all the location backgrounds around downtown toronto in september 2009 and carried on in london around march. all the character footage was shot in a greenscreen studio in east london once i’d worked out some kind of plot….it’s a wandery kind of film though. mainly walking around and looking. most of it is original footage, the fiddly bits done using laser pens and smoke machines in my front room. the high-altitude probe scenes mostly use plane-window footage filmed from youtube and effected with fighter pilot helmet visor displays layered over the top. then i composited and layered the backgrounds together, put the greenscreen shots over the top and edited it. my friend jack latham soundtracked it super fast in a couple of days before i needed to exhibit it, going off early snapshots of the backgrounds and made this echoey sparse warm slowed down electro thing. the music is the best bit, we did a limited run of 50 cassettes and it loops round and round.

Do you feel your work is a reference to video art history, video synthesizers and analog editing or re-appropriating these nostalgic effects to do something new? Why do you utilize these things in your work?

i like all that stuff, especially the vasulkas, larry cuba, zbigniew rybczynski and douglas trumbull’s work, so i guess that was on my mind when i made it. and paul laffoley’s paintings. in a practical way, working with sometimes esoteric hardware is more fun than sitting in front of a computer the whole time (which i pretty much do anyway) and shooting on vhs was cheaper than getting hold of an hd camcorder, plus i wanted the skewed look and bled wavery colours that digital video doesn’t have. working a new film now though, this time in hd. it’s set in the desert.

Where does LUX LAZE come from?

i’m not sure what the title means, maybe it could be the characters names or something.

Why is it important for LUX LAZE and your other works to exist in their specified format? LUX LAZE gets a DVD/VHS release, others remain online on YouTube. Do you feel there’s an important distinction between format distribution and does it affect the viewers interpretation of the work?

i think if the thing has some sort of ‘purpose’ or kind of stand-alone idea behind it then i try to self-release it in some form, also because it’s satisfying to put together zines, videos and tapes and send them off to people. i stick other little things on youtube, flickr, vimeo, my blog etc and they have a different kind of ephemeral pretty much ignored life of their own which is fine.

What technology do you use to create your work?

after effects, final cut, photoshop, vtrs, title generators, odd bits of cheap old hardware…

Live Video Sketching

What is “video sketching?”

a week or two ago arran ridley and i used a couple of linked up sony xv-t33f machines (early 90s home-video-market drawing tablets with clip art, shapes and paint effects) to do some live video portraiture at a tv studio thing our friends had been putting on weekly in south london. it went badly and the tvs went down but it was still fun, sort of. we liked that using these machines elevated our çrappy drawing skills to a spectacle that people were actually forced want to watch…

I see you’ve created the promotional video for L_A_N Magazine’s fundraising. Have you collaborated with T3ETH before? Are their future plans in mind?

we talked about maybe doing a video for teeth sometime. i really like l_a_n magazine. the new issue has just got funding and will be out soon i think! it looks really good.

I understand you’ve done video projections for M.I.A. and other large scale projections for music festivals. Do you approach creating those pieces differently on account of their size?

its different because of the size and tight deadlines and having other people sometimes having strict control over what i’m doing but that’s kind of nice sometimes.

[Here is a video of Daniel Swan’s video projection into a fountain at Latitude Festival.]

[Video projections for M.I.A. at Coachella 2009]

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LUX LAZE is highly limited, as is all of Swan’s self-released material. I suggest picking up a copy. The deluxe package contains a VHS copy, a cassette tape containing the soundtrack, and a thematic zine of Swan’s drawings.

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