(above) UnityGain: excerpt from Great Writers, Great Cities: Underground New York by Fred Barney Taylor (pictured: DJ Olive, Brian Moran riding the clicking oscillators on an EMS VCS3, live video mix by Benton C Bainbridge including a shot of Franklin Grippe spooling out a reel-to-reel tape)

UnityGain is an ongoing project of the hausofouch-nyc conceived by David Linton. From 1999-2002, Benton C Bainbridge was the resident visual performer and co-curator of UnityGain, inviting guest video artists to interconnect their systems to improvise multiple channel projections with electronic musicians.

“If TV is a zoo then … unitygain is the real wilderness”
by 99 hooker

If TV is a zoo, then the a/v collective Unity Gain is the real wilderness. Abstract, specific, loud, soft, fast, meditative — the process reveals and creates worlds within worlds within worlds. Art in the age of mechanical reproduction never had such liveliness. Here individual performers are woven into a gestalt of all things media (complete with advertising and branding). While they borrow some of the battling lingo of DJ culture (sound provider versus image maker) which of course goes back into jazz and the dozens, they really don’t square off. UG is most interestingly a group, or more accurately a kind of environment.

Unity Gain is a microcosm of the processing within which we are all subsumed. Fortunately, UG has more in mind than Ted Turner or Pepsi when they generate and manipulate material. Or maybe it is that they don’t have an agenda. Taking a cue from the granddaddy of media philosophy, Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message. The individual impulse is always mediated by the collective process; welcome to the feedback loop. Like the wired world of late capitalism in which product is merely a vehicle for the process of accelerating capital, the individual becomes a gesture, a trail, a trajectory. Emotions are fleeting. Meaning is questionable. Order is subjective. Its all process … One can see (and occasionally hear) an individual source and compare it to the master mix, but in general one experiences the totality of the processing (The visual presentation is fabulous. Although you can watch it on MNN on Friday nights, you need to see it live at least once) The process of producing audio and visual is thus revealed in precisely the way that TV conceals itself. The “product” which emerges is less an art object or editorial than a document of a particular moment from a particular vantage point. The overwhelming sense is that any instant could be generated in infinitely different ways. Of course that is not true. UG is not going to suddenly congeal into a perfect Britney Spears commercial.

If we must choose between location (product) and velocity (process), UG is the later. While TV doesn’t have much content either, UG doesn’t need to pretend it does. They aren’t selling us anything (except perhaps the status of hipdom). Is UG a radical form of consumerism where product never lasts long enough to form an identity to be sold? Don’t get me wrong. There is content. But it is overwhelmingly abstract. Benton C. Bainbridge appears to be the one artist bringing figures and thus bits of narrative meaning into the mix. His home movies and street scenes of course carry the greatest emotional charges and are the closest to traditional artistic product. Other narration is provided by mixing in a live camera of the performers. While all good Marxists must applaud this presentation of the means of production, the viewer never sees what is on the laptop screens. Associations between actions and results are at best implied. The turntabilists are naturally more transparent. UG needs to make the other elements of production equally clear or drop the documentary conceit.

Regardless of your philosophy, it is clear UG’s process undermines aesthetics’ traditional claims to totality. Neither viewer or performer can absorb the information, let alone locate oneself within the media flow. The rhythm of representation trumps statement. For all my intellectualizing, the UG experience is sensory, not cerebral. If Art has been a mastery of material, Unity Gain marks a middle ground between accident and control. Input is not mastered, nor does it devolve into chaos. The material is distorted but not defeated by the process. At the end of the day something does survive the thresher. For all the conspiracies theory about media, UG shows that simple feedback loops and networking can undermine the system’s drive toward totality. Wilderness will creep into the zoo like rats in the lion cage.

Not unlike life in an increasingly decentralized world, Unity Gain inspires a kind of environmental approach to community a la Sim City: put a process in place, open up as many channels as possible, balance the input and output, share the controls and an identity will emerge and evolve; an identity dependent upon individuals but nevertheless greater than the whole. For those of us who still believe that “group-think” is inherently mediocre, Unity Gain may just change our minds.

…………

disclaimer—-

UNITYGAIN is not:
a “show” in the usual theatrical sense of the word…
nor can it be strictly defined as a “concert” or “installation…”
it is certainly not a “band…” (digital or otherwise)
it is not even a fixed work of art authored or produced by any particular individual or fixed group of individuals…
( & the hausofouch is not a promotional organ but an idea about what can happen in lieu of one…)

reclaimer—-

UNITYGAIN is:
an ongoing live electronic media performance platform/environment inviting a diverse consensual group of sound and image makers to “plug in” to a unifying spacio-temporal technological matrix designed to promote balanced spontaneous synergistic interactivity among all constituent elements over time in co-relationship to a participating audience within shared social space amid “pooled” production resources. UG is, foremost, an idea in the direction of an ongoing social experiment among a shifting group of participating artists geared to test and explore new models for interacting in the face of other more prominent vastly unsatisfying commercial and institutional normalsies…

No two unitygain events are ever that much alike, although some aspects remain remarkably consistent over a broad range of variables in space, time, and participating individual artists…
we hope it stays that way…

……

On the monthly series at Galapagos Art Space, Brooklyn, NY in 2000:

{ STRUCTURE }
{ AUDIO COMPONENT}
{ VIDEO COMPONENT}

{ STRUCTURE }
Now in it’s 3rd year, hausofouch’s unity gain is an ongoing live electronic media event which promotes the interactive presentation of fresh new music and kinetic visual work by an ever shifting crew of many of nyc’s finest practicioners in the electronic genre. Once a month under the UG banner, a diverse ad hoc community of sound and video artists gets together in a relaxed supportive environment created in con-junction with galapagos artspace in the williamsburg section of brooklyn, to explore new convergences emerging in the realm of performative electronic interactivity. The resulting unique environment has attracted a growing return audience to call ug one of the “best parties in nyc”.

{ AUDIO COMPONENT}
Participating sound artists are asked to come prepared to present 2 separate solo pieces of 15 minutes duration as well as material to be used in 2 group improvisations that happen strategically over the course of the total 4 hour performance.
The solo sets are organized into a cyclic sequence, called the Live PA cycle, which is determined by lottery at the beginning of the evening and is re-peated twice over the course each event. Most of the participating audio artists work with customized individual sound systems -digital, midi, and/or analog- which allow them to reconfigure preformatted material to a live environment.
There are no pauses or announcements to interrupt flow, and so it is up to the artists themselves to negotiate the sonic transitions from one solo to the next during a brief “overlap” period, loosely modeled on the dj’s segue or the sonic equivalent of a “relay race”. (On any given evening many of these artists will find themselves alongside people they have known for years and worked with before, as well as experiencing new people and material for the first time.)

{ VIDEO COMPONENT }
Each of the two video artists’ real time mixing systems are configured to comprise half of a large scale projection diptych filling the entire back wall – about 30 ft wide. Additionally each has the ability to trade “signal feeds” back and forth so that aspects of one image may appear as a transform-able element available to be processed by the other. Audio from the PA artists is patched through to both video mixers as well to facilitate hardware based audio to video triggering to augment the biological soft-sync interactivity inherent in the improvisational method.

 

below: UnityGain at Galapagos 28JUL99

David Linton: musician, UnityGain designer/curator
Benton C Bainbridge: resident visual performer (1999-2002)
Anney Bonney: guest visual performer
Bill Etra: documenter

below: UnityGain sampler (2000)

A sampler of live electronic a/v peformances from UnityGain at Galapagos Artspace, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Conceived by and Produced by David Linton, with Co-Curation and Video System Design by Benton C Bainbridge. The monthly UnityGain Galapagos residency ran from 1999-2001. These visual performances marked the late hardware era – shortly after, laptop & software based visuals supplanted analog gear.

live video in order of appearance:
Benton C Bainbridge – resident visual performer, with:
Bill Etra
Janene Higgins
Nancy Meli Walker
Anney Bonney
Angie Eng

music in order of appearance:
Handheld Soundsystem (David Last)
Sporangia
[group jam] Ikue Mori
Urban Rhythm
Ylyptyk
Matthew Ostrowski
Criterion
Christina Wheeler
David Linton
Heimo Lattner & Dean Roberts
Ferris Wheel
Charles Cohen
Koosil-ja
Ylyptyk