Since being voted a Top 10 VJ Worldwide by DJ Mag, illustrator Shantell Martin has been taking her style of PPP (pen – paper – projector) in a continuous line around the world. But what’s a VJ some of you might be asking? Put simply, it’s the person in the club providing the visuals to the music.

More people are getting used to having visuals in the background at clubs and events, but Martin wants to bring them up and into the foreground. As she says, “I want to take the VJ out from behind the scenes and put them slap bang in the middle of the event . . . in the middle of the clubbers . . . in the middle of the action. I want to make work that is more and more interactive. I want the viewer – the party goer, the DJ’s, the bands – to have some kind of immediate influence or contribution to my live visuals.”

A new concept Martin has been working on – ‘Hidden Ora’ – is one way of doing this. Originally it was planned to be a one off project, “but I really enjoyed it and the audience loved it too, so it will live on.” So what is it? “Well, I ask a person to stand in front of a large projector screen for four minutes each, while I capture their moving Hidden Ora. To do this I connect my computer to the projector, open up the drawing software, plug in my Wacom tablet, paint the background black, and then I’m ready to go. For four minutes I draw what I feel from that person. I compose their Hidden Ora.”

The strong connection she forms between her work and the immediate environment instantly makes the audience a part of her work. Martin films and photographs the process sending all participants their Hidden Ora photo after. This gives those that participated something very personal, and individual, to keep from the experience.

But even if she isn’t expressing an audience member’s Hidden Ora, she’s always connecting with them in some other way. “If a friend walks into the venue I can write their name up on the big projector screens, if people are dancing in a club and swinging their arms around in the air I can draw lassoes around them, and if people start to interact with my drawings on the projector screen (following the pen line . . . trying to catch different shapes and characters) I can instantly play along with them.”

While it’s more common to see visuals for music now, it’s rarely the other way around. In the future, Martin wants music and visuals to be more spontaneous and free, synchronously working together. She’s forming a group right now – that when they play live – will have music and visuals feeding and pushing each other back and forth . . . forth and back . . . creating a unique atmosphere with a narrative kind of ping pong.

And to aspiring VJ’s out there who think it’s all about complicated software and expensive hardware, Martin offers this advice. “You only need to be visual. Artists, illustrators, poets . . . anybody who has a talent at creating visually and has a love for music can potentially do it, and are starting to. The doors are now wide open.”

Photographs courtesy of Shantell Martin. Her videos can be viewed here.

This is a post by David Report contributor Kristina Dryza.

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