Video Jam Profile: Seeing things

Polly Checkland Harding
Photo of a silver painted woman performing in front of the image of a moon

Video Jam pair live music with short films – with very unexpected results.

Truth: horror movies are so much tamer on mute. Sound is used as cue for reactions, a way of telling the viewer that the scene, whether it appears threatening or not, is about to turn on them. Take the brilliantly twisted family film We Need to Talk about Kevin. Using a contrapuntal soundtrack – that lovely, contrary-sounding film technique where a scene is matched to music emotionally dissonant with it – director Lynne Ramsey makes otherwise harmless-looking children in Halloween costumes appear truly sinister. Sound is used as a way of altering our perception, and expectations, of what we’re seeing. It’s rare, then, that such a powerful tool passes beyond the control of a film’s creator.

Sound is used as a way of altering our perception, and expectations

Step forward film curators, sound makers and event producers, Video Jam. By pairing filmmakers with sound artists in “blind collaborations”, Video Jam explores the relationship between sound and moving image. “Our aim is not to discover a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ soundtrack for a film,” explains Video Jam’s, Sarah Hill, “or even to think of things in terms of ‘successful’, but to dismantle all the conventions audiences have become accustomed to.” Their approach has produced startling results: at an event at Manchester Art Gallery, in response to Jeremy Deller’s recent exhibition there, you would have seen eccentric boy/girl due Bernard + Edith play live to Dream Machine, Sarah Hill’s own short documentary on electronic composer Delia Derbyshire. “Our interest in combining film and sound is to explore the experience as a live, unique event; something beyond cinema with a synced soundtrack, and beyond a gig, but retaining the thought-provoking intensity and electric atmosphere of both,” says Hill.

Past events, including a residency in Ibiza, their own stage at Salford’s Sounds From the Other City and a performance at Islington Mill as part of Fat Out Fest, have drawn in impressive audiences. And now, Video Jam are returning to Manchester Art Gallery as part of the free Thursday Lates series: the evening will be in response to artist Ryan Gander’s Make every show like it’s your last. In preparation, the Video Jam team have narrowed down their submissions to a wishlist of films and musical acts, and will shortly spend a day matching them up. Musicians such as Denis Jones, The Hipshakes, Rainer Veil and the Liverpool-based a.P.A.t.T Orchestra perform live to films from Louise Adkins, Adam Scovell, Nick Barnes and more. The results will be playful, unpredictable and provocative, much like Gander’s own work.

With their first ever national tour in the pipe line, taking in Leeds, London, Manchester and Liverpool this November, Video Jam seem to be on the up. They continue to question received connections between video and sound in a way that celebrates “chance encounters, happy accidents and improvisation,” says Hill. Head to one of their events and, like the shock moment in a movie, they just might surprise you.

Culture Guides

Cinema

Indian independent cinema, shadowy film noir, cult queer classics and trip under the sea. Film fans are spoilt for choice this month.

Exhibitions in Manchester and across the North

Exhibitions

Like the 58th Venice Biennale which opened earlier this May, our latest pick of exhibitions across the north also has a strong ecological bent.

RNCM Young Explorers event. DJ Switch is shown by turntables in front of an orchestra. Included in family things to do guide.

Families

Avoid the post summer holiday blues with our latest top picks of family things to do. Enjoy some quality family time together this autumn.

Artist Dan Berry and writer David Gaffney.

Literature

The books are back in September with one-off reading events, some much-anticipated launches and the return of the Northern Lights Writers’ Conference as we gear up for Manchester Literature Festival in October.

Music

Manchester’s Autumn months are always chock-a-block with great gigs, and this year is no exception.

Theatre in Manchester

Theatre

The English National Ballet, Emma Rice’s Wise Children, Liverpool’s LEAP Dance Festival and much more feature in our new theatre guide.

Food and Drink in Manchester and the North

Discover the best food and drink that the North has to offer in our expert guide to food and drink in Manchester and beyond.

Tours and Activities

Tours and Activities

Explore the mindful tours and activities Manchester has to offer in this month’s Tours and Activities guide.

Things to do right now

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Cinema 15–18 September 2019, from £5.50

MIF19: Sunset Boulevard at HOME

Visual Arts 20 September 2018–19 September 2019, FREE

Manchester Art Gallery Highlights Tour

Red Dust Road at HOME
Literature 11–21 September 2019, from £10.00

Red Dust Road at HOME

A Taste of Honey at The Lowry
Theatre 13–21 September 2019, from £12.50

A Taste of Honey at The Lowry

Cinema 13–22 September 2019, from £9

The Shock of the Future at HOME

MIF19 David Lynch at HOME Manchester International Festival
Cinema 6 July–29 September 2019, FREE

MIF19: David Lynch at HOME

Exhibitions 6 April–29 September 2019, Quarry Bank admission prices apply (free for National Trust members)

Rights of the Child at Quarry Bank