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Cinematic electronic: Exploring the audio-visual practice of Charlie Visnic

American audio-visual artist Charlie Visnic explores the tools and techniques behind his unique take on cinematic soundscapes.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Nov 25, 2021

The broad landscapes of audio and video-based art have enormous creative potential, but it is through a tryst of the two that, often enough, truly unique and inimitable experiences emerge. This can certainly be said of Charlie Visnic, who is an audio-visual artist from Fullerton, California. Visnic went to art school, but dropped out after two years; considering the cost of education to be too high. The artist’s lack of formal completion has not held his creative drive back in the slightest however, and over the years he has created a broad body of fascinating audio-visual explorations.

04 mins watch A piece by Visnic, using scenes from ‘The Life Aquatic of Steve Zizou’ | Charlie Visnic| STIRworld
A piece by Visnic, using scenes from The Life Aquatic of Steve Zizou Video: Charlie Visnic

Visnic uses a modular synthesiser to make and break patterns in both, music and video clips, through exercising control over the voltage he passes. Discussing his creative journey, Visnic tells STIR, “My personal artistic practice has always been a sort of hobby for me. I have always had an interest in music and technology. I grew up with a friend who built his own electronic instruments and he was definitely inspiring to me. He sort-of introduced me to modular synthesisers. But I would say nothing has quite inspired me as much as the Monome company and their grid. Now, they have quite a few instruments to choose from, but when they first came out with the Monome grid I was hooked.” As Visnic explains, Monome’s philosophy placed versatility at its heart: they wanted artists to be able to pick and choose what they wanted to do, with instruments that functioned in much the same way as blank canvases. The artist continues, saying “So, the grid inspired me to dig into software such as Max/MSP.  I built my first and only app. It’s called 64Videofingers. It has gone through many iterations and I still develop it to this day, as my method of communicating to it has changed drastically over the years.” Visnic’s app is essentially a video sampler. It allows the artist to load in a series of video clips, and trigger them using MIDI notes. When played in tandem with the music he creates, which is often drawn from film material, the result is an experience that is at once jarring, and somehow quite contemplative.

20 mins watch The artist’s set for Flash Crash, a live-coding event | Charlie Visnic | STIRworld
The artist’s set for Flash Crash, a live-coding event Video: Charlie Visnic

The visuals and sounds within Visnic’s work harken back to happy evenings spent curled up in bed, watching films and discovering cinema, and yet, are something else entirely. There is a sort of strangely self-aware humour to engaging with his work, magnified by the prospect of finding oneself watching immediately recognisable film characters moving in an uncanny and choppy way, akin to some sort of dance routine. Where the artist breaks away from using immediately recognisable film scenes, he continues to maintain a strong motif of film culture with his craft. He will sometimes use scenes from opening or closing credits and sometimes material that feels as though one might have seen it before, yet falls just out of recognition.

14 mins watch Charlie Visnic’s Modulrworld | David Young | STIRworld
Charlie Visnic’s Modularworld Video: David Young

Visnic does not ground his artistic practice in the pursuit of any particular objective, and tells STIR, “I don’t think I have a particular message to my work. If there was any kind of message to my work it would be “why not?” I suppose I should address the fact that I use movies in my work. The obvious concept behind my art is seeing what you are hearing, and since movies are so familiar to everyone, a person can happen along one of my videos and recognise those familiar sounds and visuals being used but in a completely new way.” The artist mentions that he also finds discovering the music that a movie makes to be an immensely enjoyable part of his creative process. Shedding further light on his craft, he says, “I have been experimenting further and getting a little more curious about different methods of triggering the clips and making music in general. Various folks within the Monome community have been extremely helpful and inspired me to dig deeper into programming language. I am really not a coder. I have always had trouble with math and it takes me a little longer than most to get my head around a mathematical concept.” Visnic partly created and partly stumbled upon a particular creative environment while working with his synthesiser, and this has played a role of particular importance in his work off late. He found a system whereby he may load several clips with interesting audio cues into his app, 64Videofingers. He can now test these clips out by using varying amounts of voltage to trigger certain batches. After discovering which groups of clips work well together and which don’t, he will typically cull a selection of clips and appoint each one to a number on his controller. Once that’s done, Visnic can push a button and instantly create a random sequence of clips within a specific range. Sometimes, he will also use his rig to create musical accompaniment for his clips.

20 mins watch B-Roll, Live Modular Performance for the New York Modular Society | David Young | STIRworld
B-Roll, Live Modular Performance for the New York Modular Society Video: David Young

Visnic spends his days working in film marketing for big names such as Disney, Marvel and Netflix. It’s startling to think of the creative finesse the artist has developed within what essentially started out as a hobby. Explaining his work in greater depth, he tells STIR, “I mostly edit sizzles and behind the scenes type content”, and things make perfect sense. The artist has immersed himself within a world of film, and has let that world guide his hand. In the near future, it would undoubtedly be of great value to see how Visnic develops his technique further, as the potential it carries for expansion is truly great. For now, he is expanding on his first forays into live interaction with an audience. Discussing the prospect of holding an exhibition of sorts, he says, “the closest thing to exhibiting my work physically that I am currently doing is live performances. I have done a few of them, and during the COVID pandemic, live-streaming was a fun opportunity.” He explains that performing places pressure on him to refine his craft and finishes his interview with STIR saying that he looks forward to creating pieces that reflect a sense of journey and progression.

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