A lot has been posted on DJ Spooky so I’ll try not to be redundant. Something I didn’t know: “Birth of a Nation” was the first film played in the White House. Before the show Paul Miller (Spooky) expressed his desire for DJs to be respected as creators and full-blown composers instead of re-mixers of others work. DJs, he argued, should come out of the dark clubs and into art houses where their performances can be viewed as individual pieces, separate from the works being sampled.
For the first five minutes of the performance all three screens were filled with images of world flags which he rapidly mixed through fading and scrambling so that the original flag was remade under layers of other flags. The audience was inundated with these symbols to the point of overload, so that eventually the national flags became incomprehensible and dissociated. The two most prevalent flags (or at least the two which my American eye caught) were the American and Saudi Arabian (green with a white sword and lettering). I remember other Middle Eastern flags, but can’t distinguish them individually because they were so jumbled, a tactit that set me thinking about the influence of symbols and the fallacy of relying on them as a source of identity.
Other memorable images were white blueprints and Intel-esque circuitry overlaying early US images of slavery and government figures. These diagrams mixed over founding moments in US history led me to consider the significance of collective cultural memories like slavery and the subversive effect on modern politics. The circuit image was repeated throughout, which struck me as too overt the fourth or fifth time around. The piece was longish, especially after Lincoln was assassinated. Having never seen these films before I was unaware of how little Spooky was mixing the plot, it turns out he played Birth of a Nation almost linearly, which had I known at the time would have made the performance too predictable. Spooky is a talented artist and friendly to his audience, and I loved his heartfelt greeting and desire to please. He also put on a great dance set at the Works, where I had a blast and was impressed by his multi-faceted hands yet again.