Heather Rappard's video pieces are like looking through psychedelic goggles, they swirl and glide, take dark turns and make you want to adjust your visual tracking. This love of video carries over to her OBEY Convention offering---under the name Chromatic Visions, Rappard curated a visual mixtape, full of analog warmth, sleek digital, local artists and musicians.
"It's a kind of throwback to old VHS' that you could buy that would have like all the videos by a particular artist or ones from a particular label. The show features the work of 14 different artists who have created work that is based around music."
But these aren't typical music videos, chock-a-block full of slick production, toned dancers and multiple cameras. "The work challenges the traditional idea of a music video, and is a really interesting mix of work some is artistic music videos and some of it is more like short experimental films scored by music." Working with artists like Jacqueline Lachance, Aviv Dror, Lisa Folkerson, Stacey Ho, Hannah Guinan, Brian Dodge and Jenny Gillespie, Robert Drisdelle and Paul Hammond, Rappard explains the project as "short experimental films scored by music. Some of the artists collaborated with musicians to create the videos and other artists are musicians themselves and worked with their own songs/music they composed themselves."
Rappard got her start in video at NSCAD, where she was finishing a fashion degree. Her enrollment in a video class kicked off a true love. "I found it incredibly challenging at first, but fell completely in love with it," Rappard says. "In video I found a way to combine all of the interests I had---photography, fashion, sound, technology---and the freedom to experiment with all kinds of different processes."
If you are a fan of the Canadian garage/psych/punk/other scene, you are likely already familiar with Rappard's work. She's made videos for Transfixed, The Ether, Chief Thundercloud, Hey Mother Death, Bad Vibrations, Chevalier Avant Garde, Munroeville Music Center, Each Other and collaborated on a video for Micro Organs (with upcoming projects with Hey Mother Death and U.S. Girls) drawing from her intense relationship with the music that inspires her.
"Working with musicians interests me because it creates new challenges for me. Every song is different and demands a different look, giving me the chance to experiment with many different types of techniques," says Rappard. "I start by listening to the song over and over thinking about what a song would look like. Often I'll ask the band what they think the song looks like even in an abstract way, like, 'what colours do you see the song as?', or I'll ask them to tell me some abstract terms that they think relate to the song---looking at the music in a kind of synesthetic way. I dissect the song in the same way you might analyze an abstract painting."
A particularly labour-intensive piece was her work with Each Other on the "Traces To Nowhere" video.
"The actual idea came from looking at a book about Amish quilts that showed how you could make hundreds of designs by using only, like, five shapes, which I thought was sort of like music in a way," says Rappard. "I created the video by cutting out shapes that would represent each instrument, the bass line is triangles, the guitar is rectangles and circles were the drums. I cut hundreds of shapes from books, scanned them, then placed them in layers in the video to match up with the song. Using images from books gave a more analog look, but editing it together digitally gave it the clean esthetic I felt the music needed."
The end result is charming and clever. The cheeky shapes peek, flutter and cascade on the screen, a perfect complement to Each Other's wry and beautiful music. "I find sound and video work really well together. I've always found sound to be an incredibly evocative in creating the emotion of a video," says Rappard. "I think that's why (the videos) often have a dreamy surreal quality. It's my own vision of an abstract concept so that's probably why it's pretty out there."
Chromatic Visions Visual Mixtape curated by Heather Rappard and guests (and Periodical Project Launch Party), Thursday, May 31 at the Khyber, 1588 Barrington Street, 7:30pm, Free