Pamela Z's Home Page | Pamela Z Press index | contact


ISSUE #110 • JUNE 28, 1993

Mac Performance Art


By David Morgenstern


The best thing at the Apple Expo West was Dream Encoding, a performance piece by a local San Francisco Bay Area artist, Pamela Z. Dream Encoding started with a conservatively dressed young woman giving a marketing demonstration of a new product, Art-O-Matic. "Why bother with practicing?" claimed the presenter. The product promised to bestow instant "art" to the user. "No matter how dull or uninteresting your iife has been, Art-O-Matic will bring an instant lifestyle change."

The demonstration featured a series of professional-looking packaged computer and video presentations on several large screen displays. Suddenly the displays were filled with a woman with wild dreadlocked hair, who peered about, and then disappeared. This apparition disturbed the demonstration and the poor marketing representative's composure. She kept trying to get things back on track, but this strange video character, who looked remarkably similar to the presenter, kept returning, interfering and finally taking over the demonstration. The displays went wild, changing colors, picturing natural scenes and strange effects. The presenter herself was transformed, suddenly singing opera and then merging with the video version of herself. Of course, the video personality and the marketing representative were one and the same person, the singer/ performance artist, Pamela Z.

The work, sponsored by Media Tree, a San Francisco video services company, and Zakros Interarts/New Music Theatre, a nonprofit art organization; was very complex in execution, and relied upon many different computer and video technologies. The performance was supported by-a crew running several live video cameras, video controllers, MIDI synthesizers, and Macintosh computers. The primary hardware for video display and control were from Fast Electronics, a German company. They have a new line of professional desktop video equipment - called the Video Machine.

Pamela was able to adjust some of the music and video effects through a BodySynth controller. The BodySynth, invented by local e- music guru, Ed Severinghaus, translates the wearer's movements into signals that can trigger and control MIDI devices. The device is becoming popular in the high-tech music community, and has been used in performances by Laurie Anderson and Peter Gabriel.

Some onlookers thought that Art-O-Matic was a real product, which flabbergasted Pamela Z. She thought it "totally bogus" when audience members inquired where and when Art-O-Matic would be available to the public. Other viewers maintained there were two different women (credit Pamela's acting ability, and that the nice saleswoman couldnŐt possibly be Pamela in a wig. The pain - and distress of Pamela's marketing persona were certainly familiar to me, after sitting through many years of real-life screw-ups in demonstrations at BMUG meetings.


Pamela Z's Home Page | Pamela Z Press index | contact