Aurora Halal is a video and music producer living in Brooklyn, who magically merges VHS aesthetics, New Age meditation tapes and found footage into her music videos and VJ performances. The result have a sensual, psychedelic collage aesthetic which is pretty much amazing. Not only that but Aurora, who has a dual degree in Art History & Computer Science, plays in the analog synthesizer band Innergaze with her videos having been shown at exhibitions in London, Portland, and New York. We had a chat with her to find out some more.
Electronic Beats: Please tell us about yourself and how you became involved in directing.
Aurora Halal: I’m from Washington, DC, and have lived in NYC for the last 5 years. Ive always been a very visual person. I went to Bard College to study art history and computer science, read a lot of theoretical stuff about quantum mechanics, critical theory, film & art history.. and some of the most influential parts of my education was watching all these great experimental films & video projected from original prints in the theatre there. I loved Stan Brakhage, Harry Smith, Dara Birnbaum and many others. It was a few years after I graduated that I discovered making videos on my own.
You started directing videos right after college?
I first got involved with video in 2008, when my friend Andrew Field Pickering of the group Beautiful Swimmers asked me to project some videos I liked at a huge birthday party he was throwing in the woods of Gettysberg, PA. I guess it was sort of like a rave but very intimate, and psychedelic.. The (Future Times) crew are all insane DJs, trading off the whole night, and getting to participate by doing visuals was thrilling, seeing the images bouncing off surfaces, people dancing entranced by the lights hitting their face & body.. for me catching glimpses of an intriguing sequence would add so much dimension to the experience. I brought Nam Jun Paik’s global groove, John Whitney, various italo music videos, and lots of early computer animations & whatever else I loved but hadn’t seen in that context. It sort of blew my mind to be honest!
Motivation is what gets you started.
Yes, from there I started editing videos together to make VJ mixes, adding effects and layering them, and began including home footage I shot on a DV cam. I taught myself Final Cut and sort of figured it out as I went along. In 2009 I made my first music video for one of Beautiful Swimmers’ first singles (‘O Yea’) which was made from video samples that I manipulated, fit to the rhythm of the song and layered in abstract ways. I eventually got a job as a video editor and continued to learn more about the craft. I shoot a lot of video and take a lot of pictures these days. Right now I am focused on creating images from scratch and avoiding the use of sampled media, though I’m not opposed to it and still love the conceptual/nostalgic feeling it produces. With each project I learn a little bit more about whats possible.
Are there bands you would love to collaborate with?
I prefer to make videos for my friends because they are what inspires me. Its important to me that the total aesthetic stay specific to the community that I’m a part of and evolve that vision together.
When shooting, how much is directed with editing in mind?
In general I’m driven by strong images, lighting, mood & atmosphere and not so much by plot, but I’m starting to script things out more. When I began shooting videos I would just go out with a rough idea of a scenario I had in mind, get lots of visually interesting shots, and leave the directing to the editing phase. The Friends video that I was commissioned to do recently had a very specific plot & lip syncing sequence which was scripted by the band, so for that one we definitely shot ‘scenes’. It actually made it so much fun to shoot that way. Also since it was shot on Super8 we had to know exactly what we wanted because there were only two takes for most shots! With more personal recent videos like Shadow Disco, I had a plot in mind, but the result is more loose and I’m happy that it is.
What camera do you normally use for your shootings?
It was a pleasure to use Super8 for my last video, and any analog medium in general. I like to use VHS or DV cameras because its more film-like and raw looking, the colors look great to me and it responds better to analog manipulation like with my mixers & colorizers. I also have a digital SLR (T3i) and am starting to use that more.
Which are the music videos you were most impressed by?
I love watching film & videos in general, the more experimental the better. I love sexy 70s videos like Lets All Chant by Michael Zager band. I love the freaky costumes and energy of Sun Ra & old school Parliament/Funkadelic, & the futuristic severity of Kraftwerk videos. Im obsessed with the casual, often hilarious DIY approach of underground boogie videos like 52nd Street – Cant Afford, or Midnight Express – Danger Zone. Iasos‘ old videos made with video synthesizers are an absolute revelation. I love Michel Gondry because he is so creative and very musical. Im inspired by the contemporary work of my friend Sabrina Ratte from Montreal. In terms of video art I love Stan Brakhage, of course John & James Whitney, Nam Jun Paik, and many others.
Do you have anything new in the works at the moment?
I have a new DVD coming out on Dark Entries thats a 45-min series of original videos I created for the music of Jeff & Jane Hudson, an amazing 80s band that have recently reunited for some shows. They are a big inspiration to me musically, so I was blown away when they asked me to make it. I created most of it with a new technique, so I cant wait to debut the vidoe. Theres also a music video coming soon for a new british band Standish/Carlyon, its sort of a ‘Genesis’ type track.. and theres many others in the works… and a milion unfinished ones that I hope make it to completion…