ICAN AGOESDJAM: LIKE A DJ
By: Arimbi Tyastuti
Translated to English by: Tomas Soejakto
The digital art industry keeps progressing swiftly. Within this industry, various alternative professions emerge, offering ample creative works. One such profession is the Visual Jockey.
Colorful spectrums of light flashed from all around the stage. Music boomed with life and energy; compelling everyone present to nod and move with the rhythm. At the back of the stage, a large screen gleamed with shapes and texts that move, shift and transform in sync with that rhythm. This is the work of a Visual Jockey (VJ).
Ican Agoesdjam is one such artist in this dynamic profession. “The job of a VJ is just like a Disc Jockey (DJ), which is to mix and blend. But a VJ mixes and blends videos instead of audio,” described the man called Ican (pronounced ‘Ee-chan’).
For Ican, the attraction towards becoming a VJ began in 2006, thanks to the influence of a friend in the industry. Since he basically enjoyed creating videos, he then began learning more about the craft. “The first time I VJ-ed, I used two DVD players and a video mixer I borrowed; they had the worst delayed response though. I video-shot and used many kinds of objects to use with those equipment,” recalled Ican.
DOING WELL ABROAD
According to Ican, to be a VJ one needs to be knowledgable in the live performance of video art and video editing. When musicians and DJ’s produce albums, so do VJ’s. Their compiled works is called the video loop pack. A video loop pack usually contains around 20 video loops.
“Video loops are usually purchased by fellow VJ’s, along with multimedia and broadcasting companies. I sold my work through a VJ software and content distributor company from the Netherlands called Resolume.”
Within a year, Ican has produced five video loop packs, which sold well online in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, North America, Japan, Sweden, Italy, China, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Austria, Spain and many more. It is clear, Ican underlined, that the business opportunity of being a VJ is substantial.
“From a business standpoint, the profession is quite promising once you familiarized yourself with the industry. I still have a lot to learn in this respect myself. One of the tricks is to go public and just risk it. We’ll never know if we didn’t try, right?” he said.
Ican’s go-for-broke attitude is one of the key factors that got him through to Resolume while knowing with certainty that there are actually VJ’s, motion designers and 3D animators in Indonesia that are more skilled than him in the industry.
“Somehow, I’m the only Indonesian in the industry with something to show out there and every work I’ve done had been in the Top 12 Chart at one time or another. A few had even made it to the number one rank simply because they sold so well,” the artist stated.
In the home front in Indonesia, Ican has performed in events like the Embassy Playground 2008-2010, Trancemotion 2009, Java Soulnation 2010, Jakarta DJ Festival 2012, David Guetta Live in Jakarta 2012, Djakarta Warehouse Project 2011-2014 and many more.
Ican had also involved himself in theater performances, concerts with musicians like Glenn Fredly, Soul ID and J Flow, to name a few. He also directed and edited music videos for Sara Wijayanto feat. Mike’s, Dochi Sadega feat. NSG, Halfway Home and SoulBridge.
WHERE HIS IDEAS COME FROM
Many has commented that the unique aspect of his video loops lies in his generous use of bright colors like fuschia and cyan. “I also incorporate simple geometric shapes. Even so, I keep exploring other styles to avoid repetition,” stated Ican.
When it comes to ideas, Ican claimed that it could come out of anything. Motivations and inspirations could come from the people who supported him, and even from those who didn’t.
“They are the reason I stay motivated, and every video loop I’ve made is actually inspired by some sort of story about them... expressed somehow through shapes, colors or even the title of the work itself,” confessed Ican.
To be able to perform, Ican required equipments like a computer or laptop, VJ software, video mixer (when necessary), midi controller and so on.
“As a visual content producer, I usually started by sketching ideas. I imagined what it would look like, designed a few still images, after which I would animate them. Once the concept found its true form, it’s possible to just ‘wing it’ in a software to animate rightaway. Usually, ideas came simply by accident,” he explained.
After a work is completed and ready to be performed in an event, sometimes he’s still faced with problems. One such problem could come from unprepared clients.
“Whether its last-minute materials, complications with the venue, and even from the riders that we’ve provided for the client long before the event. Usually we just slap something together to cover for situations like those, but if it’s something fatal and we’re not supported by the client or the venue to cover for those situations, then we wash our hands clean of any mishap that might occur during the event. But alhamdulillah, I have a partner who’s extremely capable in tackling technical difficulties.”
DON’T JUST DO AS YOU’RE TOLD
According to Ican, Indonesia already has quite a number of artists working in a similar profession, but they just don’t make that much of an impact; not yet anyway. The fact that they’re usually working back stage doesn’t help either. Ican also mentioned that the level of appreciation from the government and from clients for the industry still leaves much to be desired.
“If you want to compare with how the industry is progressing abroad... VJ’s out there get a lot of attention because out there the visual arts is a valued commodity. On the flip-side here in Indonesia, even fellow video jockeys don’t appreciate each other as much as — and in the manner that— they should. This might have something to do with one still seeing the other as competition,” Ican said, laughing.
He underlined the vital importance of art in the practice of the craft. While accommodating clients’ needs, Ican often left his idealism locked up in the closet at home.
“When it comes to brands, sometimes we can no longer tell what sells. So more often than not, we just do what clients say. But even if it’s just a little, we really should contribute something for the project and not just do as we’re told every single time,” pointed Ican.
The situation is much different when he’s producing his own work. “You have to follow your heart,” he said. “Don’t concern yourself with the opinions of others or whether people will like your work. Don’t concern yourself with the financial aspect of it either.
“If you get something in return for it, well... alhamdulillah. And so far this is what I’ve been blessed with: creating art that pays something back,” concluded the VJ, smiling .
MAKE IT HAPPEN YOURSELF
The rise of creative economy programs in Indonesia, especially in music, film and online media has convinced Ican of the opportunities it could bring in expanding the merits of his profession.
“This is specifically true for me with online media. I’ve managed to build a worldwide connection from the simple act of sharing my video loops for free online. After that, a lot of them e-mailed me on a regular basis, simply exchanging news or even sending me photos of them using my work in their country,” Ican said.
One particular moment he’s proud of was when his work was exhibited in the Netherlands. Last year, his collaboration with Midnight Quickie’s Jaya Aydra was shown in Suntec, Singapore, a venue that allegedly has the largest LED (Light-Emitting Diode) equipment in the world.
“The visual creative industry is in very high demand right now because it is highly-entertaining. Just look at all those memes peppering the internet; or waves of viral videos that just get more and more creative. Even better proof: more and more people are uploading short films on YouTube,” he added.
The challenge of illegal downloads in the virtual world, he confessed, is getting harder to handle. There’s so much to be done to remedy the situation and it all comes back to the attitude and economic standpoint of every individual involved. Ican confessed that he used to be involved in illegal downloading. He came around when he realized how upset he would be if he became the victim of such acts of piracy.
“I buy songs from iTunes now and I also collect DVD’s of Indonesian films. Good work deserves appreciation and support,” Ican commented.
He finds that one of the issues with online shopping lies with credit cards. He witnesses that many of his friends —who are evidently doing better than he is financially— are still reluctant about having a credit card for fear of ‘letting themselves loose’. This, of course, contributes to difficulties in exploring online shopping.
Ican viewed that when it comes helping the creative economy programs grow, it’s better if we start making things happen ourselves. Don’t wait for the government to do something about it. This opinion is enforced by the bizarre reaction he felt when he found out for a fact that a certain arts community in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, acquired its funding from another country.
“Do what you can, and someday something will come along. Whether if it’s by a brand or another country altogether, what matters is to focus in doing what we love from the heart with persistence, discipline and honesty ,” concluded Ican, sharing his secrets to success.