By Michael Pennywark
Photo courtesy of The Light Surgeons
Every four years, it seems, instead of peacefully being allowed to get over our collective Halloween hangover, someone decides to throw an election. OK, sure, we all know it’s coming and have plenty of time to prepare, but even a two-week drinking binge can’t drown out the barrage of promises, patriotism, and propaganda (trust me I’ve tried). Chances are even your favorite social media sites have been saturated with the suddenly opinionated blathering of your soon to be unfriended friends, not unlike how my liver was after shooting tequila every time someone mentioned Libya, taxes, or unemployment—which, by the way, I recommend next time restricting to the debate participants and not an entire bar full of people. Of course, once the mud has settled and the votes have been counted, the country will get right back to exactly how it was before and you can finally look forward to some light entertainment. No, I’m not talking about your favorite sitcom that got bumped for the nationally televised drinking games.
November 9–10 will see the US premiere of The Light Surgeons’ SuperEverything* at the Asia Society Texas Center—part of this year’s Houston Cinema Arts Festival. Best described as a live cinema performance, SuperEverything* is a kaleidoscopic multimedia experience that blends live electronic music with stunning documentary footage and motion graphics while exploring the relationship between identity, ritual, and place in Malaysia. SuperEverything* takes us through the cultural landscape of a country where the contemporary and traditional collide and examines how ritual connects identity and environment, the dynamics of race relations in a hyper-diverse population, and what it all means in the supercharged high-speed life found in mega-cities like Kuala Lumpur.
The performance will also mark the beginning of a residency with the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts that will revolve around an exploration of what has shaped Houston in many ways—energy. Known to many as the UK’s pre-eminent VJs, The Light Surgeons are based in London and were started by Christopher Thomas Allen who has brought together collaborators of like-minded media artists and musicians to create live performances, video production, and installations in a wide variety of projects. As Bree Edwards, Program Director for the Mitchell Center, explained to me, The Light Surgeons’ live cinema grew out of VJing to become its own self-standing art form that “stands at this intersection between architecture and art and music and film.”
Edwards pointed out that with SuperEverything* in particular, “They tend to use lots of different scrims and screens so they really build out the theater architecturally—you have lots of different layers and…projectors and so that adds multi-layers to the story.” The story itself is based on the footage they shot in Peninsular Malaysia and features a live musical score performed by contemporary Malaysian composer Ng Chor Guan.
When asked where the name for the production company came from, Allen explained, “The name came from an artist friend called Paul O’Connor who I originally began working with while I was studying at Portsmouth University. His dad use to tell him stories about these ‘spirit beings’ who would come and heal you while you slept called the ‘Light Surgeons.’ I was experimenting with various analog projections at the time and thought it was a good name for our creative collective. It initially really reflected our cut-up style of projected collage and 16mm and slide-based light shows. I like to think that we try to ‘make things better’ through our creative practice. Art should be about healing I think, but maybe I’m just a hippy!”
I think I know one candidate who might need some healing right about now.
SuperEverything* is co-presented with Asia Society Texas Center and the 2023 Houston Cinema Arts Festival.
Asia Society Texas Center
1370 Southmore Blvd
Tickets available at cinemartsociety.org