There’s an incredibly productive group of artists doing an impressive array of things around this city, and chances are you haven’t heard of them yet. But if you consider yourself either a patron of the arts scene in Vancouver or a part of it yourself, I’d be willing to bet that you’ve encountered their work in some way, shape, or form over the last few months; this group seems to be everywhere. They call themselves Gold Saucer, and I recently sat down with some of the members at their new location in the Dominion Building at Hastings and Cambie to talk about what they do.
So just what is Gold Saucer? I suppose you could call them a collective of sorts, but rather than working as a unified whole, they instead collaborate with each other according to the technical needs of their various projects. The majority of their individual projects are actually collaborations with people outside of the core tenants. The breadth of their collective talents is truly impressive, and when combined with the technical expertise of the entire membership, these artists are able to provide support to each other and the community in a wide range of creative endeavours. This group is capable of a lot.
Sepehr Samimi, a filmmaker responsible for the acclaimed short films, Grey and Turquoise and currently working in new media and narrative films at the moment, explains the cooperative and versatile nature of the group. “What we do is very interdisciplinary, so in a way it doesn’t matter what medium a person is using. None of us are really confined to our own media. With the nature of the technical stuff that we do, you often end up delivering things for other people’s visions — almost like we’ve adapted to become people who are considerate of the person’s visions as intended. We are adding to those creative visions.”
Remy Siu — in addition to being a highly productive composer whose work has been performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Victoria Symphony among many other organizations, also works in new media. He expands on Samimi’s point. “Working in music, and working in new media production, it’s a very modular role in that we can work in theatre, we can work in dance, we can work in music, we can work in film, we can work in pretty much most media in the performing arts. We’re very lucky that way, that we can do that.” And indeed, that’s just what they do. Collectively they have worked in all of these areas and more.
An interesting collaboration recently occurred between members Paul Paroczai and Terence Grigoruk for a project called “Ghost in the Machine.” Paroczai is a composer, an electroacoustic instrument creator and an installation artist, and recently acted in and provided technical support for Barbara Adler’s musical Klasika. Grigoruk, whose skills include dramaturgy, video, tech design and operation, has applied his skills in theatre productions such as “We’ll Need a Piece of Cake Before We Die” and in numerous art installations. (Are you starting to get a sense for how accomplished these people are?) With “Ghost in the Machine” they collaborated alongside Martin Gotfrit (their professor while at the SFU School for Contemporary Arts) for a motion tracking dance software (GiTM) that writes music based on how dancers move their bodies. “It’s basically a generative music system that composes its own piece, and we basically developed an interface for that that feeds it with data from dancer motions,” explains Grigoruk. “So it’s a combination of a motion control system, but it’s also a generative music system.” Paroczai and Grigoruk have both explored this concept further, and have put on similar performances in the Gold Saucer space.
Kiran Bhumber, a classically trained clarinetist, composer and a programmer, also worked recently on a movement tracking device called Pendula. Pendula is an installation in which motion sensors are installed onto a swing set that then responds to any physical interaction with sonic outputs. “It becomes a sort of amalgamation of movement within technology and seeing how that affects individuals in the space and how the user becomes part of the artwork, or the output of the artwork.” It seems that a motion tracking theme of sorts could be said to be emerging from this innovative group.
Of course, a group that is innovative by nature will always be improving themselves. Gold Saucer has a found new space for itself, and it’s a definite upgrade. The space serves the same basic functions as the previous one — a place to work, to showcase performances, and a space that other artists can utilize for various projects. The group is excited about this new space because it’s quieter, more central and best of all, more soundproof. This is a shared space in which they can work, learn, and grow together as artists.
Milton Lim — a theatre director, performer and co-artistic director of Hong Kong Exile Arts Association — has also done some projection design and seeks to expand his technical skills simply by being in close proximity to the others in the group. “These guys have so much knowledge and the presence of Gold Saucer has really kept me going. I have resources readily available if I ever need them.” Not only do they teach one another, but the group also offers its collective and formidable skillsets to whomever they work with to enrich the process. Paroczai explains, “I feel like making people aware of what they could be doing with technology is a big part of what we do. A big part of this space is conceived on the basis of enabling — in making something available to people that maybe they didn’t know of before.”
And the name? True to their digital focus, the name Gold Saucer comes from Final Fantasy VII. It’s a separate space within the video game where the avatar can go to gamble and play various mini games. “It feeds into what we’re saying about multiple functions,” says Grigoruk. “It’s a place where you go to have fun and indulge, and that’s what Gold Saucer is about.” The members of Gold Saucer have all been inspired by video games at one point or another in their lives, and given their accomplished technical skills it seems fitting to have the inspiration for their name come from a digital source. “It’s a nerdy indulgence,” laughs Siu. “We gave the space a name so we could stop referring to it as ‘The Space.’”
Gold Saucer is a collection of highly productive, multi-disciplinary artists doing innovative work around the city. It is inevitable that they would attract attention. In addition to Samimi, Siu, Paroczai, Grigoruk, Lim and Bhumber, Gold Saucer is also home to artist Alex Mah and choreographer Mahaila Patterson O’Brien, for a total of eight members. They’re a relatively new group and they’re well poised to grow in both breadth and reach. For anyone with an eye on the local arts scene, these guys are ones to watch.
While there is no Gold Saucer website, each artist is currently working on projects. Paroczai, Grigoruk and Bhumber recently participated in the Third Annual Electroacoustic Festival at Western Front November 20-21. In the near future, Mah is involved in the EDAM Residency’s First Showing December 11, location TBC. “Saudade: Rise and Fall” at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts December 17 and 19 features media by Sui, and a mesmerizing trailer by Samimi. Patterson O’Brien is premiering a performance with the Warehaus Dance Collecting at the Roundhouse Theatre January 17. Paroczai is assisting on a new work of imaginary theatre presented by The Party January 29-30 at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.