Prism. digital research based on my experiences as a laser operator in the early 1990’s at raves and dance events.

what might it be like to visit the past experience and to try to bring that experience to life now?

what problems and issues might this raise ?

what might i learn about myself, my practice and my environment?

the project has been gratefully supported by a grant from arts council england emergency response fund for individuals.



this part of my emergency funding was about considering grounding of myself relative to an unresolved aspect of my past practice.  at times the journey i’ve been on has been difficult and emotional.  i’ve had to hold a mirror up to my own ideas and be realistic about what i’ve seen and felt as a result.

as the time afforded by the funding comes to an end i’m keen to review and reflect about the work i’ve done along the way.



my biggest challenge has been to rotate my view of thought by 180 degrees.  hanging on to what i knew and believed – seeing how now it felt a little outdated and even cheesey, the process of rotation has been of a significant amount of personal hardship and upheaval – while continuing with the work as i said i would do.  at times i had to take time for myself.  reflect.  look around.  feel secure.



the journey i have been on has been possible because of the pandemic and because of the lockdown.  the work of the arts council to support individuals at this unprecendented time has been magnificant and i say a massive thank you to the organisation for doing what it did in those early months of the pandemic.



through the time afforded by the emergency funding i have discovered that the expressing of something very close to me from a past time has opened me up to discovery about my practice and the a realisation about how i had been working prior to the pandemic  taking hold of things.


where i am now is a starting point for more in depth consideration and research.  i do feel optimistic that the work i’ve done so far does set me up for something i wouldn’t have been able to do without the time to consider my future plans.

in amongst this all is an expression of something and as the research now continues or not – depending on financial and time constraints – i want to go deeper into what i’ve begun to see where it might take me.

on this page is a selecton of the videos created through the research.  i’m not really expecting them to be viewed, some are over an hour; however, they reside here as documentation to the journey i’ve been on, alongside the making of walking through the pandemic.

nearing the end of august it does feel like this seciton of formal researchis coming to an end.  i have enough to continue the research.  in the future i will keep an eye out for some further opportunities to share what i’m working on.

i feel there is also a collaboration waiting to happen.

i shall continue…


upon returning to the research for prism, i feel the need to make some notes for a possible essay to accompany this work sometime in the future.

it’s origins are from the early 1990’s.  a time where i was making things differently than i am now.  i lived in a totally different area of the country and my personal circumstances were somewhat different too.

this work spans the time between the alterations within my practice.

it encompasses my interest in antithesis.




in researching the work there is a realisation of how i consume the work of others – i listen to the mixes of djs and artists, responding to these.  might there be a case for researching recreating a soundtrack myself.  in doing so does this alter what this work is about.

what is this work about?

it’s about being in the moment.  being at one with the senses.  a time where distractions are minimised, where the idea going in is dominant and all encompassing.



how might the work respond to current concerns?  what concerns might these be?  is it better to do something than nothing ?  does the value of an effort be judged and valued by the perceived quality of what is presented?  have we become obsessed with technical perfection over engaging stimuli?

being as an holistic entity.  all senses in the moment.  i sense the antithesis of the classic prism image – all the rays going into the prism and becoming the single beam.  beam – the practice i had in the early 90’s involved a beam – a laser beam.

the spatial quality of the light was what made the output i drove be special.  now with a screen the 3d aspect is minimised and needs to be considered and somehow adapted.

in making – in attempting to make this work i am putting myself through many problematic areas.  let me consider what these might be.



time.  there are many problems over time.  it’s nearly 30 years since i did what i did.  now doing what i’m doing i am faced with issues related to age and what the area i worked in 30 years ago seems to be like now.

technology.  what is possible to do with devices and software now would have been unimaginable at time zero.  time zero being the thing i’ve just come up with to help place this work in time.

what about climate change?  at time zero i was unaware of the potential of climate change.  i was recycling glass as where i lived made glass recycling banks available.  in the road i lived on was a car park.  in the car park was a bottle bank.  we walked all the glass down to their banks.

control.  at time zero the hardware and software to control the beam was already in existence, i created patterns with this.  i was less critical then.  now i am choosing to attempt to make this work by programming something and adding a means of interfacing with it.

history and knowledge.  i have a knowledge through watching videos and my own history to try to manage as i create and make.


what’s this about.  at time zero it was about keeping a client and their customers happy.  now – i’m working this out.  at the time of funding it was a means of grounding myself.  going back into my history to a time when i felt most happy – in that moment of operating.  it’s about creating a focus, a happy focus.  interesting how the research so far has set up some difficult thoughts as i become harsh and critical about the things i’ve done.  in being harsh i’ve moved the research on so that the criticism wains.    one of these has been about the nature of the generated visual content.  the content now viewed as video – it’s on a screen afterall – is bounded by the cultural conventions of that space.  challenging these conventions is something that i’m working out.

why when i aim to make something beautiful and pure do i put myself through so many hoops and difficult thoughts?  in attempting the beautiful and pure – am i really setting myself up to fail ?  all m y thoughts and angsts really being about my denial of me failing.

but this project is about helping me to ground myself – to plan for the future.  on the surface it’ll look like a light show to a soundtrack – under this it’s a whole other storey.

what is this storey?

it’s the storey of an individual living their life doing what they think is best, trying to connect and stay happy and content.  taking advantages of opportunities that come their way.  living for the moment with no thought of consequences and repercussions.

i am aware these essay notes aren’t very academic.   and there’s the rub.  these essay notes are of and about me.  the essay potentially tops and tails the journey i’ve been making from time zero to now.  the pandemic has fluctuated that journey – what i was planning to do being curtained and altered.  at this time the work horizon is the bleakest it’s been for sometime.  through prism though there is a means of communicating that i’m still here and i’m still in the moment – as that moment slips, slides and adjusts to the ever evolving global virus state.




around the world life is continuing and despite covid-19 things still go on as they ever have been.

what i’m attempting to do is take something i did a s job at time zero and place it in a higher state of importance through the medium of art.  my actions now being more overt and visible.  it’s like some sort of cry from the quiet.



so am i making a performance piece here ?  maybe i am.

before i would not have been visible, i was not even named.  i was an unnamed invisible being who worked for the pleasure of others.  was i prostituting myself in any way ?  fortunately i was not.  i did put myself in danger though – a whole other storey, for another time.

what would i like to be able to do with prism?  visually interpret a soundtrack in real time.  why?  because this is something that in my past i have done before and it has created a good feeling of oneness in me.  at time zero the responses were simple and colourful, timed to be visually expressing what we were listening to was doing.  this is the starting place of prism and through research what it is now will be realised.  there are problems to work though and difficult connections to history and the climate.  all of these are forgotten about when in full flow of what prism becomes.

what is it about the soundtrack?  for the full effect to happen, the soundtrack has energy, it is dynamic and it is enjoyable to listen to.  there are little or no vocal components to it.

prism becomes about the visual interpretation of the audible energy.


if indeed this is a performance, then how might i share that?  my proposal was to stream the interpretation.  from the research i’ve done about streaming and licensing and copyright, i might have to record and upload to share the outcomes.  maybe when we can mix more we can have a gathering where the interpretation is watched in real time.

and what of the natural world verses what we as a species have made?  is there room here to challenge, question or critique?  maybe and maybe not.  in the moment of interpretation all that stuff disappears.  in the moment of interpretation is about what is heard, what is done and what is seen – to share what is felt.

there’s a thing.  at the heart of the interpretation is what i feel.


images from research session listening to amelie lens


with everything i’m doing within my little an often covid-19 strategy, the stopping to reflect part has of late been something i’ve let slip a little.

i am keeping daily notes for any potential report / evaluation needed by the arts council at the end of the project – these are great for also tracking the time spent so far.

so with an edit complete and newly uploaded to you tube ( see link at bottom ) i can stop for a few moments to reflect about prism.

it’s origins are within the rave culture of the early 90’s.  at the time i worked as part of the full time road crew for a hertfordshire laser company.  last time i looked it was still trading.  i take a moment to think of mark who sadly passed – he was the driving force and owner behind the company while i worked for it.

the senario at the time was after financial crash, all the money that had been in corporate communication had disappeared, so to survive the company adapted to servicing the needs of the emerging rave promotions company.  there’s a whole other story for another time.

stepping forward in time to after my graduation, the feeling i used to get while operating at a rave was something like nothing else i experienced and  so for many years hankered after some way of experiencing it again.   each time i attempted – i failed.  something was getting in the way.

evening of 23.3.20 and something lit up for me.


somehow graham had hit the zeitgeist on the nose and began to stream a weekly live mix.  i can’t fully remember everything that happened as a result of watching / listening – as a result i found myself again trying to answer the question of can i make something from what i have to realise the need to feel that in the moment connection.


i’ve written else where of how i needed to get help from the emergency fund – with a successful application has come time to grapple with my feelings towards up dating an old feeling.


it’s been frought with problems – technical and personal.


the personal ones relate to the feelings of is this just a little cheesey? –  what i’m trying to do.  in some way the struggle to create this work maps my own struggle from deciding to alter what i did to attempting to maintain what i do.

when i research the work i have multiple throught streams that are all requiring to be resolved and made good.

back in the day what was turn up, rig, operate, breakdown go home has become more intense and with more questions.  the thing is though that in those odd moments when what i see syncopates with what i hear – i get the feeling.  i want that feeling more and more and when i don’t experience it i become grumpy and self destroying – frustrated about wanting to do better.  (hello dsylexic self).

so i’m being open here and this is something that in researching this work i’m having to be more and more with myself as i challenge what i think i know about what it is i’m trying to create.

it’s more than simply recreating something from a long time ago.  i say that and the follow up sentence is still being worked out through the research.


in the research i’ve done so far i am beginning to see aspects of what i think it is i am wanting to create.

there is a very basic consideration that i am slowly working through.    in the original format what i saw on screen was output via a laser – the simple shapes being projected through space and made visible by the dust, smoke or water in the air.  i say water – longleat rave, outdoor, 20 watt argon projecting into the rain – i was told it looked spectacular!   i digress!

so yes what i looked at was different for the audience.  in this current form where it’s only the screen of the device we’re in front of – fundamental difference that i am at some point going to need to address.  is it more (in some way) working in the realm of digital visual culture?



what have i learnt so far ?

working alone with the occasional conversation and an informal weekly meeting point online has given some grounding that i wanted to find in making this work.  the emerging conversations with graham (dj behind th einclusion mixes) are really wonderful and if you’re reading this graham thank you for your comments and support of what i’m attempting to create.  i’ve enjoyed being part of the journey you’ve been on and i hope you’re rightly proud of what you’ve achieved through this series of mixes.

i’ve learnt of myself that at times i’m more happy to concentrate on how i solve a “how to control?” question rather than a “what might this look like?” question.  this is fundamental to the heart of my inner angst -about how i’ve moved position on why i’m doing what i do.  i suspect there are deeper corners of why i feel so uneasy – fortunately this evening is the monthly mens circle meeting and at it i might well speak more openly about this subject.

musical genre – i’m not sure where i resonate with this.  for now i listen to as much as i can and maybe i need to start to make notes about what it is i’m listening to and how it affects me and what i create.  the question is set – is this work dynamic enough to be able to cope with a wide dynamic range of music ?  the baseline is we’re in the sphere of edm.

i have been hung up on how to control the fx.  it’s something that is continuing to be researched.

last night i made a step forward.  in the edit below the step can be seen towards the end of the video.  it’s helped me to begin to answer the questions set by this work being screen based and how might it be scaled up and enjoyed by others.

researching this work has at times made me feel uncomfortable, as it asks of me questions i can’t immediately answer.  i sense in me a need to be relaxed with where in the process i am.  my memories of the laser based work include moments of raves that occurred after months of effects development and practice.  i am in effect trying to compare two very unlike physical entities.

and most importantly there’s the re-contextualisation of the act of pressing buttons to trigger fx in time to music.  i am aware that i am working to place that act into a different context with more importance placed upon it than was felt at the time.  it annoyed me greatly in the 90’s that i didn’t achieve more widespread acknowledgement for what i did – yes i felt i was that good.  now years later in an ever increasingly crowded world i am trying to set myself up for something – don’t know what that is and to be honest all the factors are against me – all the more reason to keep at the research to see where this might take me and those that in the future might view what i do.




so yes, oh yes –  here i am – funded by the arts council – thank you so much – to research the question what can i do to re-ground myself ?

in the post little and often #1 i discuss how i arrived at needing to make the application to the emergency fund.

in the days after my work had to stop i listened to a lot of music and this evoked memories of when i operated at raves.  despite all the hard slog involved, the time operating still to this day stands as some of my most happiest times.

now within the funded context i’m able to bring together the research done so far and start to dig into the intention of visualising in real time.

once this is happening to the level i’m happy with i’ll move to streaming those visualisations for others to experience.


today i’ve begun making the first iteration of a control surface.  i’m using the resources i have around the house – gaming buttons and cardboard boxes from the cabin outside.



working iteratively firstly in cardboard means it’s ok to be a bit down and dirty with the marking out and creation of the holes.  at this stage i’m working quickly to get to the point where i have 16 buttons available to recall 16 effects.  i have some ardunio to form the button interface.

the work i reference had two banks of 32 effects and these were held in a loadable file so if the effects got over used another set could be loaded.    it didn’t have the ability to easily modify the effects live.



the work is all about creating a visual energy that is in sync with that being generated by the music.  i’m looking to create an holistic experience.

oh yes, oh yes, … we continue …