Cliché as it may sound, the first time I attended a Little Cinema event, I didn’t know what I was in for—an unusual sensation for an arts writer who’s seen no shortage of immersive genre mash-up experiments.
What began as a screening of Luc Besson’s trippy film The Fifth Element at the House of Yes—the Bushwick mecca for hedonists and kooks—soon morphed into much more. The best way I can think to describe Little Cinema: It’s as if the movie glitched and spilled out from the screen into the third dimension to take over the place.
The genderly-slippery Ruby Rhod (played by Chris Tucker in the film) came to terrific, taunting life; an opera singer with tentacle-like cranial protrusions materialized on stage to perform a freaky aria; an elastic acrobat in a floating bubble perfectly complemented Besson’s trippy celestial visions.
Think cinema, theater, circus, performance art and music, macerated and mixed up in a big ol' blender: movies reinvented as exhilarating interactive performance.
Since next week’s secrecy-shrouded Little Cinema event is the last at the House of Yes for a little while, I invited the extremely well-connected Brooklyn audio-visual DJ CHNNLS, also known as Jay Rinsky, to say a little about his eccentric brainchild.
Jay, how was Little Cinema born? What was the inspiration behind it?
The inspiration came from a loneliness in a creative place. I wanted to collaborate with others and realized there aren’t that many audio-visual events that have a dialogue between a screen and a performer. I was aided by the birth of House Of Yes 3.0, which plugged me into an amazing community of creators and performers who dove right in, inspired by their love of these great films. We treated it as one big creative experiment and kept evolving from show to show, making it a point to always try out something new and different.
So, your video DJing is wild. Can you give us a sense of what you’re actually doing behind the decks at any given time?
Reading emails… ;)
Actually, I’m proper old-school DJing the whole show! Over the years I created a custom setup of different midi controllers linked to a traditional DJ setup that controls sound, video and lights from a single knob. Before each show I create anywhere between 15-30 different audio and video files that I assemble and mix together on the fly. I often loop different sections in the music and video to extend big moments when live performances are happening. I scratch the video like you’d scratch a record, and rely on real-time manipulation for a healthy dose of improv between myself and the performers.
What are your show highlights thus far?
So many! We’ve done almost 40 different shows in just two years… A recent highlight was having the opportunity to create a new score for The Man Who Fell to Earth with David Bowie’s musicians from his last album, Blackstar, in a very artistic performance at Brooklyn Museum for the Bowie Is exhibit. But overall, I’d say highlights for me have been unexpected moments of community with the crowd, like when we turned the House Of Yes audience into a poppy field during Wizard of Ozand performed amongst them; or when we had half the audience undress and mediate with us a during The Holy Mountain; also playing “Tarantino Death List Bingo” during Kill Bill—and probably more than anything bringing the whole room to emotional tears for our finale of The NeverEnding Story as we all made a new ending together.
I get a headache just contemplating a) your extensive Rolodex, and b) what must be involved in masterminding these crazy epic events. How do you do it?
I enable others to create together. It’s a powerful thing to wholeheartedly give somebody the trust to experiment and confidence to fail. The result is that performers feel empowered and truly enjoy themselves in the process, turning it into one of the funnest, most rewarding gigs for them.
Connecting all the dots is my biggest skill, learnt as a cut-and-paste DJ to piece together things that aren’t meant to co-exist. At the core of it, there's an emotional trajectory I like to take the audience through—often guided by the music.
The House of Yes season finale next week is shrouded in semi-secrecy… sort of?
We’re bringing back one of our most famous shows yet! It’s a secret… But a very obvious one. I’ll give half of it away. I’ve booked a 12-piece band to play Dark Side of the Moon live beginning to end… in a mind-blowing sync to...
Well, it’s a classic versus a classic. There will be a world of colorful surprises erupting around you as the band plays and the projector rolls.