Dhanya Pilo, also known as VJ Decoy, is a Mumbai-based filmmaker and visual jockey. Specializing in taking her audiences through visual journeys, VJ Decoy uses her backgrounds in filmmaking and photography to construct evocative audiovisual experiences. Constantly exploring relationships between live performance, visuals, and sound, VJ Decoy performs and collaborates with artists from around the world.
Describe your work in 1-2 sentences.
A visual jockey is one who is synthesizing visual experience using the arenas of spatial design, expanded cinema, interactive communication. So, I’m writing, drawing, collecting, sampling, interpolating, flashing, inverting, tearing, inking, smudging, boiling, observing, dropping, projecting, editing, carving,….
Who/what are your influences?
In creating VJ DECOY in the early days of my practice (2007), it was super fun to create this darker mysterious persona, also for the lack of an underground scene in India - those days. Also there was hardly anyone making original content and new DJs were exploring pseudo names. Video also in those days had a limited viewing space and I was also interested in creating/exploring expanded cinema - video out of the idiot box. VJ- ing, at the end of the day, is a live performance very similar to the basic workings of a DJ’s techniques. As far as content creating and producing are concerned, I am creating samples from my varied life experiences and the rhythms of city life.
My influences are sounds - ambient sounds, found sounds, heard sounds, played sounds, created sounds, sounds like music. Sounds of cities, nature and the visual rhythms of daily life - subject to so many changes… each of these bring in their own stories and rhythms to my visual palate. These cadences define the way I shoot or produce video clips which later become my video samples.
You are a visual jockey. Can you describe what a VJ is and what a VJ does?
A VJ could be an operator or a performer who uses visual data loops as samples that, in turn, become sequences. Now every loop has its own visual rhythms - which you control in a way to inspire or invoke a reaction. It's creating live, non-linear projections and having a visual conversation with an audience in real time - enhancing a listening experience.
I use my filmmaking and photographic skills to create images of India/cities/people that are evocative, personal and compelling. A lot of my real time mixing techniques are based on old school DJ tricks + video analog concepts. With a meticulous visual programming of the set, I blends moving art with technology to create a visual orchestra. While creating original video sequences spontaneously, I am not limited by a particular musical form and modulates to various electro acoustic performances. Bring it on!
"some kind of nature" - directed by Tejal Shah, edited by Dhanya Pilo
In your eyes, what is the relationship between visuals and audio?
Independently, you can visualize audio as well as hear the rhythms in moving images. But together they really have the capacity to move the audience, so it depends on the effect you want to create or experience and the medium you have for the same. Together they have the power to invoke, expand and even move mountains. In a live performance situation - live visual and live video have a complete experience. A non-isolated approach to mixing visuals and audio invokes a more powerful stimulation - it's essentially a medium.
How do you decide how to pair your sounds and visuals?
One leads the other like a relay - so, it depends on the music or space or the image. One of these takes the starting point and the other follows. Or if I’m working with a musician or a sound artist - then we discuss the key points and the context of our narrative.
For example: the 45 min piece I did with Srilankan artist DJ Sunara J (LK) + visual artist Dhanya Pilo aka DECOY (IND) - titled :SEA-ME-WE; Our collaboration is a discussion to understand where we stand. Technology has played a vital part in enabling us to find ways in which we are able to express ourselves creatively, allowing us to get on individual platforms. Both of us work with color, form & music - tech allows us to brew it all together at the defunct General Post office, Colombo. We borrowed the title,SEA-ME-WE, that is the optical submarine cable network that connects us on both sides of the Gulf of Mannar. So, here we work with sounds, images, archival footage, concepts, stamps, tools - all forms of tele communication media from inception to end - and created a new narrative to take you through those visual memories.
Does your surrounding environment influence your work? How so?
Completely influences and inspires me daily. How we live in it and exist in it expresses how to translate and react to it.
When performing live, would you say that your performances are affected by the space? Do you perform for certain spaces? If you do, how so?
Yes, I try to integrate the movement/rhythms of the visuals to the music and the space - so that it makes it more visually interactive and makes the space itself more dynamic. I take in the language of the space as a device to integrate my loops to excite and surprise the audience - and for me also as a performer that excites me: the spontaneity of working with different spaces to not just enhance your images, but recreate them singularly for a particular space and time.
What is important about a live performance as opposed to a recording? How do they differ in your work?
A recording will play out like a movie, a live performance will be different every time. If we are just playing a recording, I need not be on stage or even at the performance and it will not be moulded to different spaces. Its use would be typical -- why do so when you have the opportunity and tools to be multi dimensional? The live experience would be more effective by expanding the role of cinema from its standard uses.
Can you explain the concept behind your work, “Wasserkraft”? What are you trying to invoke?
'Wasserkraft" means water. Cio D’or is a Berlin based musician/sound artist. This was a collab between myself and Cio for Cio's album launch in Berlin. The video brings in a sense of calmness and nostalgia which is the essence of "water memory” and it works effectively with the music
Why do you create audiovisuals? In your mind, what can audiovisuals communicate?
AVs independently have a life of their own; a live set in fact can never be recreated, it will be different every single time and that is what makes it unique/magical. An image, especially a moving image, has the capacity to take the viewer to a completely different space and dimension.
What is your perception of gender in VJ culture?
Here, there are more men doing it than women for sure. They are getting more gigs than me, yes, but that's because of the difference in work ethic - they are more commercial and I am more artistic, but when there is a good gig with a budget, they do approach me for quality work. The way this network works is through friends and cliques. I don’t think there is a gender bias in Indian VJ'ing - it's too small, too nascent.
A lot of male VJs seem to objectify the female body in their visual representations. What is it like being a female VJ in a predominantly male-dominated practice?
Yes, it seems like they do. It seems as if the female form blends better with dance music; maybe they visualize that they are dancing with a girl or making a girl move to the music, …but it may be best to ask a male VJ regarding this. I'm curious to see some male VJs play similarly with the male form. What kind of meanings could evolve from there? :) I, too, use the female form often in my work - sometimes feminine, sometimes sensual, sometimes ethnographical, sometimes it's even self portraits….. but definitely they are extensions of what I see and feel and experience.
In India, it's quite special [being a female VJ in a predominantly male-dominated practice]. Although there are barely any female VJs, I do get a lot of respect from my peers for my work. So, I am quite privileged, and my work clearly stands out from the rest, but so much scope is left unexplored due to the small market. Being a geek is fun. Also, I'm not sure if there are any well known female VJs in the world that have got a strong visible standing - I wonder why? At the same time I’m keen to have more people with good VJ aesthetics in the scene - when I do get to party, I, too, can experience some stimulating visual experiences - but that rarely happens...disappointing.
To find out more about Dhanya Pilo aka DJ Vecoy, visit her site at http://www.dhanyapilo.com/decoy/