NewCity Chicago : Street Smart Chicago - March 15, 2001
Raw Material (feature)

More Virus - recommended event

By Dave Chamberlain
Staff Writer

MTV is where I get my new music.

Not really, I've just been waiting to crib that phrase from Anal Cunt for so long, and I finally have the opportunity. In fact, I hate MTV. It is the wisdom tooth of the music world, and as soon as I was old enough to realize it -- say, eighth grade or so -- I turned it off and never went back.

Why? Above and beyond the fact that MTV rarely shows videos and one needs the expanded, extreme cable package to secure M2, the problem with MTV is its adherence -- despite its pay-television status -- to videos with no edge, artistic value or thought-provoking material whatsoever. But those videos are out there, and this weekend provides a great chance to see the genre smashed. Saturday (March 17) at the Charybdis Multi-Arts Complex, the Chicago Underground Film Festival hosts The Virus Has Been Spread, a retrospective of the video side of Digital Hardcore, which is essentially a crash course in the work of German director Philipp Virus. In addition to presenting a retrospective of the genre in video, Virus will be on hand to perform a DJ/VJ set.

A quick primer for those not in the know: Digital Hardcore is both a record label and a name for a DJ/sample based music, first founded around 1992 by Berlin quartet Alec Empire, Hanin Elias, Carl Crack and Nic Endo, the constituents of Atari Teenage Riot. Its inception followed the mainstreaming of techno/jungle/house clubs in Europe, which brought a racist element -- especially in Berlin, post re-unification -- to the clubs. Digital Hardcore is blistering, extreme music, denoted by its use of ultra-fast jungle breakbeats, samples from punk rock and death metal, exceedingly anarchistic/pro-revolution lyrics and unrelentingly painful volume. To most, it sounds like noise; to old people, it sounds like the end of civilization. But the spirit of Atari Teenage Riot, as well as other Digital Hardcorers Shizuo, Ec8or, Lolita Storm and DJ Mowgly, is the closest thing to politically charged punk rock out there. It was that way when it began, and remains so.

Back to Virus. Since Digital Hardcore's beginning, Virus has been making videos for the various acts, using cutting-edge technology hand in hand with cutting edge ideas about the concept of the video. You likely haven't seen these videos, as they've been banned from MTV thanks to sporadic bloodshed, drug use and blue language. But if you're down with digital technique, video presentation as art form or Digital Hardcore, you want to see these.

Highlights of the night are many, but it'll take a strong stomach, earplugs and perhaps even some Dramamine. Virus uses a high-speed collage style, often splitting the screen into symmetrical background of uncolorized, black-and-white or emphasized color splotches. Videos like "Destroy 2000 Years of Culture" are violent intersections of "The Decline of Western Civilization -- Part 1," "Run Lola Run" and a Phillip K. Dick story; filters of every color are used, to best effect in ragga chanter DJ Mowgly's "Cook"; occasionally stories are told, like in the anti-New World Order of "Revolution Action," in which a corporate automaton exclaims mid video, "Something's happening! Everybody is losing their face!"

For fans of the genre, the retrospective brings the previously unseen and unheard to the States, like Virus-filmed footage of Atari Teenage Riot's arrest after they played amidst a riot in Berlin two years ago. (Shortly after the arrest, Empire told me, "Some people told us that if we weren't there, the demonstrators might not have fought back. It was the police that attacked first. The demonstration was peaceful.") Also on tap is a video for the Empire solo track, "Alec Empire versus Elvis Presley," a warped collage of "Hound Dog" set to jungle breaks and featuring the video marriage of an Elvis impersonator and Empire -- which can be a bitch to find stateside. Virus' video for Lolita Storm's "Red Hot Riding Hood" is a sexually provocative, graphically violent pro-feminist statement, as is Elias' "Tie Me to the Wall."

In addition to the Digital Hardcore videos (Virus will be screening twenty-nine in all), two short films by Virus make their Chicago debut, "The Report" and "Virus Civilisation," the former of which has a beautiful, lushly dark soundtrack by Empire.

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