What is Image Mixing?

Since the completion of the long filmic journey of Gambling, Gods and LSD, Peter Mettler has been using raw material from his films alongisde a virtually unlimited range of other found footage sources to create mixes of image and sound via live improvisation. For the last 12 years, Mettler has been involved in the development of a new performance mixing software with Greg Hermanovic of Derivative Inc., the creator of TouchDesigner. This state-of-the-art software enables a multitude of manipulations upon four channels of moving image and sound, spontaneously chosen from a large bank of sources. From this platform, Mettler produces surprising lyric constructions and associations, freeing images from their original contexts. 

Often accompanied by a live musician or DJ, Mettler develops a responsive, improvised musical/visual dialogue through an extended performance, creating a one-of-a-kind live cinema (and sometimes dance) experience for his audiences. A new form emerges for image/sound composition, one that exists in direct response to material running from a variety of digital and analog sources, spontaneously cutting and superimposing, creating a unique and one-time only event. Mettler developed this process in order to bring the normally extended and encumbered process of making a film closer to the processes of live theatre or music improvisation, where the conditions of the moment highly influence the presentation. 

Mettler’s performances have taken place in cinemas, festivals, dance environments, and non-traditional venues around the world, including Zürich, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Buenos Aires, and Toronto. His collaborators include a wide range of vocalists, dancers, and electronic musicians, such as Fred Frith, Martin Schuetz, Jacob Kirkegaard, Lucas Niggli, Evergreen Gamelan Ensemble, Murcof, Monolake, Sven Vath, Marc Weiser, Tom Kuo, Anne Bourne, Adam Marshall, Biosphere, Franz Treichler, Jeremy Narby, Sebastian Mullaert, Paul Frehner and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, John Oswald, and many more. His image mixing practice has also found its way back into his filmmaking, with sequences in The End Of Time and Becoming Animal utilizing this technique to develop novel cinematic forms for the expression of transcendent and contemplative states.

I have been making films for thirty years, and my work has always prompted the viewer to respond associatively. I like to mix like an alchemist, juxtaposing elements that you wouldn't expect to find together.

“My mixes are made by engaging in a process of responding to situations and people. Some decisions might come from a theoretical part of my memory, others from direct experiences or aesthetic biases, but most are simply reactions without a lot of time to consider. And many things just happen as a matter of course – by chance. That's what I like about it – its all happening too fast for the rational part of the brain to completely deal with.

“After recording and reviewing these live performances, I can start to see the imbedded narratives and surprising juxtapositions. There is a logic within, that is much different than what the rational structuring mind would have come up with. I find that exercising associative perception can give you a finer appreciation of the relationships between things. It re-contextualizes and provides new perspectives.

“Take anything out of its familiar framework and put it against something else, and you've freed it of its locked-in meaning, and freed yourself of your normal response. You break it open. When I perform for an audience that's watching rather than dancing, I get a lot of feedback, and the range of what people say is much more unpredictable than when I show a film. It's radically subjective. Some people say, ‘I saw this,’ had this experience, or read it this way, and tell me that it's great that I put that together. And I tell them, I didn't put that together – you put that together. I find that really exciting.” – Peter Mettler

Read an extensive interview on image mixing with Peter and Greg Hermanovic here.