Intermedia artist blends motion and tech to make 'music for our time'

Intermedia artist blends motion and tech to make 'music for our time'

EUGENE, Ore. - Say what you will about technology and art, but there’s a growing movement towards leveraging modern technologies to change popular perceptions of artistic expression.

It’s not just a random guy with a laptop; it’s a dedicated group of programmers, designers, sound engineers and choreographers working together via technology.

Jon Bellona, an intermedia artist specializing in digital technologies, is promoting this movement right here in Eugene. He recently received his master’s in intermedia technology from the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance and is a member of Harmonic Laboratory, an art collective focusing on modern artistic expression through cross-medium collaboration.

“Many of the critiques on modern music stem from a lack of understanding — a fear of not knowing what the possibilities are,” said Bellona. “Part of what I’m trying to do in my work is create music for our time.”

And music is only one facet of Harmonic Laboratory: the collective incorporates a wide range of visual components from a variety of disciplines involving movement and digital projection. Working with these various media components has allowed Bellona to explore the endless possibilities that digital technologies offer to modern artists.

“While I primarily focus on music, I’m fascinated by working in the visual side of things,” he said. “I’m really interested in how music can inform the visual medium, and how the visual medium can really inform the aural landscape.”

And his work is a testament to that fascination.

Bellona routinely performs his music using an Xbox Kinect, a device designed to control specific video games by tracking the movements of a player’s body.

For his performance, Bellona repurposed the device to trigger different elements of his musical composition with specific body movements and positions.

“I am very interested in the many kinds of work Jon does — fixed media as well as interactive media,” said Brad Garner, Harmonic Laboratory co-founder and choreographer and assistant professor in the University of Oregon Department of Dance. “If you ever see Jon perform his own work, what stands out is his full-bodied involvement — he's dancing, so the draw for me is organic.”

“Jon is a genius — a full renaissance man,” Garner said.

Nathan Asman first met Jon Bellona three years ago at the start of their master’s program at the University of Oregon. They’ve been good friends and colleagues ever since, working together and assisting each other in a variety of projects.

“Jon’s art is wonderfully unique; he is always striving to create new, creative and interesting pieces of art,” said Asman. “He is never happy just staying static and working with what people have already done; he always wants to create something completely new and creative and outside the box.”

And Bellona wants to apply that progressive outlook on technology and artistic expression beyond his personal work. “One of my goals is to explore the performance aspects of electronic music,” he said.

Throughout his education, he has always aspired to this goal. His performances are captivating, visually engaging and hint at the future of music production and presentation.

“I’m really interested in re-appropriating devices - I consider it a lifelong passion,” he said. “I think what makes me unique is creating a larger context, or repertoire, so to speak, for data-driven instruments, that could potentially be re-hashed or re-used to help other composers in their projects.”

Jon Bellona has been admitted as a Ph.D candidate at the University of Virginia. At the end of the year he will be leaving for Charlottesville, where he hopes to prepare for a career in music production. He will carry the innovative, forward-thinking philosophies he’s developed in Eugene to a new community of artists and thinkers.

The JAM Workshop — Journalism Arts Multimedia — is a brand new class taught at the University of Oregon’s School Of Journalism and Communication. Conceived by Prof. Tom Wheeler, the JAM Workshop brings together student writers, photographers and videographers to profile local artists — musicians, painters, dancers, sculptors, art photographers, and more.

Watch for Oregon JAM features at 7:30 p.m. PDT weeknights in July on KVAL.com