1UP by Sonny Assu: The VR Re-mix

As part of the 2016 Capture Photography Festival, Ligwilda’xw/Kwakwaka’wakw artist Sonny Assu was commissioned to create a new site-specific installation for the Surrey Art Gallery’s offsite programming venue UrbanScreen located on the west wall of Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre.

The result is the bold and delicious 1UP! You can read more in depth about the project here:


Sonny asked me to add some video elements to give the piece some subtle movement. That then evolved into the VR Media re-mix project before you now.

The original challenge with the original, projected work was to avoid interfering with the typically bold and purposeful formlines Sonny uses in his work. The choice was made to use specially shot clips of water, steam and so forth at 50% opacity in select portions of the piece where it would not detract from the form or palette or add any additional, unintended meaning.

Moving water elements in different light seemed to fit the bill. There’s the calm of an evening ocean, the churn of an ocean shipping lock’s flow, the abstract dappling of the moon on the sea at night and, finally, the rush of sea foam and its opening and closing forms (the only video portion that subtly evokes first nations formlines).

During the process of adding and subtracting various layers to see where video could be added, there seemed to be room for additional photographic images that were mirrored in a similar fashion to the dominant form.

I’ve often done series of images in mirrored form for no specific purpose. 1UP inspired me to revisit some of these series and to go and shoot some new material specifically for the re-mix. Sandstone formations, churned water, skies and trees were the main choices for subject material. After that; Photoshop!

Doing a re-mix seems well timed to coincide with the VAG’s “Mash Up” mega show which, in part, surveys the re-mix culture. So this is my “dub” version of 1UP! I inverted the original layer selection so that my photographs played with the palette of the now exposed layers of Sonny’s original art. If you watch it a few times, the images also begin to play *within* the form lines in myriad ways.They will briefly reveal additional faces and eyes. I thought any music would be a distraction so I used the sound of ocean water at half-speed to add some sonic texture.

– Mark Mushet