CYPRESS PARK, Calif. – At first glance, Digital Debris appears to be a shop full of vintage electronics and 16mm film canisters, but most things here are not for sale.
Instead, the items are available to rent. Managed by video artist Michael Allen, he opened his gallery to serve video artists looking for projectors, video mixers, and everything they might need to create an experience throwing light.
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“We’re trying to combine the old and new here in Digital Debris,” said Allen. “We don’t want to leave anything out. It seems like a lot of the time we get new media and we abandon the old stuff. There’s a lot of films and videotapes and there are a lot of people that are interested in them, but there’s not a lot of places to get it.”
Originally from Dallas, Allen moved to L.A. in 2001 to find work as a live visual artist and where he eventually opened his own gallery dedicated to new media. Starting his career in film, Allen has seen the evolution of media, all of which he uses as material to create his visual art.
“Nowadays, kids have grown up without ever having seen a 16mm projector so that whenever you show them a piece of film and you can see the little frames that make up a reel to reel film, it’s amazing to them because they can’t believe that would move, you know,” said Allen as he demonstrates with a strip of film flowing through his fingers.
Here, Allen mixes four channels of video all coming from different sources, including a slide projector, an iPad, and live video feeds. He has created visuals for bands like Tripping Daisy and events like Coachella and the Electric Daisy Carnival. However, visual artists are usually not credited on the bill, so Allen created his space for artists to get the recognition they deserve.
“We’re kind of trying to get exposure to different VJs because a lot of the time in our field, the visualist isn’t even on the flyer,” said Allen. “A lot of the time, the VJs are behind the scenes and we really want to promote the VJ here so that the people that do shows here are going to have their name on the flyer.”
Visualists may work behind-the-scenes, but at Digital Debris, they are front and center.