Jonathan Bernbaum? I had no idea who he was or what a VJ was when I saw his name plastered all over the news associated with the Oakland warehouse fire, but I know better now. Jonathan was the visual artist for Knife Party, Markus Schulz, and many more. He tragically lost his life in the Oakland warehouse party fire last weekend, where 36 others and counting have died after a dangerous artist-collective warehouse called “Ghost Ship” deemed not fit to live in caught on fire late Friday night. The warehouse in Oakland, California, less than an hour away from my hometown, was not up to code or regulations, and was only allowed to be a warehouse, however desperate artists who couldn’t afford to live elsewhere called that matchbox their home.
An Oakland resident who was an alum of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, 34 year old Jonathan was a talented filmmaker responsible for many of the breathtaking and immersive shows in many festivals and raves all over the world. He had recently returned from a world tour in Asia to his home in Oakland where he was scheduled to do visuals at the top floor of the labyrinthine warehouse. Little did he know that would be his last gig, however, he will not be forgotten. Through this incident, in addition to mourning the loss of a great artist, I have also realized the important of VJs, thus gaining appreciation for Jonathan and his contributions to the electronic dance music industry. Below are a few of his many works, although videos and photos cannot truly capture the full effects of his passion.
VJs are the behind the scenes at every event, rave, festival, concert, club, etc. They are the ones mixing the lights and video productions and creating that multi-sense immersive experience we all undergo when we attend these events that are not only about the music, but about the stimulating visuals that synchronize with the music. Companies such as V-squared labs, which Jonathan worked for previously, contract out professionals who specialize in making sure people get the full captivating experience.
So next time you attend these events, make sure to appreciate not only the DJ, but also the VJ behind the scenes ensuring that the already amazing music is enhanced further through enrapturing visuals. The visuals are intended to complement the music, not to replace or overwhelm them. These VJs are similar to DJs in the fact that they do “mixing” of their own, using databases of media such as imagery and video clips that they compile to create visuals that synchronize with the music in real-time, in sync with the DJ’s song/mix choices.
So rest in peace, Jonathan. You will never be forgotten, as you will live forever in the memories of the millions of people all over the world who have had the privilege of enjoying your talents.