Monday, June 1, 2009

The Swappiest Swap of Them All

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By Jacob Mustafa

Everyone can appreciate a little distortion, the need for chaos. Turmoil lends itself to the breeding ground for peculiarity that is the annual A/V Swap, Houston’s very own Exquisite Corpse. In a flurry of creation that leaves behind the usual anxiety of collaboration, the A/V Swap allows talented filmmakers, regardless of practice or method, to work with musicians who want to score their films-- albeit in a roundabout manner. Essentially, the swap fosters strangeness for whoever wants a little.

Participants prepare the content they want to submit, and after submissions are in, the A/V Swap Team assigns filmmakers and musicians the pieces they will place together. The process allows the anonymity and diversity of the artists to shine through the work, with Houston serving as the perfect backdrop for such a jumbled assortment of talent. Every day, Houstonians almost have to interact with who or whatever may be on the opposite end of one’s cultural spectrum, and while that may build tension, it also increases the chances for social empathy and weirdness (in other words, all-around awesomeness). In a city that seems to be perfectly at ease with the endless myriad of things that it is and represents, the A/V Swap remains a symbol of the kind of blind recognition that should be given to whoever makes great art.

In the Swap’s short history, the swath of Houston artists that have involved themselves in this exciting trade of divergent content shows exactly how fun the Swap has been. In its world, parachutes soar to the stabs of electronic music, while Pak’s Food Store acts as the backdrop for highly choreographed social interaction. The scores used in the A/V Swap span the larger part of the world, both musical and literal. Year after year, the Swap continue to facilitate amazing collaborations that would have never been given a thought otherwise, whether it be because of the appeal of a particular artist or total lack of similarity between filmmaker and musician. It may even act as an online dating service for a lonely artist looking for that special idea to help create and mold, and the A/V Swap has established itself as a staple of the Houston art culture because of that.

This year the swap invites submissions from all genres and subcultures in Buffalo, New York City, Austin and Houston. Whatever your idea is, if it can be filmed or recorded, it should probably already be submitted to the swap. Submission, contact and further information on the A/V Swap can be found at theavswap.com.

If you’re wandering this gigantic, grey stew of a city and wondering who the hell all of these people were, the A/V Swap would not be a bad place to start. Represented by a small group of people using their fantastically particular skills to do such different things, it’s a special event that weirdly yet accurately portrays the beautifully mixed bag Houston can be.

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