Jay Gilligan’s massive video library

Between the 26th of November 2019 and 7 January 2020, Jay Gilligan managed to upload 128 juggling videos of himself to his YouTube channel. They are not quite your average short Instagram snippets, these uploads are in total about 95 hours worth of video!

I highly recommend browsing through the series. Most of the videos are from Jays performances. Full length solo shows, some short acts, shoebox tour videos, and other collaborations. There are some video projects such as Club Passing: Tricks for the Kids and More Fun Than Visiting a Zoo- Volume 1 which I both highly recommend! And at last there are a bunch of research videos, such as the Manipulation Research Labaratory series (MRL), Juggling And Music (JAM) and more.

Jay also wrote his own summary with a bunch of recommendations of which videos to watch on facebook.

I quickly failed to keep up with all the videos coming to my subscription inbox, but have been skimming through most of them in the past 2 months. Whilst working on a new show I was lucky to have daily dinners with a juggler friend, and we watched a bunch of the hour long shows whilst eating. I was incredibly fascinated and emailed Jay some questions about his set, which he was kind enough to answer.

Daniel: You’ve created a rather large and impressive body of work! I suppose that in the process of uploading it all on YouTube you had a chance to review some of it yourself, how do you feel when you think about this part of your legacy?

Jay: To be honest, I’m really surprised at how well I think some of it holds up to the test of time- normally I hate to watch my material because I’m so critical. I used to have a rule that I had to perform something at least once before I watched a video of it… or if I did see it before it hit the stage for the first time I’d hate it so much that I’d never do it! I eventually got over that, and of course seeing videos of the work during creation really helps to edit things as needed.

I thought I’d be really embarrassed by all the early shows and maybe not want to put it out there publicly. But now there’s been enough distance and enough time that its really fun to see the evolution- many of the ideas I’m still working on today were already there back then in small ways. So there’s still a live connection to that old work, even today. I was also struck by how dramatic everything seemed back then, I was so invested in all those projects with all their preconceptions and intentions. I don’t regret it since it was part of the process to where I am today, but I can see in hindsight that I perhaps focused on the wrong thing sometimes in terms of context or presentation. Some of the ideas were not so bad, but I wasn’t aware enough of the true value of what was happening and got distracted by other things sometimes. Of course that is so easy to say now, with all these years behind me! At the time all these different conceits seemed so important… And many times during the uploading process I literally had no memory of ever doing certain things or being in those places. No joke, I would watch the exporting process and really struggle to figure out where or when the video was from sometimes. That was a strange sensation!

I was also surprised that some of the ideas in the videos were never developed further (by myself or anyone else). Some of the juggling in the videos still seems unique to me, or at the least rare. Certainly styles and trends come and go, but maybe with this longer view of time, the culture as a whole doesn’t always accumulate content. Maybe it rather encapsulates a certain quantity at any given time, and whole concepts get lost, even in this day and age? I would have thought that we are all juggling along, just creating a huge list of things which can be done with juggling. But maybe that list gets saturated and some things don’t stick around. I noticed this happening in the unicycling world recently but never considered it to be an issue in the juggling world until now. Unicycling is progressing in many directions, but lots of the old things are not included in the community currently and seem entirely new when introduced again. It does reinforce my feeling that the juggling community and culture is still very fragile, and each successive generation should never be taken for granted. There just are not that many jugglers in the world, even with the growth we’ve seen in certain geographical areas over the past few years.

D: What motivated you to put all of your work online?

J: I heard a story (not sure if it was true or not) that Michael Moschen’s basement flooded once- the water reached halfway up the walls of his basement. And lining the walls of his basement were stacks of videotapes of his juggling going all the way up to the ceiling. In theory he lost half of his documented work that day! Even if the story isn’t totally true, it still prompted me to want to have all of my videos digitized. And so I started converting VHS tapes to DVD’s back in 2004. Then in 2009 I turned those DVD’s into files on hard drives. It had been my intention at the time to put them online, but 10 years passed before I had the chance to make it happen!

I have been working in Las Vegas in Absinthe with the Water on Mars act. One week into the latest run I broke my left index finger and so I had some weeks off. In that time I could set up a little work station in my apartment. I got a second laptop and some extra hard drives and started converting the DVD images into files which YouTube could read. Then it was just continuously uploading movies day and night for one month.

I remember some of the videos having a context around them where we wanted to make them intentionally scarce or have some sort of monetary return back when we made them. Now enough time has passed that those ideas are irrelevant. And with all of the digital content coming out by the minute, these videos are certainly a mere curiosity now- everyone is overwhelmed everyday by more and more juggling videos from everywhere. So this archive is very much for myself as a reference resource. I made them public so that if anyone can get any good out of them, I’m very happy to have taken the time to get them up there.

A lot of the live show DVD’s came about because I was going through a phase where I really wished Michael Moschen would release every show he had done. It was also the era when pearl jam and the smashing pumpkins were making CD’s of every concert they played in an attempt to thwart the bootleggers who were illegally selling live recordings. I was fascinated by this concept of each live performance being somehow noteworthy. And I imagined which juggler I would love to see this type of progression from. Of course my favorite juggler is Michael Moschen and there really isn’t any other material of him out there except his PBS special. Since Michael would never do this idea, I thought to try it myself. Not that I thought my shows were so great or worthy of such a concept, but more that I couldn’t complain about someone else not doing it if I wasn’t even doing it myself. Therefore I released a bunch of my shows on DVD and have now put them online.

D: This library gives a glimpse of how much original work you have been creating, and how many successful collaborations you have done. Do you have any advice to jugglers or other artists who wish to achieve similar long-term productivity?

J: Yes! Its quite simple- go out and do things!!! So many people get stuck or find excuses and stop themselves from even trying. I remember talking to a graduate from CNAC once years ago. I asked what he was up to now that school was over. He said he wasn’t doing anything because he only got €20,000 of a €40,000 grant he had applied for. And that wasn’t enough money to make the project he wanted to so now he was lost and not doing anything. For that kind of money I could have made the entirety of my work in the 1990’s probably twice over!! Now one new show costs about that much to produce, but even then I don’t let money stop me. You just go out there and do it no matter what- if there is no money you find a way to get your idea across with no budget.

Also, the other secret to my output is that I never stopped being a juggler. I started off a juggler and I’m still a juggler today. I’m still interested in juggling, I still like juggling, I still watch juggling, and I still follow the juggling community. Even though I’m a professional artist, I’m still a hobbyist in my spare time. It seems silly to point out, but for me its a very important thing- to know that I am a juggler and that is what I do.

D: If there are people who are only a little bit familiar with your work, and they want to better understand where you are coming from, which video of this set would you recommend most?

J: There’s a few different types of videos most of the uploads fall into- maybe one of more relevant things to watch would be the club passing dvd which never got released (Club Passing: Tricks for the Kids) or the 6 ball duet DVD with Manu Laude (KUKA: Anatomy of an Act) which was also shelved at the time. These are more straight forward edits of trick after trick in the usual style of a juggling video. After that I finally managed to get MRL 1 & 2 online along with the first More Fun Than Visiting a Zoo with Wes. Those are also hopefully a resource for juggling technique or at least thought provoking or inspirational glimpses of what we were thinking back then. In regards to my performance work, I’d suggest starting with Shoebox Tour Iceland 2009 (SBTI09). Or then the American tour that year was also something I’m really proud of (SBTA09).

D: You’ve mentioned you have about 20TB(!) of digital videos and 500 undigitized VHS tapes which you would like to share, is there any way we the community can help you with that? What are we still missing out on?

J: The 20tb of digital video I have is from projects I’ve done since 2009 or roughly around there. So of course that’s all the newer stuff that I’m most excited about in my life right now! The VHS tapes are both my private juggling video collection from the 80’s, and also my personal videos from IJA and regional festivals, along with a ton of other shows which I didn’t get around to saving digitally in the first round of work. I’ll either finally get around to swimming through it all, or then just do raw uploads of unedited footage in case anyone would ever want to dig through it. I’m sure in the future that data storage, upload speeds, and AI algorithms will make it super easy to just zip through all the collected data. Type in “Anthony Gatto” and you’ll have every single second of footage I ever collected of him!

Click here for Jay’s youtube channel with all the videos

Daniel Simu

I am a juggler and circus performer from the Netherlands. I travel all over Europe to learn, create, discuss, perform and organise, and I am always looking for fun projects to join! Feel free to contact me about anything :)

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