Posts Tagged ‘photopia’
DIY video reaches new heights: space footage recorded and retrieved with a camcorder, a iPhone and GPS equipment encassed in foam by kid and his dad
I think I’ve never identified so strongly with technology as when that tiny dinky camera contraption reached space, had the balloon burst in its face and started falling back to earth. I am reminded of the part in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when, through the mechanism of the “improbability drive”, a whale suddenly materializes above a planet and then goes through an inner monologue of existential questions as he plummets to the surface. In this case, however, the brave little device survived, bearing the 1rst person view/memory if not the consciousness of an unimaginable experience.
Singer’s documentary Dark Days about the homeless men and women living in an abandoned section of the New York subway in the 90s has the stark, stunning beauty of flashlights and engulfing shadows passing over shards of human life, sheds, garbage and rats, tagged walls, camping stoves and personalities defined by grit, humor, horror and a trace of romanticism.
Shot single-handedly by Singer, who lived for two years with his subjects – who also by default constituted the film’s crew – Dark Days is a document of life in black in white, where the bleakness and harshness of this world of shadows can also take on the stillness and possibility of a womb, a thread of existence shot through with pain but also with unknowns, flickering like the trains that repeatedly interrupt the film.
shots from a playtest of my installation, Almost Everything Can And Shall Be Cut – a next iteration will involve layering the plastic sheeting to produce stereoscopic effects when the second channel video is projected. For the first video displayed on the monitor, I’m thinking of setting up the plastic tent in a stairwell.
A Photo Comic of my installation film: production stills from the shoot of Everything Can and Shall Be Cut
Some stills from the shoot of one of the videos for my new installation “Almost Everything Can and Shall Be Cut”
1. a balloon animal in a helpless position
2. the balloon animal in distress
3. a wig is powerless to keep the scissors at bay
4. the fate of the wig: stuffed in a blender
5. wig, ravaged , posing with its instrument of death
6. the slow decomposition of jello
7. the ice-cubes are handpicked for oblivion
8. a cube of polystyrene foam is tortured with a needle
9. green goo oozes from polystyrene’s wounds
10. a steak is posthumously fed with intraveinous liquid
11. a circuit board fears for its transistors
12. circuit board yields its last colorful breath
13. a pillow besides its own stuffing
14. exposing pillow’s inner flesh
15. the pink heart of pillow’s insides
This two-channel installation piece examines the friction between texture and violence to bring us closer to the felt idea of flesh. The piece intends to question the relationship between affect and materiality, as well as the psychological economy of desire, destruction, and consumption by simultaneously making the viewer feel uncomfortable and viscerally involved.
A TV monitor presents us with a video of a hand performing different types of incisions using sharp and blunt metal instruments into a large array of materials. The monitor is covered with a loose “tent” of plastic sheeting, allowing the visitor a mysterious view of the video content through the blurring, glowing screen of the semi-transparent material. To get a closer look, the viewer has to unzip the tent’s opening and insert her head into an intimate space shared by the monitor.
The video is a loop of shot after shot of various texturally ambiguous materials or objects being clinically laid out on a chrome table while a hand, alternately gloved in vinyl or rubber gloves discovers the many methods by which each material can be cut up, destroyed, and divided and the specific instruments that do the job in the most satisfying or interesting way.
INCISION is preceded by a tactile prodding of the object followed by the MORCELLATION, FRAGMENTATION OF THE MATERIAL INTO ITS CONSTITUENT FORMS (filaments, bits, crumbs, slivers).The act of cutting can be smooth, swift : sensation of liberation, closure mixed with disquiet of violent end. The act of cutting can be difficult, messy, awkward: sensation of squeamish frustration. The viewer witnesses a Progression in the act of cutting: colorful liquid starts to OOZE out of the harmed materials (recalling old blood or water, displaying a viscous quality)
The second channel of the installation is rear projected onto a sheet of the same semi-transparent plastic wrapping that covered the monitor. The projection is a looping video of luridly colored organic textures (e.g. close-up of a beating heart, a time-lapse of growing mold). The video is processed into anaglyphic images to produce a stereoscopic effect, visible to the visitor with 3D glasses.
Thater’s work in the past has focused on recreating abstracted immersive environments, using angled projections to transform the geometry of a space, often featuring the animal kingdom:
Diana Thater, Broken Circle, 2001
Diana Thater’s two channel installation Between Magic and Science deconstructs the magic metaphor that drives the myth of cinema and the cinematic apparatus. Not unlike an Andy Warhol film (Sleep, specifically), Thater offers the visitor the casual and yet involving spectacle of a continuous/reiterated gesture. In Thater’s piece, a magician keeps pulling a rabbit out of a top hat, an old cliché circulated in popular culture (including film and animation) that has become something of a symbol or archetype for the magic trick. In the first channel, Thater both dissimulates and exposes the magic trick by promenading the camera around the magician, an investigative motion that, however, repeatedly reveals nothing about how the trick is accomplished. In the second channel, the camera is static and records a “conventional” framing of the action, a tripod shot that references the illusory powers of cinema and its ability to create alternate realities out of “tricks” such as performance, production design, and montage. Both channels are commenting on the different persona or functions of the cinematic apparatus – the phenomenological or documentary camera (reminding us of Dziga Vertov’s kino-eye) and the camera of optical illusions and technological marvels, a device that traces its lineage to magic lanterns and the kinetoscope.
Diana Thater, Knots + Surfaces, 2001
The dramatization of this mise en abime goes deeper than these two asymmetrical mirrorings of the same action, however, since both channels are not projected in the installation space but inside an old Los Angeles theater, which is the footage actually projected for the visitors. Thater seems to be commenting on the layers of imaginary space that constitute the frame or screen of the cinematic mirage – just as the revolving camera is unable to unveil the mechanism or deception of the magician’s trick, so does Thater’s stitching together of the spaces represented in her two-channel piece appear seamless and opaque, hiding the layers of artifice within the totalizing control of the production.
Diana Thater, Between Magic and Science, 2010
And here, perhaps, Thater’s metaphor is too neatly tied up or packaged: the fact that her installation appears so convincingly to be a simple totality, in spite of the complex orchestration of its production, does not offer us a substantial or effective enough experience of the mise en abime she is representing in the piece. The work is more in the story about the work (including the thrilling tale of Thater’s acquaintance with a secret club of Los Angeles magicians) than the work itself, which makes the actual gallery experience a little anti-climactic compared to the curator’s introduction.
breaking down the ontological divide between the virtual and the material…another piece of interactive architexture to consider as flora and fauna for the electronic ecology of the future city.
Is it candy, jewels, or blood? Skin, froth, mother of pearl, or cream? eyes deadened by narcotics, faces decomposing and yet fluffy with sweet, fresh flesh. Michael Hussar puts the texture back in the visual art, using impressionist techniques to create nauseating and irresistible allegories of desire, decay and sugar. Lovably tactile: sticky, soft, smooth, liquid, ticklish,and with the occasionally sharp claw or tooth to remind us of pain.
on the playful properties of fluorescent materials: thinking back on Avatar‘s blindingly exciting fluorescent rainforest flora, I’m just wondering on what makes day-glo, phosphorescent and blacklight hues and brilliance so childishly appealing…the spiritual alchemy of electric and organic? Other cinematic delights that rely on fluorescence: Wong Kar Wai’s Fallen Angels – Hong Kong is a nightmare veined with neon. neon sheds color + texture (is that what GLOW means: photo-texture ? ), that radiates with angelic and consummerist vibes…
USE FLUORESCENT PAINT
as part of creating a taxonomy
of material effects/affects
to organize artistic practice.
“Do as you wish”: the message on the back of Auryn, the amulet of the Childlike Empress is also the motto of Rabelais’ 16th century utopia,l’Abbaye de Thélème…
a solution to the screen vs. physical space dichotomy: merging two different ontologies of immersive space. You need to enter a secret space within the larger installation to look at the screen: watch a movie in a closet, a cabinet, then crawl out/emerge.
David Maisles, History’s Shadow (x-rays of antique sculptures from museum archives)
John Divola, Generic Sculpture E and Silhouette C
What emanates from the incongrous presence of a foregrounded object? The face of the object clicks and jars with the body of the background. Color as a personality trait. The Inanimate and its soul – as in spirit photography, the dead body is handed a half-presence (silhouette, smoky) more potent than the Living. The cadaver / the object as a Fetish, a mischevious indexical relationship to Human Matters.
Excerpt from a “Vice Magazine” interview:
Even though you’re not part of the system, would you say that living in Los Angeles makes it easier to deal with the business aspects of filmmaking?
It’s not making anything easier. Filmmaking has always had its complications, but I’m not in the culture of complaint. Los Angeles is just a very exciting city. There’s great excitement, there’s vibrant culture, and there are a lot of things going on here that I wouldn’t relate to filmmaking, but yet they trigger films. For example, I was fascinated by the Galileo space probe, which at the end of an incredible odyssey was sent on a suicide mission into the atmosphere of Jupiter, where it burned into superheated plasma and was gone. Only 30 minutes from where I live there is a mission-control center in Pasadena, and because of this fascination with Galileo I found out that there was a completely unknown NASA archive in downtown Pasadena in a warehouse. I discovered footage of astronauts who filmed on 16-mm celluloid back in 1989, and it is such fantastic footage. In a way it was the backbone of a science-fiction film I made called The Wild Blue Yonder. So you see, the excitements are everywhere, and they don’t have to be connected with Hollywood or production companies.
Chris Cunningham’ s Rubber Johnny and Charlie White’s Pink / Ken’s Basement have antithetical color schemes but a telling similitude in their treatment of the human body: plastic, viscous, a texture-map for a psychic sensation beyond horror and judgement – the inmost intimacy of my very own flesh, a warm familiar humilation. There is no shame in revisiting my amorphousness, the dancing meat without skin/border/performed subjectivity. In all 3 cases the subject is utterly alone, blind to or vexed by the outside, bursting with interiority – perhaps a friendly witness or inanimate object observes, thing-like too. Which is why the unameable they propose feels like a return home – it looks monstrous but it feels… appropriate.
In Lost Book Found the narrator walks his camera through the grittier streets of New York in an effort to remember the contents of a book he once almost purchased from a man who made a living “fishing” for objects dropped by passerby in sidewalk grates. This book contains lists of references, names of the things that populate the city, variously grouped under enigmatic headings. In trying to reconstruct the fantastical indexical system at work in this lost book, the narrator embarks on his own project to “fish for” the overlooked contents of New York – spatio-temporal items, the unique, accidental configurations of material being – and classify them according to his own cryptic logic of poetic association. At times another narrator interrupts the first to rattle off lists of concepts or things over a succession of captured scenes, indexing each image, each phenomenological encounter with a particular sign / clue: for example, a slow motion shot of an old woman riffling through a heap of discounted underwear will have a voice-over label of “museum”. At other times the narrator will “recall” a category from the lost book such as “raining coins” and show us successive shots of senior citizens stopping in the street to stare up meditatively at the sky.
The film as whole turns into an examination of the narrator’s own desire to scrutinize, stretching out the distance between subject and object (the interval of desire) by showing us scenes whose contents are arranged in layers or stacks, such as plastic toys displayed on shelves / shop windows or the electric interior of a subway train car seen through the windows of the train’s black shape melting in the night of a tunnel. In all cases vision encounters obstructions and so does the viewer in her attempt to grasp the meaning at work in each audiovisual association – the gaze butterflies over the surface of actuality, searching and never finding, but occasionally picking up on certain signifying symptoms that disappear with a second glance, like all the shots of street surfaces (walls, telephone booths) inscribed with decaying messages that can only be half-read, not so much partially decoded as more achingly mystified. In this sense, Cohen’s camera functions as a veil as much as a lense, an intermediary zone between passage and liminal space: to reprise De Certeau’s turn of phrase on the poetics of trajectories, a “fence that is an ensemble of interstices through which one’s glances pass.” The space of the frame mimics the three dimensional properties of real space, reproducing the pleasure we find in the vicissitudes of travel.
Lost Book Found directly evokes the experience of navigation that lies at the heart of any preoccupation to design for interactivity. The film functions as a compendium of the kind of micro-trajectories that the attentive or “detective” (to reference Cohen’s hand-held, belt-level cinematography) observer traces in traveling through the spatial texture of a place. In the narrator’s imagination, this place, the city, constitutes a monumental, un-chartered database organized according to a omniscient tagging system (the lost book) that indexes each existent referent to a particular sign. The baroque dream that a thorough search of worldly evidence will result in total epistemological fulfillment is originally a documentary impulse. It compels him to plunge into the hermeneutic game of searching and gazing, of relentlessly raking the database for objects of knowledge, steering a path through possible indexical channels according to minute intimations from this fluid environment. With visibility remaining a problem – the book, the map of the database that would allow him to look ahead, to know her way in advance is lost – viewing becomes a much more haptic exercise. The navigator feels her way around the contours of things, tracing signifying topologies with small gestures, instigating a hesitant succession of tiny contacts with the world. Here the clarity of scopic knowledge is abandoned in favor of a sort of blind proximity with the surface of life, an intimacy with the image that hugs the frustrating barrier that separates the (re) presentation of actuality from actuality itself.
At this level of documentary minutiae, the camera worries about (another excerpt from the narrator’s voice-over) puzzling out the supremely mundane fact of one building’s contiguousness with one gutter, framing actuality in its most obvious (and therefore semiotically opaque) manifestations. The navigator of an interactive documentary sets out on her epistemological journey not so much in order to find the primer that can decode the book – the totality of meaning embedded in the body of the database – but to put herself through the twists and turns of the search for signification, to loose assiduously oneself in the hermetic quality of the code.
Bunuel, in his autobiography, writes that he finds the thought of destroying a museum more appealing than the idea of building a cultural center. The exercise of building entails casting things in stone all over again, issuing precepts, binding cultural forms according to a discipline of structural soundness and reliability. A cultural center is a didactic institution – it hands down knowledge, it propagates and reproduces. By extension, an exercise in destruction (in the form of an exuberant attempt, a gesture ) feels like a motion of freedom – from various architectures of thought, from institutionally invested representations. The ideology of cultural destruction is the hope of the decimation of ideological frameworks.
Land Without Bread‘s ambiguously sarcastic voice-over upends not only the idea of the possibility of sober and objective representation (in the tradition of Rosen’s historical Chronicler and the modernist project for a scientific treatment of actuality) but destabilizes, decades before the practice of digital manipulation, the photograph’s indexical relationship to the real. In las Hurdes what we see is not what we see: a donkey falling to its death from a cliff (as we are told) is a setup _ the “real” meaning of the image (what actually happened) is completely obscured, irrelevant. In effect the idea of “real” meaning, of a grounded indexical relationship between the image and the way we read it is dismantled. This methodical decimation of sense is pursued in the sequencing of “events” that we are told occur before the camera: a child is “sick”, a shivering man is “sick”, a child lies down, “dies”.
And yet the intellectual suspicion of the image that the snarky narrator communicates is not enough snuff our quasi automatic emotional allegiance to the image. We are hammered with tales of woe and poverty while village scenes unfold and in spite of rational uncertainty we are already half-way towards believing the story: we have to rein in or check spontaneous movements of shock, sympathy, horror within us. We remove our faith from the idea of the interpretational authority of the filmmaker only to assume a form of authority from ourselves: the power to be critical but also, in the end, to feel affect, to feel involved. The metaphor that unfolds in the final moments of the film, when the scene of a poor family lying down to sleep is repeatedly cut with the image of an old woman crying out the announcement of a death through the streets of the village delivers a punch that no longer owes anything to the indexical relationship between the image and actuality. The specter of death that weighs over the inhabitants is a concretely felt reality or hypereality that emerges from the visual text. Have we then left the realm of documentary to enter a fiction? I am reminded of Rosen’s reiteration of Baudrillard’s claim the cinematic can not (or can no longer) reproduce reality, it can only produce more / other reality. And yet, seeing Las Hurdes or any documentary representation that rings a bell of recognition, of understanding (one dare not say truth) I retain the suspicion that metaphor, if not indexicality can still constitute grounds for a certain form of worldly evidence…
still in the room. player squeezes a knob when he hears a prompted word (s) a voice speechifies on possibilities
determines which set of footage from the database will be edited into another set of footage (not completely haphazard) or running simultaneously on different screens??
editing algorithm, blackout, obeys a subterranean rhythm, cuts words in midstence, faces in mid-expression
cutting between this, this, and this ? CLOUD OR SHAPE, SPECTER OF SENSE – sampling of the cultural whirl – not quite arbitrary drops (it’s all water)
Peter Greenaway – Prospero’s Books ; David Bowie ; Jem Cohen: sea change, becoming, wishing, wish fulfillment, riffling through, collecting books, collecting memories, collecting personalities. databases all.