Enhanced Vision – Digital Video
Discussion Notes

At a special session of the ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community during SIGGRAPH 2015, in Los Angeles a panel discussion was convened to discuss the DAC’s recent online video exhibition Enhanced Vision – Digital Video. The morning was moderated by Kathy Rae Huffman, exhibition curator. Nancy Buchanan, Elizabeth Leister, Amy Alexander and Astra Price highlighted specific selected works (of their choice), and the digital processes essential to express the content of each work. The presentations were important statements, pointing out how the works were vital accounts of issues of general concern. Each pointed out how the digital video works maintained integrity to emphasize content, which was made possible using a variety of digital technologies to express the author of perspectives, opinions and positions. The morning concluded with two exhibition artists, Wobbe F. Koning (USA) and Bryne Rasmussen-Smith (USA), who presented their own featured exhibition artworks, as well as new works in process.

“As the project curator, I was impressed with each of the presentations, and wanted specifically to have the committee contributions available to those who could not be present at the panel discussion. Each of the committee members were generous, and adapted their notes for inclusion on this exhibition website so that the artists, and other interested parties, could gain further insight into the depth of the exhibition and the included works”. The panel presentations are collated in this document, as follows:

     How media illuminates contemporary attitudes toward women by Nancy Buchanan
     The Digitized, Fragmented Body by Elizabeth Leister
     Chance processes, meaning, and the non-nihilistic by Amy Alexander
     Re-envisioning the meaning of Contemporary Spaces with Digital Video by Astra Price

At each presentation, presented in the style of the presenter, excerpts of selected works were shown and discussed. A brief Q&A followed the session.

How media illuminates contemporary attitudes toward women by Nancy Buchanan

Feminist issues of gender equity are still current—indeed (witness recent US court cases in which a woman’s dress was cited in conjunction with her assault), in recent years, this matter has seemed more urgent. Both Kaisu Koski and Talia Link address female representation, and use media to illuminate contemporary attitudes toward women: what is accepted as “normal?” And, I would add, both artists deftly include humor in the mix. Talia Link is concerned with women being judged by their outward appearances, while Kaisu Koski explores how medical students imagine female reproductive organs.

While the title of Koski’s video, “Not to Scale at All,” came directly from one student drawing, the artist found that it also “points to the quasi-scientific approach of the animation, and the subjective nature of my interpretations.” In the artist’s words, “The title is derived from the data: One of the male students wrote the text …‘not to scale at all’ next to his drawing, implying awareness of the gap between his drawing skills and how he thinks ‘things really are.’ However, the title equally points to the quasi-scientific approach of the animation, and the subjective nature of my interpretations as I have taken the drawings and literally rescaled, cropped, and manipulated them. I see animation as a powerful tool addressing aspects of the drawings that do not easily translate in written text of still images only. One such aspect, related to the search for normality, is the arrival at the visual average of the reproductive system shapes. The animation positions the drawings on top of each other and calculates the average shape from all 63 drawings.”

We are also privy to her audio discussion with a doctor and an art historian about some of the drawings made by first-year students (plus the participating medical doctor), each of whom were given four minutes to draw the female reproductive system from memory. Out of 108 first-year medical students in the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, 62 (28 female, 34 male) returned after a break to complete this exercise. The students remained anonymous, though they were asked to self-identify as male or female. “Six male students visualized an external view, (showing genitalia), as part of the female reproductive system. This is likely a familiar perspective for many of them from sexual intercourse. It is thus not related to the participants’ status as a medical student as such.” (Comments from Fenna Heyning, MD, PhD & Dr. Robert Zwijnenberg).

Another commonality found between Koski and Link is each artist’s inclusion of her own subjectivity. Koski’s re-performance of drawings allowed her to include her personal impressions of various illustrators’ emotional involvement in their representation. Wearing her “cat-caller” clothes printed with both male comments and what she, as a woman subjectively interprets, Talia Link takes her video equipment to the streets, allowing NYC men to defend their opinions regarding what they refer to as “public compliments.” The issue of publicly harassing women continues to be debated, with some media commentators missing the point completely. Bob Beckel of Fox news took the subject to new lows in a segment addressing the issue when he cluelessly said,

“She got one hundred catcalls, let me add one hundred and one. Damn, baby,
you’re a piece of woman . . .You should wear a jacket.”

Yet again, blaming the victim.
http://www.vox.com/xpress/2014/10/30/7131613/fox-news-covered-street-harassment-and-it-was-exactly-as-awful-as

Link operates in a snappy DIY style, commenting that her works are “about the conflicted experience of being a woman in a capitalistic era of publicized privacy; it’s about being a feminist at a time in which Beyoncé sings about feminism while wearing almost nothing.” Rather than demonizing her subjects, she admits to her own interiorization of judgment—although being yelled at on the street upsets her, she can also find herself thinking perhaps something is wrong with her if she does not receive comments about her looks. Link concludes her video by wondering whether, if women were brought up to consider their intelligence their most valuable assets and were not expending energy needlessly worrying about their appearance, society might have discovered a cure for ebola or achieved peace in the Middle East.

It has long been my experience that the meaning of a work far exceeds any consideration of its material production—as one example, the video jury for the very first Sundance festival (which was then differently titled), unanimously rejected a technically-over-the top piece that had all the originality of a Hallmark greeting card. This is not to say that the choice of tools is unimportant—but it’s only one decision among many that contributes to a successful work of art.

The artists worked with readily available software and tools; to animate the students’ drawings, Koski employed a Wacom tablet and the Camtasia screen recording application. Link takes us through the steps needed to use Adobe Photoshop and iron-on transfer paper to complete her costume.

Each artist is deeply committed to her practice, while employing an ethnographic approach with good-natured humor. In 2007, Koski earned her doctoral degree at the University of Lapland, and she was recently awarded a Research Fellowship for more arts-based videos in medical curricula in Finland, Denmark and the US. Link has won several prizes for her work in Israel, and recently completed her MFA at Columbia.

See: http://www.kaisukoski.com/about/not-to-scale-at-all and http://www.talialink.com/wtf/.

The Digitized, Fragmented Body by Elizabeth Leister

Within several videos in the Enhanced Vision video program, we see the human body. Today, I will focus specifically on how the body is digitally edited in Grotesques by Ellen Wetmore, Mudland #1 by Ulu Braun and Surveillance Siddhi by Ellen Pearlman. In these examples the human form is visually manipulated through software programs to explore feminist roles in society, express environmental concerns and raise issues surrounding privacy and surveillance. These three artists use digital technology to manipulate and fragment the body through techniques such as keying, cropping and masking. They use scale shifts and looping motion in order to elucidate their concepts. The artists have digitized the body, in certain cases, their own, into impossible spaces or contexts.

There is a long and rich history of artists utilizing their own bodies in video, beginning in the 1960’s when video cameras first became an available tool. The overwhelming presence of the artist’s body is due to the fact that his or her body was readily available for recording image and sound. For the most part the body was represented in a straightforward manner, without great manipulation, often as performance documentation.

Ellen Wetmore uses her own body in Grotesques. Her husband and children are also featured in the video. Ulu Braun usually uses his own body in his work, although not in Mudland #1. This video is part of a series in which he does plan to film himself, primarily, he says, because the filming happens as part of his daily life. Ellen Pearlman worked with a dancer for her video. Ulu Braun and Ellen Wetmore work with Adobe After Effects to composite their video and they each refer to “collage” when describing their individual practices. Both of their works in this program are like moving paintings albeit with different results. In fact, Wetmore’s Grotesques was inspired by ancient Roman paintings.

In Grotesques, the artist’s body is scaled down and copied. We see multiple versions of her that are often doubled to frame other visual elements including animated insects and flowers all in a flat white space. Alternately, her body is seen set within ornate frames performing simple gestures. Digital effects allow the artist to key out her body and place it into a new context, radically alter the scale and repeat her own image. Wetmore references Surrealism, specifically Rene Magritte, within a couple of the vignettes – a painter who also played with scale and odd, unexpected juxtapositions from everyday life. She loops subtle movements in her work to highlight her “feminist themes of death, rebirth, spousal relations and child bearing.”
Ulu Braun also uses After Effects to achieve what he describes as a painterly approach to video collage. Mudland#1 uses great shifts in scale to cleverly composite a disorienting space made of a strange, oozing, viscous liquid. It’s hard not to relate this work to the images of the recently contaminated Animas River in Colorado that is glowing bright yellow/orange, currently in the news.

In Mudland#1, we seem to float/hover overtop of this disorienting space which is punctuated by bodies casually sitting in the mud or kicking and treading – perhaps to stay afloat in this colorful goop. Braun doesn’t reference environmental concerns in his description of the work and his figures seem to be enjoying their interaction with this strange liquid which he describes as “primal origins.” Like Wetmore, Braun incorporates pedestrian movements enhanced through sizing and compositing. Disembodied hands holding bottles, cups and saucers emerge from the liquid and are at a similar size as the human figures further confusing our sense of scale and place. Braun effectively utilizes masks and track matte techniques to collage these bodies into his fluid space.

Ellen Pearlman’s work Sureveillance Siddhi, could also be described as using a collage approach but in a markedly different way. While a computerized voice describes a series of events between the police and an individual, images from what appear to be various sources are combined, often in a split screen, setting up comparison. One view appears to be straightforward while the other is as if we are viewing the body through the lens of surveillance technolog(ies).

Pearlman uses fairly straightforward video editing with “Videoscope technology software developed at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab amplifying through special algorithms subtle changes in movement and color not detected by the naked eye like pulse, blood flow, iris dilation, and differentiation in movement of objects.” Her use of this Videoscope technology software and the tightly cropped and repeating images illustrate the body being closely monitored and exaggerate the uneasy sense of the body in a state of interrogation under an authoritative scrutiny. Like Braun, the eye, the hand are masked and/or cropped – disembodied. Additional footage shows the body restrained in various states including footage of the police with a suspect, figures within cell-like structures as if seen through a security camera or perhaps video captured from a cell phone.

All three of the artists use software, digital tools and techniques to fragment and recontextualize the body thereby emphasizing their individual concepts.

Chance processes, meaning, and the non-nihilistic by Amy Alexander

Chance processes have had an important role in both computer and pre-computer art. I’ll discuss three projects in the online exhibition that use chance processes to address representations in various media of recent tragic news events.

Deephorizon by Ubermorgen (Austria/Switzerland/USA) addresses the aestheticization of reality — in this case, the subtle aestheticism of video images that were televised for months after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Aerial footage of the spill is overtly aestheticized by the artists to make the oil spill resemble an oil painting. An audio track of emotional piano music serves to highlight the melodrama and encourage a reading of the piece as music video.

A previous version of Deephorizon released by the artists (Variation 1) more literally resembles an oil painting. In the newer version (Variation 2), included in Enhanced Vision, the artists further abstract the imagery using “glitch” aesthetics. Now, only the movement of the camera remains recognizable from the original aerial footage – the reality of the spill has been fully subsumed by its mediaficiation. In both variations the artists use algorithmic processes to essentially erase the spill, leaving only the aestheticization by the media and by the artists themselves intact.

From the artists’ description:

Deephorizon is based on images from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Aerial images of the oil spill (helicopters, airplanes, satellites) are manipulated and then mapped onto a sphere as a relief map. The darker parts are valleys and the brighter parts of the images become elevations hence creating a 3D structure on top of the sphere. A tracking shot moves slowly around this beautiful world comprised of these images of death, pain and destruction. The final product is distorted by a glitch (Version 1: http://vimeo.com/12264646). The sweet score elevates this tension between highly aestheticized images and sound and the horrible occurrence out in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a dynamic oil painting on a 80.000 square miles ocean canvas with 800 million liters of oil – a unique piece of art representing the “Verkuenstlichung” of nature and the “Vernatuerlichung” of art. The last phrase roughly translates to “the artificialization of nature and naturalization of art.”

Composition Fukushima 2011 by Kenji Kojima (Japan/USA) is primarily a generative audio piece. Like Deephorizon, Composition Fukushima centers on mass media representations of an industrial accident: in this case, the accident at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant that was triggered by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and Tsunami. Kojima converts images from online newspaper reports of the impact of the accident to musical sequences: The RGB values of the images’ pixels are converted to pitch, while the brightness values are converted to duration.

Artists and tinkerers have developed systems of converting light to sound for hundreds of years: in the 1740’s Louis Bertrand-Castel, a French Jesuit Priest and mathematician, proposed an “ocular harpsichord” which would produce both sound and light of corresponding colors. Today one can find any number of software applications and inexpensive consumer gadgets that convert sound to light, color, and image, often with the purpose of allowing the user to create “rave-like” effects at home. But the focus of Kojima’s piece is not the conversions themselves, but the way in which the conversions re-represent familiar images of the disaster: the sonic textures of these images follow their visual density, ranging from tense and noisy to unsettlingly quiet. While an overly literal image->sound interpretation would yield didactic results, there is subtlety and complexity in Kojima’s algorithms. Each composition matches its corresponding image, but is unpredictable to the listener and sonically interesting even when watching the image “score.”

Kojima describes his process as follows:

The nuclear accident is still contaminating the ocean and the soil. Online photographs from the international press related to Fukushima accident and the unfolding events to contain the radiation are accompanied by a soundtrack. But this is not ordinary soundtrack. The music is actually a compilation of musical sequences produced by the images themselves. The original artwork is an artist-programmed software. It downloads internet images from the international press sites and converts RGB (Red, Green and Blue) value of a photograph to a music. The program reads RGB value of pixels from the top left to the bottom right of an image. One pixel makes a harmony of three note of RGB value, and the length of note is determined by brightness of the pixel. RGB value 120 or 121 is the middle C, and RGB value 122 or 123 is added a half steps of the scale that is C#. Pure black that is R=0, G=0, B=0 is no sounds. It is not an impression of an image of a musical variation, and not an arbitrary process of artist’s feeling. It composes a score from an image directly.

necrolog of robin williams or the suicide of irony by Alexander Repp (Kazakhstan/Germany/Hungary) from the artist’s description:

On 13 August 2014, between 11:25 pm and 11:45 pm, BBC Three showed the episode of Family Guy involving Robin Williams and his failed suicide attempt. Shortly afterwards, at 11:56 pm, Reuters news agency confirmed the suicide of Robin Williams. It is an uncanny coincidence, but what does it mean for the tragic irony of the cartoon? In an inverted form of irony, the audience has an advance in knowledge from the fictional world towards the real world. Can we still speak of irony?

In a virtual journey through the Twitter network we might perceive a narrative obituary, that was created by related twitter users. Inductively, the opinions spread in just a few minutes. Consequently, a wave of empathy traveled across the network. The broadcast brought people together, in a bizarre and eerie way, who were trying to figure out a way to response to the incident.

As with Composition Fukushima 2011, Repp’s necrolog is primarily a sound piece. Tweets about Williams and suicide are spoken in overlapping layers as a CG camera passes through a metaphorical visualization of the imaginary space of the Twitter network. Tweets are heard at varying volumes according to the hypothetical proximity of the CG camera to the tweet. The viewer has the sense of being a “fly-on-the-wall” traveling through cyberspace overhearing individual speakers along the way. The overheard Twitter users, in discussing suicide and the specific incident of Williams’ death, become an ad hoc network — of chance, almost arbitrary, connections. In Repp’s auditory representation of the imagined space of Twitter, discussions are revealed to be both public and intimate, both isolated and in conversation. The combined tweets create an impromptu textural and textual “obituary” for Williams that is distinct to Twitter.

Each of the three pieces I’ve discussed here use some form of algorithmic or “chance” process: a system not fully within the author’s control that is allowed to create textures and structures within the piece. While such processes are often associated with computer-based authorship, chance composition emerged as a popular pre-computer music composition strategy among mid-twentieth century avant-garde composers like John Cage. For his 1951 composition, Music for Changes, for example, Cage developed a complex system of charts which he combined with determinations derived from the I Ching. Using this system, Cage calculated various elements of the composition such as duration, density, and tempo. But system-based composition predates Cage. Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique, in which pitches are used in a specific sequence, dates back to the 1920s; some scholars have identified systems used implicitly in musical composition hundreds of years earlier. Abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky, who is known to have been influenced to some extent by Schoenberg’s work, used numerical systems to describe the visual compositional balance in his 1926 book, Point and Line to Plane. Use of chance processes in literary composition dates back to the Dadaists, who cut up words from published texts and randomly rearranged them to create poems.

Dada came out of artists’ feelings of despair over World War I: randomness and arbitrary rules were used to respond to a situation beyond logic or reason. There’s some resonance to that history within each of these three pieces, all of which come out of situations that evoke despair in one sense or another. Chance processes used in art since Dadaism — and especially as they have emerged in digital art — have often been seen as nihilistic: as rejecting, destroying, or at least avoiding, meaning. Over the past twenty years, the label of nihilism has often been used as a dismissive critique of algorithmic digital work.

But contemporary artists and contemporary audiences have now reached a level of sophistication in their grasp of the algorithmic, of systems, and of chance processes. Even when audiences don’t understand the processes technically, there’s a cultural familiarity — an understanding that algorithms are part of the contemporary zeitgeist and that processes have meaning. And while the results of such processes leave some elements to chance, they also have a strong sense of authorship: Ubermorgen’s use of oil paint-like and glitch-like imagery; Kojima’s audio compositions that elucidate the subtle freneticism and starkness embedded in news images; Repp’s representation of an imagined Twitter sound space, where a chorus of tweets straddle isolation and comradery. The systems these artists develop might be thought of as “soft authorship” — they are both authored and autonomous; both pre-determined and chance. They represent their author’s intentions quietly, creating unspoken textures within the work that could not be expressed with the traditional, overt, “hand” of the artist.

Re-envisioning the meaning of Contemporary Spaces with Digital Video by Astra Price

When contemplating the intersection of contemporary video technology and a representation of spaces, it is easy to go to the imagery of science fiction. Sci-fi landscapes live in viewers’ minds through dystopian images from films such as Blade Runner (when the understanding of humanity goes wrong), Wall-E (when capitalism goes wrong), or Jurassic Park (when science goes wrong).

In these films, visual effects (VFX) is used to teach moralistic lessons. Viewers see that when people step over the line “in a world gone wrong”, then terrible outcomes will ensue. This is understood in part through the representation of the manipulation and destruction of the spaces that viewer is familiar with. In the film Wall-E, the Earth is covered with skyscrapers of trash; a landscape that was once habitable now made into the waste bin from multi-national corporations. In Blade Runner we see again the intersection of skyscrapers and waste, but in this film it happens in a future Los Angeles, where “it creates an aesthetic of decay, exposing the dark side of technology, the process of disintegration.”(1) Landscape, the space that is familiar, becomes a visual tool to invest the viewer in the science fiction narrative by forcing them to deal with the circumstances that create the destroyed spaces from a previously livable world.

However, big budget, VFX driven films are not the only way to explore concepts of space and landscape within technology based films. New technologies allow landscape and other “spaces” to be used to create visual theory based works that live in the intersection of digital videos tools and the concept of space/location, while crafting criticism about contemporary spaces/locations and society. In this paper we will look at two examples from the Enhanced Vision – Digital Video online exhibition presented by SIGGRAPH’s Digital Arts Community, that use new and alternate strategies for investigating space/landscape.

Upon viewing Soft Pong Inari created by Michael Lyons (Japan) with Palle Dahlstedt (Sweden), it is important to know that the original conceit of the work is a casual theory by Lyons and Dahlstedt that a location can be photographed so often and so well, that whatever additional image that a visitor might feel compelled to take will not be as useful as those that already exist. This is a sensation that many people have come across in their interactions with the day-to-day world. On a vacation, a person stops to take a picture and realizes the sun isn’t right or there is an ugly car parked in front of the building that they are interested in, or even that the lens on the camera (most often the one on a phone) isn’t wide enough to capture the fullness of a space, and so they stop and put the camera away. Or perhaps they do take the photo but don’t push it out to the varied forms of social media they belong to because their experience feels less important than the mediated collective memory.

Unless the photo contains a moment of decisive action or is a selfie, thus sealing (to a certain degree) the evidence that they have existed in a location as proof for the future, not unlike the images of the dead in the post mortem photography of the 19th century, a person is qualitatively probably better gazing upon the well executed image taken with a $5000 lens and precision camera of a professional photographer, rather than the image that was just snapped with a mobile phone.

However, the point of origin of Soft Pong Inari is at odds with its end thesis, which is a contemplation of mediated collective memory. For the work to exist, the artists rely on the fact that most people are not so hypercritical of every image that they create, and thus will take the less than perfect image and will load it to some type of social media.

And then it belongs to the mediated collective memory. How do we define this term? First let’s start by speaking of just collective memory as “a set of ideas, images, feelings about the past … best located not in the minds of individuals, but in the resources they share” (2). Next, it is important to acknowledge resources that are shared are increasingly ** in a media repository that is either computational based, photographically based, or both. In an era 1.8 billion photos are uploaded everyday (3), some of those will be of the same thing, the same moment, the same place. This flow of data creates the basis of a mediated collective memory of contemporary times through the wash of information produced, transmitted and seen.

With Soft Pong Inari, Lyons and Dahlstedt are trying to create that mediated déjà-vu with the location of Fushimi Inari Shrine, an immensely photographed location with striking architecture in Kyoto, Japan. Through the work they are asking if a landscape/place can be knowable through a mine-able, mediated collective memory. “The film explores how a multi-subjective viewpoint can express a sense of place.” – Lyons (4).

In this short film, digital video is not a crafted vision that cascades from Director to Director of Photography to a VFX team to create a simulated world of a future in which a world has gone wrong. Here the simulated world is the one that we actually occupy, and the artist’s’ hand is felt through the curation of the dense mass of searchable and accessible images of this location and the manipulation of those images in a rhythm to create a sense of understanding.

It could be said that Lyons and Dahlstedt are creating a sense of déjà-vu through the exploitation of our mediated collective memory. One theory of déjà-vu is inattentiveness – “Because we often navigate the world on autopilot, we take in much of our surroundings on an unconscious level,” says author Alan Brown on déjà-vu in Scientific American. (5) Soft Pong Inari exploits the viewers mediated inattentiveness to create a feeling of being or having been to the Fushimi Inari Shrine through the process of a repackaging the photographic images that collective society has already seen, but unaware. A different effect than a VR simulation, it is actually just R, just Reality, repackaged/remixed and very familiar.

Raw Quinoa, by Chongha Lee, also pulls found footage from our mediated cultural output, and lives on the cusp of the “In a world gone mad” mentality, but instead acts as a critique of contemporary societies impulses to control places, and therefore themselves.

One way of reading of this work finds its understanding of place/space is in relationship to Marc Auge’s concepts of Non-Places. In his book “Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity” Auge states: ‘If place can be defined as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place.’ (6) Non-Places are often seen as a response to excess. A non-place unburdens a person from the need to deal with the ever increasing specific instances of life, and lets them dissolve into a space without the resistance of needing to know it.

In the work Raw Quinoa, there are three different types of places imaged. In the first section, we have a montage of mobile video footage, where suburban homes burn down, one after another. These spaces are on the edge of being “non-places”, with the idea that any suburban home could just be substituted for one another. This visually is reminiscent of Burning Gas Station (1966) by Ed Ruscha where the artist imagines a “standard” space destroyed, but as a part of a series of prints all representing that same standard space, it gives the time-based feeling of the possibility of replacement. If one burns down, the next will just step in to take its place. However, in Raw Quinoa, the physical presence of the videographers felt via the extension of the shakiness of the camera and the breathing heard in the audio tracks (a technique used in contemporary Hollywood films such as Cloverfield), imply that someone is interested in these particular locations. In the Aesthetics of Media Art, the article states: “The mobile device works against the tendency ‘of digital imaging to detach the viewer from an embodied, haptic sense of physical location and “being-there”’ (Lenoir in Hansen 2004: 2). This allows the audience/viewer to identify with the location.” (7) As actual places and not non-places, these burning landscapes cannot act as the conceptual shield from our own excesses.

As if almost a next level in a video game, the viewer then enters the second location – found footage that renders the “Future City of our Dreams” where unlike the “real” footage that viewers were just presented with, there seems like no possibility of it burning down. It is the quintessential non-place; a city of glass buildings, and shopping, where every single woman wears high heels all the time. Lee matches this visual material with audio of a found emergency preparedness text, which is at first reassuring and then ominously dark. The visuals of the “Future City of Our Dreams” become increasingly without people. Have all the people moved onto another non-place, or can the non-place not actually protect the people they were built to comfort from the burden of their excesses?

The final sequences bring the video back into the realm of the real. While the opening was unambiguously ‘actual’, it was really sourced material/manipulated material – a representation of the danger of the thresholds of non-places as embodied by the suburbs. The end, however, re-identifies the author’s viewpoint through a subtle change in the quality of digital video. In the end sequence, the shots are imaged on a tripod and specifically composed. “This is a real place”, the video tries to convey, and something terrible has really happened. Why or how this has happened is not stated, but it is not a post apocalyptic future or disaster. This problem is in the viewer’s midst, in their real spaces. In the buildings of the real world, in actual places, the glass that was everywhere in the “Future City of our Dreams” is completely shattered, unable to hold in the excesses from the chaotic world that is just beyond those walls.

With an ever evolving toolset of digital video capabilities (more cameras to shoot with yielding more materials from all people) affecting the way the public interacts with these materials and craft; meaning from them changes as well, for both the average person present in the media saturated world as well as for artists/creators. Media’s meaning is a reflection of that given era’s essence. No longer are our future landscapes and spaces envisioned only through the hands of big budget VFX teams, they are just as likely to be crafted by an independent artist utilizing the media that surrounds them. Thus, as individuals trying to understand the multitude of spaces that we occupy; place vs. non-place, physical vs. virtual, etc, the tactics used to approach the crafting of meaning in moving image is evolving, too.

Footnotes:

  1. Giuliana Bruno. “Ramble City: Postmodernism and Blade Runner”, History and Philosophy of Science, Stanford University. October 1987. Web July 2015. http://web.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/Bruno/bladerunner.html
  2. Irwin-Zarecka, I. (2007). Frames of Remembrance: The Dynamics of Collective Memory. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers., p 4
  3. Khedekar, Naina. “We now upload and share over 1.8 billion photos each day: Meeker Internet report”, Tech 2. 29 May 2014. Web July 2015. http://tech.firstpost.com/news-analysis/now-upload-share-1-8-billion-photos-everyday-meeker-report-224688.html
  4. http://enhanced-vision.siggraph.org/wp/soft-pong-inari/
  5. Brown, Alan. “Can You Experience Déja Vu of a Place or Situation You’ve Never Encountered?” Scientific American. Jun 12, 2014. Web July 2015. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-you-experience-deja-vu-of-a-place-or-situation-you-ve-never-encountered/
  6. Auge, Marc, John Howe, and David Harvie. “Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity.” Capital & Class. (1996), p 78 – 9
  7. Baker, Camille; Max Schleser; Molga, Kasia. (2009), Aesthetics of Mobile Media. In: Journal of Media Practice. Vol. 10. Nrs. 2&3, pp. 105, Including text from Hansen, M. (2004), New Philosophy for New Media, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Kathy Rae Huffman
Curator