The scars on the vidicon tube
represent a kind of knowledge. If an inanimate system can be said to have
self-awareness, this is where it resides: embodied in the burn hieroglyphs
of the damaged phosphors is a memory that will be imposed on every new
subject placed before that camera until its tube is replaced with a fresh
one that has not yet been exposed to the shock of its own limitations.
One rainy day in 1919, finding
myself on a village on the Rhine, I was struck by the obsession which held
under my gaze the pages of an illustrated catalogue showing objects designed
for anthropologic, microscopic, psychologic, mineralogic, and paleontologic
demonstration. There I found brought together elements of figuration so
remote that the sheer absurdity of that collection provoked a sudden intensification
of the visionary faculties in me and brought forth an illusive succession
of contradictory images, double, triple, and multiple images, piling up
on each other with the persisitance and rapidity which are particular to
love memories and visions of half-sleep.
chaos, in Greek mythology, the
vacant, unfathomable space out of which everything arose. In the Olympian
myth Gaea sprang from Chaos and became the mother of all things.
. . . one can see video's ability to spatialize time and temporalize space as potentially a means to continue the dissection of the apprehension and meaning of an event. -Maureen Turim
Unlike any other visual image,
a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its
subject, but actually a trace of it.
The Photograph then becomes a
bizarre medium, a new form of hallucination: false on the level of perception,
true on the level of time: a temporal hallucination, so to speak, a modest,
shared hallucination (on the one hand "it is not there," on the other "but
it has indeed been"): a mad image, chafed by reality.
As artists deconstruct particular
digital effects and attempt to explore their metaphoric and narrative meaning,
they take steps toward the construction of a syntax. Hence, properties
take on meaning as codes. What does it mean to use slow motion? What kind
of meaning do certain digital effects impart - the potential of turning
a moving image into a two-dimensional sheet that can be manipulated on
the screen or the seemingly limitless possibilities of combining images
within the frame?
A thought is a function of time,
a pattern of growth, and not the "thing" that the lens of the printed word
seems to objectify. It is more like a cloud than a rock, although its effects
can be just as long lasting as a block of stone, and its aging subject
to the similar process of destructive erosion and constructive edification.
Duration is the medium that makes thought possible, therefore duration
is to consciousness as light is to the eye.
The familiar identity of things
has to be pulverized in order to destroy the finite sensations with which
our society increasingly enshrouds every aspect of our environment.
In place of a hermeneutics we
need an erotics of art.
Psychologically speaking, to
discover something mysterious in objects is a system of cerebral abnormality
related to certain kinds of insanity. I believe, however, that such abnormal
moments can be found in everyone, and it is all the more fortunate when
they occur in individuals with creative talent or with clairvoyant powers.
Art is the fatal net which catches these strange moments on the wing like
mysterious butterflies fleeing the innocence and distraction of common
I am the reference of every photograph,
and this is what generates my astonishment in adressing myself to the fundamental
question: why is it that I am alive here and now?
|PLAYING IN THE BLACK BOX
Bruce Hanks is trying to get in there and play with the
phosphorescent blip of light that crosses the cathode ray tube, the screen
on his monitor. He starts with a little piece of video, something incidental,
a public event, a family outing. Hanks extracts a phrase of movement, a
gesture, a jump, something windblown caught on videotape. This moving image
of a motion is digitized by the computer and then it is trapped: a fraction
of an instant in the blip's volatile trajectory is frozen.
This is the critical moment of choice, the risk that rejects
what came before and refuses to wait for what will come next. Hanks is
looking for the trace that will be his to order. All is flux and chaos
in the rythmic flow of the electronic impulse until Hanks induces a slow
freeze and the screen churns like raspberry-chocolate- pistachio ripple
ice cream, delicately veiled with the fine moiré of the grid-like
reticulation of the cathode ray tube itself. He gridlocks the flux. Time
and motion are arrested in the micro-electronic floodlight. It's a pinball
game that requires acute eye-hand coordination to flip the ball and respond
to the flashing lights, the bells and whistles. The flickering image gels,
the form between the forms, in a moment of organic becoming. Holding the
flux, suspended as time and space shift, mind out of body, an altered state
of conciousness. Thought, image, intimacy and real time.
Then he plays with the chosen fragment, toasts it with
colour, replication and brightness. More choices. Whatever the original
image once represented is now submerged, evaporated, transformed. What
remains is luminous, out of time, in no space that ever existed.
Finally Hanks photographs the image on the screen. As
he puts it, this is the cheapest and most convenient form of reproduction
for the stilled image on the monitor. We need the hard copy and, after
all, this is about sharing. The photos are dramatic and huge but their
size does not quite make up for the lost luminescence. Backlit in the duratrans
the photographs have some of the glow of the video monitor but it is the
original object, the image on the cathode ray tube, that is the closest
to Hanks' vision; that is where he wants to take us. A place he's been
and found awesome, dangerous, seductive.
Hanks chases after the electronic beam that resonates
inside the black box (a firefly in a glass jar); trying to see fast enough
to watch the image as it happens, as it creates itself in the milky light.
Pixillation is his brush, a scintillating fuse, a sparkler, a wand. The
light is his paint; the tube is a canvas.
But the resulting images are disorienting and mysterious
to the viewer. The old laws of painting, art history and visual analysis
cannot be applied to these works. Surface and depth are merged here and
the light is virtual, not depicted. These are not portraits, still lives
or even landscapes. They cannot be psychoanalysed; they do not resemble
natural appearances. This is not TV even if it does happen on a monitor.
This is creative image-making that resists television, that liberates us
from the tyranny of commercial broadcast programming. And it's not video
art either: Hanks apprehends the moving image and fixes it; the kinetic
is transfixed as a photograph. The electronic pulse is made manifest as
structure: the matrix of the cathode ray tube is made visible and the flicker
is made tangible.
These photographs are metaphors for movement. Hanks is
trying to recreate the motion of video as a still, technologically extending
us beyond the adventures of Edward Muybridge, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Norman
McLaren and Jules Verne.
Some secret visual memory (that fragment of videotape)
lies in the back of Hanks' mind (the back of the black box) and is whirled
around like molten glass, like a torch swallowed by a fire-eater, like
silken scarves in the hands of a magician, to appear before our eyes as
the tangible image of an impossible dreamscape. (Lucifer is also the planet
Venus, the morning star, and the sudden flaring of a match.) Hanks' photographs
are haunting and luscious. My eye travels up and down, in and out and through
as the colour washes over me. Mountainous petrified layers; transparent
skylike openings; vast oceans of turbulance. Why are these geographies
so compelling? Perhaps occasionally, remotely, they evoke subliminal memories
of our previous spatial and temporal experience. They may not look like
anything in nature but they do exist.
Perhaps that is why they are truly marvellous: because we've never seen anything like them before. As surprising as photos from space, or from deep inside the human body, these images offer us new visual information, perceptual and sensual discoveries, experiences from a new frontier, knowledge unforeseen.
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