[-empyre-] July on empyre: Sceens (week 3)

Scott Mcquire mcquire at unimelb.edu.au
Thu Jul 19 09:38:42 EST 2012

Simon’s reference to ‘expanded cinema’ reminded me of an a conversation I had with Jeffrey Shaw a few years ago.  Some snips  of Jeffrey below, which make clear the link between experimenting with new screening situations and the later interest in immersive experiences.

Best, scott

... my other interest became very strongly focused on the notion of expanded cinema. So this was really addressing the cinema per se, and as an artist starting to think of myself as a filmmaker who was also clearly completely dissatisfied with what cinema was, and still is, which is just this big spectacle – but on the other hand, enjoying it a lot – but feeling this terrible frustration of being this passive audience member.

All this energy of the drawing that is somehow sublimated into the inaccessibility of the precious object, or the energy of the movie, that somehow is sublimated into its being trapped on the screen, in the cinema auditorium, and the audience are then sort of obligated to have a specific relationship with it. And looking for ways to get the film to come out of the screen and enter the space of the audience, or to allow the audience to enter the space of the film, which is the basic expanded cinema paradigm.

So I started to do a lot of performances at that time, performance art things, which were again all directed at cinema, and they were usually titled ‘Dissolution of this’ or ‘Dissolution of that’. So they were called ‘Dissolutionary Events’. And the notion was that the cinematic illusions would be subverted.

That subversion what sometimes done very literally, like the screen would just be made out of paper, and behind the screen I’d have tubing which could be inflated, so films projected on this screen, at a certain moment the screen would start to break up and burst and tear, and out of the screen came this tubing so that the screen, instead of being a plane, became this tubular three-dimensional object which then pushed its way out into the audience. And the film was still attaching itself to the surface of this tubing; so the film was basically being extruded out into the audience and then became a plaything for the audience. At that stage the audience was playing both with the tubing and with the image that was imprinted on it.

There were a whole bunch of performances that were done at that time. The scenographies for these were quite funky; there was also a very strong erotic element in a lot of them. At that time I also came under the spell of a surrealist painter called Clovis Trouille, who was making these surreal erotic paintings, and I also was influenced by…at that time there was a thing called the Destruction in Art Symposium, at the ICA in London. It was my first exposure to Fluxus live, actually seeing performances, seeing and hearing these people, meeting them.I suppose it also synched well with my own teenage sexual energies at that time. So those performances I was doing had a strong erotic narrative. [...]

I suppose one of the high points was the Knokke  which was called Movie Movie. That was in ’67, ’68. [MOVIEMOVIE, 1968, 4th Experimental Film Festival, Knokke le Zoute, Belgium] That was a very large-scale piece with a very large inflatable structure where the whole audience, or a large number of people in the audience, threw off their clothes and just jumped in spontaneously – or not so much spontaneously, they were led by Jean-Jacques Lebel. He took off his clothes because he understood that this was the right thing to do, because you were throwing yourself into the projection screen, into the images that were projected onto that screen, and basically you were then body-painting yourself with all this cinematic imagery and disturbing, changing the curvature and shaping of the screen, so it was really throwing yourself into the screen and joining, immersing yourself in the cinematic space.

And this, after a week of experimental cinema where people were sitting in chairs watching fabulous experimental films, and getting more and more pent up, more and more energy building up, but unable to do anything… Then suddenly at the end there was this finale when suddenly you could jump into the movie.

On 18/07/12 10:09 PM, "Simon Biggs" <simon at littlepig.org.uk> wrote:

I'm mainly referring to the practices of the 60's through to the 80's, that were initially termed 'expanded cinema' (Youngblood has to be mentioned in this discussion at some point). My own practice is rooted in that period and in the days when I did make single screen works (the 70's and 80's), for display on monitors and projection screens, I employed irregular framing and avoided filling the whole rectangle of the frame. I would leave much of it black (which could read as blank) and allow the subject material comprising the image to determine the shape of the frame it required. This was easy as I produced all my images synthetically (no cameras involved) so was in control of every pixel in every frame. Of course, the rectangular 4:3 (as it had to be then) frame was still there but, especially when projected straight onto a wall and with careful balancing of the projector settings and ambient light, to ensure that black didn't read as projected black, the image elements appeared more or less as one with the wall, like a fresco. This allowed the elements of the image not only to be read as not a rectangular frame but as discrete visual elements. Using multiple projections further enhanced the sense that the screen, as a defined area, no longer applied. Since the 1980's I've extended this differentiation of the visual elements by making them independently interactive, so objects react individually to user/viewer presence and action (not just their physical location or movement, but their voice, the words they speak - using voice recognition - and other behaviours). This requires object oriented programming and some AI algorithms as well as, again, attention to how the projected image is delivered and interacts with the environment it is in, and taking into account the limits of human perception and how our expectations determine what we see. The result is that you aren't aware of the screen or frame as such, even though these are always there in the apparatus.

Rafael's work also has elements of this sort of approach, especially his relational architecture pieces, which destabilise the projected frame and the structures he projects onto. His work is all screen and yet it is difficult to perceive where the screen starts and stops or, indeed, whether it is even there or not.

The work that Salvatore refers to functions more like a Warhol multiple - using repetition to break our sense of contiguity and spatial relations. This is a trick that was used by Paik to great effect in many of his classic and influential works, particularly the larger video sculptures like Global Groove and Electronic Superhighway.



On 18 Jul 2012, at 06:39, Scott Mcquire wrote:

Re: [-empyre-] July on empyre: Sceens (week 3)
Don’t know if we’re ever going to ‘throw out’ the frame  — this is a key aspect of the continuity I was evoking between earlier screen forms and contemporary devices including mobile phones and tablets.

In an earlier post Kriss Ravetto mentioned Eisenstein, who of course relates the (cinema) screen to both the printed page but especially to painting (the aesthetic of the golden section etc).  The standardisation of the rectangular screen is certainly integral to the current production of screens as commodity form, but the frame (which does not have to be rectangular) as a function pre-exists this relation, and hence shouldn’t be reduced to it.

But I take your point about the assimilation of video art — this where the shift of the screen beyond the gallery starts to ask interesting questions about protocols of display.


On 18/07/12 6:54 AM, "Simon Biggs" <simon at littlepig.org.uk <x-msg://164/simon@littlepig.org.uk> > wrote:

Video needs to step out of the frame, like sculpture needed to step off the plinth 50 years ago. The thing is, from the beginning, video (art) stepped out of the frame (Vostell, Jonas, et al). Ironically, video art seems to have gained acceptance in the mainstream of the art world as it has chosen to step back into the frame again, aping (home) cinema. Sad, really...



On 17 Jul 2012, at 19:35, Sean Cubitt wrote:

Ciao Salvatore, salut Karen, G'day Scott, hello

I just visited Sung Hwan Kim's installation in the new Tanks space at Tate Modern, which attempts something like the open space of fixed screens Salvatore talks abut: perhaps not as vividly as the Guangshen Superhighway market (though they have tried to keep the ambience of alternative industrial spaces / lofts / warehouses and the other marginal spaces used by performance and video artists for decades). The social structuring of space is what Kim's installation is 'about' rather than what it achieves

Coming up at the tanks is a day showing Anthony McCall's four cone films (one of which is in permanent display at ACMI in Melbourne) - abstract works where a shifting line projects through haze creating a 3D projection space – hints and memories of works like Andrea Zapp and Paul Sermon's Body of Water, part shown in a derelict mine building where archive footage of miners in the showers after their shift was projected onto a 'screen' made of falling water (http://www.artdes.mmu.ac.uk/~azapp/art_works.html)

What's intriguing for our discussion is that there might be another distinction to make. On one hand the socialised screen-space of the market as a kind of DIY installation, a way of populating and inhabiting a space (non-lieu), turning what appears to be the void under a motorway into a Place, a process which also describes what Sermon and Zapp did (the installation also involved telematic elements but "The shower room is the heart of the installation, all the visual and conceptual layers meet here" as zapp writes on her site)

On the other McCall's magical transformation of the black box into a kind of sculptural space. Lis Rhodes' Light Music, which has a related aesthetic, wasn't working when I visited the Tanks today – hopefully it will be soon).

Both suggest something important about screening as a practice: that the boredom so many people report about biennial-style video art is based on the uninteresting mode of projection, four-square on a white wall, only occasionally improved when curators have enough nous to silver, or to project onto grey or black

As Karen says, work like Bill Viola's can rescue themselves from this tedium by sheer visual power, and perhaps by evoking other kinds of screen (the reredos or altar screen, other decorations which hide while hinting at the sacred ritual space behind them). Viola is one of the few who seems ready to pry apart the foveal concentration, the selection of what on the screen we should be attentive to, for example by masking or otherwise making  obscure his angel's faces, so that the peripheral vision opens out not just to offscreen space but to the nuanced tonalities of the 'background'

I've grown to dislike the banal four-square projection: there have been such brilliant uses of keystone effects (Stansfeld and Hooykaas for example) - now all DLP projectors come with automatic anti-keystoning which can be a bugger to switch off -  or of projecting onto corrugation (the People Show), curved or textured or otherwise tactile, sculptural, 3D (smoke, water, bodies) surfaces and objects . . .

Should we think of the rectangular screen, bounded with a frame, as a prison? Or should we consider it as something like the form of the sonnet, a rigid construct into which, however, from Petrarch to Wordsworth, for several hundred years, or like the 3-minute pop song, an amazing variety of poetic and musical action has been perpetrated? But even so, we need to understand what that is

William Carlos Williams wrote of the beginning of free verse
"To break the pentameter, that was the first heave"
Which is itself a pentameter . . . Do we need to throw out the framed screen, the regular and normative rectangle? Is that enough (eg in Gary Hill's or Tony Ousler's work)? Or can the pure proliferation make the relation with screens open out onto other modes of relationship, ways of relating to each other otherwise than through the object/commodity?


From: "xDxD.vs.xDxD" <xdxd.vs.xdxd at gmail.com <x-msg://164/xdxd.vs.xdxd@gmail.com> >
Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au <x-msg://164/empyre@lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au> >
Date: Tuesday, 17 July 2012 17:06
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au <x-msg://164/empyre@lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au> >
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] July on empyre: Sceens (week 3)

hello everyone,

On Tue, Jul 17, 2012 at 3:15 AM, Scott Mcquire <mcquire at unimelb.edu.au <x-msg://164/mcquire@unimelb.edu.au> > wrote:
What was really interesting was the way the audience shifted around the space to watch.  It wasn’t the platform that moved (like the old diorama with rotating floor) but the people who would stand, sit, lie in one place then turn around or get up and move elsewhere as another came on. The afternoon I saw it there were about 60 people doing this together for over 30 minutes. This creates a really fascinating spatial ambiance, where screens are simultaneoulsy material objects (blocking passage, blocking view) and surfaces that open into heterogeneous spaces.

At one stage, all the screens are just red, then pale with no image, while the sound is dispersed throughout the entire gallery.  Everyone kind of wandered around, not really looking for or at anything, but enjoying a promenade among the screens in each other’s company.

in this market, in China, under a highway,


dozens of screens are lined up on one side of the space, each tuned in to a different channel or dvd

instead of using a remote to change channel, people move to a different table.

screens, in this case, are a platform built into public space and into people's perceptions. in-between the two, actually.

both for people who watch them, and for people who use them to propose services of various types: as soon as enough people gather around a single table, watching something on that channel or dvd, other people immediately arrive, offering services of various kinds, videogame consoles (to be attached to screens, as well!), board games, food or even internet connections.

i particularly enjoy this example, as it is a peculiar way in which screens modify our perception of space (they are un-movable, yet they suggest how people move and reassemble and relate in public space), and their configuration suggests the affordances of public space and, thus, also the economic (business) models which can be built into them.

In more than one way it is not different from many geo-referenced mobile applications :)

all the best!

empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk http://www.littlepig.org.uk/ @SimonBiggsUK skype: simonbiggsuk

s.biggs at ed.ac.uk Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh
http://www.eca.ac.uk/circle/  http://www.elmcip.net/  http://www.movingtargets.co.uk/
MSc by Research in Interdisciplinary Creative Practices

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