Seeing in Stereo

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Geekery: my new View-Master is a Model C, manufactured from 1950-1955. Though it pre-dates both myself and the shows I’m working with, it directly references the original geographic-vacation-slide role of the stereoscopic viewer as method of accessing site and memory.

The third component of my interdisciplinary thesis is shaping up to be an interesting (albeit challenging) angle on televisual concept.

In an earlier post, I mentioned I had narrowed the digital-interactive component down to a stereoscopic investigation of screen caps/digital stills. The photo above? My new View-Master! I’m working with a View-Master for the Cascade’s mysterious third angle (related to Lev Manovich’s three-screen theory from The Language of New Media) and Minkowski’s diagram of space-time.

I’m building View-Master reels using my digitally manipulated screencaps, referencing the common commercial practice of translating television narrative to View-Master products, and to similiar ‘vacation’ slides that were circulated for stereoscopic viewing. Proud View-Master owners could watch dimensionalized, condensed versions of their favorite fictive, TV heroes (like The A-Team, Adam-12…), popping reels in and out, in any order, to flick through brief, tentatively connected vignettes. The same plastic, human-powered analog device was also designed for viewing photo reels one could pick up as ready-made vacation albums from gift shops at popular landmarks (I remember buying a packet from Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA in the early 80s). A quick eBay search will reveal equal parts Hollywood-reality and vacation-fiction. The perfect conflation of place, semi-narrative and image.

This angle suggests an entanglement of the televisual, the geographically located ‘vacation’ slide, digital imaging, digital screen caps and good ol’ fashioned human-powered manipulation.

I discussed the idea with my mentor during our last meeting (detailed post on that forthcoming). Though I was concerned the analog device might lean too kitschy, Kevin liked the idea (and wasn’t averse to the potential kitsch, inherent in the View-Master itself, anyway). He encouraged me to make the image reels truly stereoscopic (3D) and to sort potential reel topics by typologies.

View-Master reels, in general practice, are sorted and commodified archives. For commercially-aligned subjects, like television programs, cartoons and movies, a broader subject is usually defined: e.g. The Monkees, then broken out as a sub-category (often excerpts from a single television episode, like “Hillbilly Honeymoon”), or as micro-zooms of a favorite character, like scenes from multiple Superman cartoon episodes, collapsed into one viewing. For site-specific, vacation-suggestive reels, images are usually organized by locations: Joshua Tree National Monument, Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, Las Vegas. Still other kinds of reels are further divided by typologies, like Dogs of Soviet Space, Wild Animals of the World or Yellowstone Geysers (for example).

This leaves my own application pretty open. I like Kevin’s idea of sorting by type. Perhaps, gunfights, car chases, rescues… But I also think the original View-Master macro-micro approach (television program > moments in semi-context) makes sense as well.

In order to work through these possibilities, I am currently sorting (and building) digital stills into potential categories for reels. I’d like to have at least one reel completed for the January residency, even if it is not true 3D. Working with stereoscopy proper is challenging and may end up detracting from the actual concept.

A gun-fight reel, perhaps?

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Cars in the desert? Highways? Secret air bases?

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Car crashes?

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