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The Cascade(s)

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Los Angeles Aqueduct Cascades, Sylmar, CA. Near Foothill Freeway.

“Connecting images to images, playing with series of them, repeating them, reproducing them, distorting them slightly, has been common practice in art even before the infamous ‘age of mechanical reproduction.’ ‘Intertextuality’ is one of the ways in which the cascading of images is discernible in the artistic domain – the thick entangled connection that each image has with all the others that have been produced…”

–Bruno Latour, What is Iconoclash?

My third semester is now folding into my fourth, or thesis, semester at LUCAD/AIB and I’m in the process of wrapping up for the January residency. I will be shipping Roy and the Mojave Subsequence in late December and the video pieces, View-Masters and reels will accompany me in person.

My semester bibliography, thesis outline, and artist list are available under Papers.

The Los Angeles Cascades (Sylmar, CA)

The Los Angeles Cascades (Sylmar, CA)

“As we encounter the data cascade, each of us constructs our own personal mythology from bits and fragments of information extracted from the media flow… transformed into resources through which we make sense of our everyday lives.”

Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture

This semester, The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert (my interdisciplinary thesis) made tremendous headway and I have a clear direction for resolving the final moments of …Moments. 🙂 The residency will give me the opportunity to gauge ideas about installation and continued relevancy of its interrelated parts.

“…the crucial distinction we wish to draw … is not between a world of image and a world of no-image– as the image warriors would have us believe – but between the interrupted flow of pictures and a cascade of them.”

–Bruno Latour, What is Iconoclash?

I also met with Les Ann Holland, my second semester mentor, during November and brought her up to speed on the project’s progress since we last met. I’d like to work with her during my final semester and I’ll be proposing that to my final adviser in January.

Between the (technical) end of the semester and the beginning of the residency, I’ll be continuing work on the next video piece, Ambush, producing more digital stills, and practicing stereoscopic imaging. I’m also doing a lot of reading for the upcoming critical theory course and fleshing out side sections of research that were identified while writing my thesis outline.

Onward!

The Cascade(s) in Situ, Emergency!

The Cascade(s) in Situ, Emergency!

Digital Autumn

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Though I’ve mostly been focusing on video work, research, painting and writing, I’m still plugging away at the digital montages, developing new stills all the time as standalone pieces, and as fodder for future paintings.

I’m still using the digital imaging as a field of intense investigation, allowing time ruptures and even micro-narratives to rupture the painterly surface.

The batch of stills I produced in October and November were red and blue heavy, and I leaned away from my typical infusion of orange-pink-yellow to provide some visual variety, without losing the scheme of the digital desert.

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Some of them even pulled rather dark, and I allowed them to push the outer edge of my palette to see where the language was headed:

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See a selection of additional digital stills in the gallery

I’ve also quite enjoyed catching stills from my own videos, which themselves are composed of twice-removed captures:

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Haunted Temporality: The Loop as Semi-Narrative Engine

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AJ is trapped in an endless helicopter-gunfire-convertible chase through the desert…

Ren Adams
Research Paper 3
Peter Rostovsky – Advisor
October, 2014

Haunted Temporality: The Loop as Semi-Narrative Engine

Note: Footnotes are below, if internal links don’t direct you there properly.
Download and Read PDF Version

Loops are powerful invocations, abandoning linear narrative for the intensity of a continuous present, capable of establishing, disrupting and directing temporal relationships. Media theorist Lev Manovich suggests the loop is actually “a new narrative form appropriate for the computer age,” even as it occupies a liminal, anti-narrative space between story and instance (Manovich xxxiii).[1] The term ‘loop’ itself describes a complex range of repetitive gestures, from 3-second animated GIFs to middle-ground montage (establishing shots, action sequences in television) and the broader, or nearly imperceptible, cycles found in contemporary art (e.g. Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho[2]). Woven into longer segments, loops can even establish a haunting sense of repetition and reappearance, affecting the viewer’s relationship to the viewed and the recalled. This flexibility allows loops to serve as an effective investigation into the conflated space of time and memory. In the case of my own video work, they allow access and reference to the uncanny familiarity of television and its rapid-fire montage experience. The video components of The Cascade incorporate loops to provide the kind of mosaic understanding of space-place that come from a de-centered, semi-narrative form. The loop provides critical negotiation of the televisual structure and the ways we commit and recall memory-images,[3] opening my artistic process to post-narrative methodology.

The contemporary loop recalls proto-cinema and early avant-garde film[4]—the active image repetition later supplanted by cinema’s reliance on linear narrative (Manovich 315). Early cinematic devices like the zoetrope and zoopraxiscope animated short sequences—dancers whirling, a horse jumping a fence, and so on, by “mapping time onto two-dimensional space” using sequenced, discrete images spaced around a circle (Manovich 51). These analog devices used physical motion to speed through individual shots, simulating activity within a closed-circuit (Manovich 296-7). They were capable of expressing an instant in time, a suspended action, often with its own micro-narrative (the horse jumps, the dancers dance), but without reliance upon storyline. With the emergence of cinema proper, the language of film abandoned the ‘artifice’ of the loop, avoiding repetitious sequences to stress the illusion of realistic ‘capture.’[5] The more cinema embraced capture, the more it bound itself to the forward-moving act of storytelling (Manovich 300-01). Cinema thus behaved like novels and theater, with clear progression through a series of events.[6] Since early television heavily mimicked film, it initially embraced the loop-free approach (Fiske 15), but as television developed its own language and aesthetic system, it integrated (even centralized) loops for defining program elements, story structure, and all manner of serialized and episodic development—even systems of re-run, re-make, programs, commercials,[7] and consumption.[8] Loops also resurfaced in video games, animation and the internet, reincarnated as short videos, animated GIFs and the like, carrying a renewed sense of the immediate present (Manovich 315). In current pop culture, loops are critically, even playfully integrated into the fiber of daily life, popping up in Facebook feeds, apps, games and television, expressing emotion, advertising products, making political statements, and so on.[9]

Thus, loop forms are an alternative to cinematic narrative. Repetitive structure prevents a clear understanding of beginning, middle and end, erasing our reliance on static waypoints while expanding a single moment into a potentially infinite, self-spiraling universe.  This allows contemporary artists to manipulate the viewer’s relationship to time and memory (even to place and event), just as the use of repeated sequencing in television programs reinforces the viewer’s sense of flow, place and character by offering a mosaic[10] of recorded experiences the viewer must link by viewing.[11] Where cinema unfolds an elaborate story system, loops invite focus, even frustration, functioning as discrete, contained occurrences or as open-circuit systems that manipulate the audience expectation set by visual media (Fiske 62).

The loop in a broader sense can also describe the progress of televisual language (and structure) itself. Most programs rely on formula, such that viewers gain a sense of familiarity with series they have never personally watched, simply by participating in televisual exchange (Fiske 17).[12] Unlike the linear drive of cinema, television reveals the nature of its ideas, characters and events as cross-referenced mosaics that may even span years of development (Fiske 125)(Footnote 9). In TV, literal looping segments become intertextual references, suggesting the repetitive structure of the programming and a GIF-like condensation of proto-cinema, while establishing rhythm, expository information and aesthetic value. The re-use of stock footage loops, for example, provides a punctuating rhythm that can link multiple seasons and ideas across, and through, the visual mosaic.

Looping stock footage is an established television practice and though the loop may contribute to the story, it is actually a collapsed, or excised, unit of time, without narrative—used repeatedly to transition the primary material.[13] Driving sequences from Emergency! and Adam 12 are excellent examples of this kind of punctuating loop. Each episode contains pre-recorded, circular footage of emergency vehicles or police cars leaving the station, hurtling through city streets or returning to the garage. The loops are not immediately apparent, but reveal ticks over time: the same cross traffic, pedestrians and clouds populate the time-frozen cycle. Repetition also suggests the endless, grueling process of rescue and law enforcement, so the loops also have conceptual meaning for characterization, but there is a composite relationship here, where action sequences and establishing shots form a kind of nonlinear temporality (135), resurfacing across multiple episodes to mark infinite spiraling points, yet the “narrative does not proceed as simple causality” (Birnbaum 137). Though the story moves forward because the police rush to the scene, the act of rushing is divorced and looped, intertwined with the “indiscernibility of the real and the imaginary, or of the present and the past, of the actual and the virtual…” creating double images, or looping engagements (Farr 23).

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The Day After (1983)

In contemporary art, loops can provide overall structure, as in Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho, Cory Arcangel’s Clouds (2002) or Stan Douglas’ Overture (1986).[14] Punctuating longer works, or used in variation, the loop encourages viewers to consider the nature of time and the relationship between the reinvented continuous and the discrete, to see multiple potentialities simultaneously and to establish formal rhythm, as in Claudia X. Valdes’ In the Dream of the Planet (2002).  Valdes employs intense cycles and ‘reincarnated’ excerpts, in order to direct viewer interpretation and to reinforce Cold War conditions. In The Dream of the Planet (2002)(Fig. 1), Valdes appropriates made-for-TV-movie The Day After (1983), compressing the two-hour film into a 56-second loop.  The loop is repeated six times in rapid succession, with each incarnation skewed to emphasize a different aspect of Cold War anxiety: the military complex, social upheaval, survival, detonation, media, etc.… The original film grapples with a fictional nuclear escalation between the United States and the Soviet Union, culminating in a full-scale nuclear war. In the condensation, images hurtle past, allowing only a frantic glimpse of each person, each situation. The cycle slows with terrifying agony as missiles launch, buildings collapse and the media responds—distilling the doom of the original into a frenetic, semi-narrative commentary. The painfully recognizable, yet ultimately unreliable loop incites a state of hyper-arousal that parallels nuclear paranoia. Valdes’ ability to distill the made-for-TV movie, its subtexts and anxiety, with her own queries, is an excellent example of the haunted loop, which refers to, and reenacts, its own apparitional forms—making it incredibly relevant to the distillation of action and interaction in The Cascade.[15]

My video work considers the way loops are capable of suggesting the space of spatial memory and whether repetition provides a condensed sense of the mosaic found in televisual language.[16] Embedded, unstable grooves offer the viewer contextual déjà vu—where they begin to identity recognizable sequences, but are confronted by uncertain, semi-narrative that haunts itself with its own re-visitation. This perpetual re-enactment suggests the denial of traditional story, while establishing a dream-like state where characters engage and re-engage, running over a tight temporality that flirts with story.

So I Asked… (2014)(Fig. 2) establishes this kind of haunted, repetitious cycle via deeply interlocked, repetitious passages. Opening with two firefighter-paramedics caught mid-conversation (then interrupted by an emergency call), the tumbling, heavily altered stream collides with a rotating sequence of loops (a landing helicopter, a high speed gunfight, rescue vehicles en route, etc.). The loops continually intertwine, ghosted, as intensity builds. The increasingly anxious, overlapping dialogue suggests “something happens, is happening, goes on happening…” (Drucker 23), though sequenced temporality ruptures: the ‘goes on happening’ may actually occur before the initial ‘something’ that sets off the chain. The paramedics seem to be responding to a gunfight, yet the rescuers themselves are caught in a disruptive loop that leaves the title question unasked and the rescue unresolved, though viewers can rely on their knowledge of televisual language to determine that a rescue has been, or will be, attempted. We are unable to rely on linearity, yet the hurtle of loops describe the events most likely to have occurred, though order is unclear—rather like catching episodes out of sequence, leaving us to infer connections.[17]

I also take into consideration the telescoping stages of video itself: the time of the original filming, editorial time in appropriative postproduction, the immediate present of the watching viewer, the viewer’s present-into-past transition and the after-processing (and any subsequent recollection). The intensity of repetition is meant to reinforce the experience of an immediate, unyielding present, both in terms of ‘story’ progression and reception. The moments-after transition through what has immediately passed suggests: “time flows and each present fades but doesn’t disappear” (Birnbaum 139), amplifying the sense of déjà vu as almost-identical snippets continually resurface. This holds true in Valdes’ work, as well as in the stock footage loops I reference in my own work. So I Asked… (and other Cascade videos) may even behave as fragmentary, fragile archives—bound by our desire to sort out the phenomena of “haunting,” and the activation of memory that occurs with reappearance (Farr 12). Are we seeing the same event as an instant replay? Are we remembering an earlier incarnation, or is a similar event happening repeatedly in the same space, over time? The embedded loops thus recall the instant-moment introspection of proto-cinema, or the characterizing, time-independent stock footage of the appropriated programs.[18] The semi-narrative is stitched, overlaid and underwritten by time.

Loops possess a kind of visual déjà vu adapted from proto-cinematic experiments, re-contextualized by digital culture, manipulated by television and increasingly fundamental to contemporary art. They are versatile vehicles of conceptual delivery, raw enough to link and characterize television and capable of leading to surprising engagements with the haunting re-enactment of contemporary life. Loops can be semi-narrative, providing time-introspective context for larger stories, or they can perform as narrative-defying moments of their own, operating outside traditional viewer expectation. They fundamentally speak of time, memory and reflective space, especially when divorced from big-picture enslavement, becoming a postproduction, anti-narrative engine, disruptive and interstitial. Repetition changes our engagement with the ‘place’ of moving image, making loop investigations a relevant, even vital, expression of our time—a way of zeroing in on the atoms of information flow.

Works Cited

Adams, Ren. So I Asked… 2014. YouTube. 8 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Aug. 2014.

Birnbaum, Daniel. “Crystals.” Memory. Ed. Ian Farr. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2012. 137-144. Print.

Boyd, Mark Cameron. “Postnarrative Structure.” Theory Now. 10 April, 2008. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.

Culley, Peter. “Two Works by Stan Douglas.” Vanguard 16:4 (1987).

Dienst, Richard. Still Life in Real Time: Theory after Television (Post-Contemporary Interventions). Durham: Duke University Press, 1994. Print.

Drucker, Johanna. “Temporal Photography.” Philosophy of Photography 1:1 (2010): 22-28. Print.

Enwezor, Okwui. “Documents into Monuments: Archives as Meditations in Time.” Memory. Ed. Ian Farr. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2012. 133-136. Print.

Farr, Ian. “Introduction/Not Quite how I Remember it.” Memory. Ed. Ian Farr. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2012. 12-27. Print.

Fiske, John and John Hartley. Reading Television. Florence: Routledge, 1978. Print.

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001. Print.

Valdes, Claudia X. “In the Dream of the Planet.” Portfolio. Claudia X. Valdes. 2002. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.

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Figure 1. In the Dream of the Planet (2012). Claudia X. Valdes. Video (Installation View).

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Figure 2. So I Asked… (2014). Ren Adams. Video.

[1] Manovich also suggests it is “relevant to recall that the loop gave birth not only to cinema but also to  computer programming,” thus tying loop logic to database execution—a fundamental 20th and 21st century interface   (Xxxiii)Loops are found in proto cinema and at the beginning of cinema, then re-emerge in new media. (215).
[2] Gordon’s installation incorporates two projection screens which simultaneously play an endless loop of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), one proceeding forward, the other backward. The loops move at only a few frames per second—so slowly that casual viewers may not even recognize change or directional progression at all. Longer consideration of the piece reveals the uncanny, unnerving and crystallized sense of frozen (yet endlessly progressing) cinematic time, as they loop in such long spans, few could sit through the entire motion—even as they are aware of the sweeping loop.

[3] Theorists like Paul Ricoeur and Jean-Paul Sartre suggest the uncanny, layered experience of memory is a process part logic, part hallucinatory. Ricoeur applies some of Henri Bergson’s memory theory, when interpreting Sartre’s psychology of imagination by describing a kind of intermediary memory as a mixed state, where “the ‘memory-image’ [is] halfway between ‘pure memory’ and memory reinscribed in perception” (Farr 14). The memory-image, or mixed media we construct in our minds, is never wholly factual, or entirely reliable, instead a play between the imaginary and conscious, between the interpreted and the understood.

[4] Dziga Vertov’s 1929 Man with a Movie Camera re-enacts the proto-cinematic loop, embedded in longer experimental montage that remains relevant to new media considerations (Manovich xiv, 316).

[5] Manovich suggests “narrative cinema avoids repetitions; like modern Western fictional forms in general, it puts

forward a notion of human existence as a linear progression through numerous unique events” (315-316).

Cinematic linearity is not just a storytelling structure, but an attribution of larger psychological ordering techniques in Modernity.

[6]       At least mainstream/dominant cinema. Avant-garde cinema plays by different rules.

[7] Television theorist Richard Dienst claims television endlessly cuts away from program moments to return to the “traffic of images and sounds, to all the messages carried by all the messengers crossing through the world” (129). This creates a loop of program-commercial-program-commercial.

[8] Artist Nam June Paik echoes television theorists when he suggests “the fundamental concept of TV is time…” (Dienst 159). Television is recorded, produced, cut and offered in terms of time, so time is not only a fundamental concept, but also the fundamental shape of television. The familiar loops we encounter in viewing owe much to the backbone of the medium. Thus, “time is the substance of television’s visuality, the ground of its ontology and the currency of its economy” (Dienst 159).

[9] Their ubiquitous culture-wide return can be attributed to larger postmodern and ‘digimodern’ cultural shifts, not expounded here.

[10] Which more closely resembles oral tradition than novels or theater, where characters repeat, refrains establish elastic structure and context, but in which stories exhibit a kind of fluidity not found in directional cinema. Television has been likened to oral tradition by more than one theorist (Fiske 125). Viewers gain an understanding of characters and events by viewing, digesting and cross-referencing visual information. We get a sense of who Jack Bauer is, not because of lengthy cinematic development, but because we cross-patch, experience and unite threads from 9 seasons of 24. This is similar to the way in which audiences might come to understand the epic poetry or folktales of Odysseus or Coyote.

[11] Cinema and radio are considered ‘hot’ media because they extend and deliver a focused sensation; the viewer or listener watches, listens and receives to gain understanding. Television is considered a ‘cool’ medium because the viewer must do most of the work; “the screen supplies mere metonyms, we make them meaningful” (Reading 123). Because information about characters, events and plotlines are stretched across multiple episodes, even multiple seasons and years, and TV occupies living space, rather than the black box of the focused theater, television asks the audience to perform and engage. Episodes do not even need to be viewed ‘in order’ to garner a sense of the program’s reality. Thus, it is “only at the moment when the semiotic codes interlock with the cultural awareness supplied by the viewer, whose own context will play a part in shaping that cultural awareness” (Fiske 123).

[12] We may catch an advertisement for a new detective show or medical drama and already have a sense of the kind of language, pacing and aesthetics that are likely to be offered, related in part to past viewing experiences, or to general cultural understanding of genres. We know how sitcoms are meant to behave, etc.
[13] Thought it may contain the kind of micro-narrative present in the spinning zoetrope: the vehicles turn a corner, the firemen jump into the engine and leave, etc.
[14]  Arcangel’s Clouds is a new media projection piece, endlessly rebuilt in real time from a modified Super Nintendo game cartridge. The background clouds from Super Mario Brothers provide an infinite, fabricated loop.

In Stan Douglas’ piece, a 16mm Edison Company promotional film is looped under a narration from Proust. In the cycle, a train curves through a British Columbian landscape in an infinite circle (Boyd)(Culley). The voice-over is contemplates the transition from waking to sleeping, echoed in the uncanny monotony of the endless train ride. Here, the loop is at first uncertain. The film lasts 6 minutes—enough time to seem discrete, yet the viewer realizes the train is passing through the same terrain, just as our minds do (especially during the process of recollection). Here, the loop offhandedly illustrates the philosophy of Proust’s memory-grooves (Boyd).

[15] The Cascade is my three-part, interdisciplinary thesis, which includes painting, video and interactive elements. The interactive component also makes use of loops, though it is not discussed here.
[16]  A number of television theorists describe cinema as ‘linear’ and television as ‘mosaic.’ Viewers gain a sense of who the characters are, the world they inhabit and t, mosaic, oral tradition(reading television 125)

[17] Due to my schedule, I was unable to watch the first four seasons of The Office in real time, or in ‘proper’ order. Instead, I watched their non-sequential re-broadcast in syndication, which made no attempt to present the series in linearity. Instead, I saw snippets of the before and after of several relationships and dramatic story arcs, piecing together the total experience by seeing events out of turn. The overall mosaic offered a smattering of details that came into focus only after viewing each puzzle piece separately. I thought of this as a critical motive when constructing my videos, as this is often the case with shows in re-rerun, or for viewers who miss a week’s installment. We understand television as mosaic, and we know how to complete the metonymic role of television (Fiske 123). We are the connotative agents (Fiske 41).

[18] My videos intentionally reference the looping stock footage of the appropriated television programs. Loops invoke re-enactment, whether suggesting repeat activities or behaving as discrete repetitions in themselves. Thus, the overall atmosphere recalls previous stories and future adventures, while flirting with narrative, but not offering closure.  By overturning cultural expectations of narrative progress, the videos undermine the process of viewing that we are most familiar with (Boyd).

Major Decisions: The Narrow Way

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Besides being the semester mid-point, my 3rd-semester mid-term coincided with major changes in the final direction of my thesis project, The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert. I plotted several distinct pieces that need to be completed before January and determined the final format and physical considerations of the last part of the triad: the interactive.

So, in addition to continued conceptual investigation, I grappled with medium, technique and materials in a direct way–clearing the “limitless possibilities” that were effectively making part of the project freeze, Hamlet-style, from too many options.

The three-part, interdisciplinary installation will include painting and video, which were already decided, but the possible format of the video, plus the final direction of the third element–the interactive R/W component, were still up in the air.

The interactive component had so many potentialities it became limiting instead of liberating.  I had built and cross-referenced output format lists, based on suggestions and investigations, which implied the third component could take nearly any form–from interactive fiction to downloadable apps–digital images on paper to responsive environments. I had also started down all of those avenues, experimenting without critically tying each output back to my concept.

I did some conceptual housekeeping, sweeping away techniques that did not directly communicate my concept and its ties to televisual experience (output formats like websites, phone apps and Processing referenced digitality flavored by the Internet, speaking less about the nature of television and more about the broader computerized spectrum of 21st century communication). Instead I zeroed in on a form of stereoscopy for the third component, which ties in to memory theory and physical interactivity, while referencing televisual memory on several levels. I’ll do a big reveal later in the semester, but it feels good to weed the garden of endless mediums! The interactive has become stereoscopic. If the stereoscopy does not hold up to more rigorous critique, there are several other formats that can be revisited.

Above: Completed Encounter video.

The video display has been narrowed down from a wild list of on-site projections, digital photo frames, and room-filling environmental shifts to a single monitor or system of multiple monitors which play the videos with out-loud audio on the main display. During the last residency I found viewers were split 50/50 on reception of the videos on a large scale or more intimate size. The larger scale referenced the black box of cinema and filmic language. The smaller scale referenced television. While it would be interesting to construct an enter-able televisual space, with multiple projections in a darkened room, I found that referencing television via the televisual screen makes the most sense, especially the more I’ve dug in to the differences between television theory and cinematic theory. The black box of cinema expects the viewer to sit down and focus on the language of film, much like the novel, which restrains, constrains and uses its own cultivated language–characters and locations are fully rendered in a lengthier window of time than your average television episode, yet it has a much shorter expanse in which to develop virtual relationships than a 24-episode tv season. It’s more complex than this, but in a nutshell, cinema is over-arching, encompassing. Television is episodic, fleeting, but builds a dynamic mosaic for interpretation. We engage with tv on different days, in different moods–but film is meant to be consumed in one shot, one specific length.

Television is a “white box” medium which co-exists in our personal, social and lived-in spaces. We don’t turn the lights down (unless we’re watching a filmic experience on television) to engage with it. Instead, TV occupies a light, lively room. We may pass in front of the box, doing chores, talking, temporarily engaging the screen, getting wrapped up in bursts of sound, snippets of dialogue… it is a medium of oral tradition, of mosaic image-memory, of fragmentary, flowing storytelling. It occupies more hours with us in our physical geographies, in our relationship to friends and family in location-situated space.

Showing the videos on a television-referent monitor as wormholes into time, space, memory, landscape, histopry and television makes sense. Even those who prefer to view television via Netflix or Hulu on computers or mobile devices engage with the media intimately, yet with an odd sense of passive control, small and close. In the white box of the gallery space, it makes sense. With lights on, the rest of the installation lit and occupying pass-through space… it makes sense!

My decision was influenced by discussions with fellow students, faculty, advisors, my mentors–and by viewing a variety of video art projections and installations in person, gauging my response to the physical display, as well as the response of other visitors.

I’d still like to experiment with an all-tv room, or with projections on scrims, but in my gut I know tv will show tv.

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I’ve also narrowed the way further. The sheer amount of material that was filmed in Los Angeles County between 1965 and1989 is staggering. I had initially limited the pool of resources to television, rather than the thousands of hours of cinematic references to the same geographic considerations, because I knew it would be overwhelming.  I also knew the inclusion of film would change the dynamic (and personality) of the language I would be investigating and the forms the project could take. Thus, I had to leave Soledad Canyon gems like Duel (1971) off the table.

These early decisions remain in place. However, the pool of available television is itself a massive, decade-spanning archive. I fielded hours of television time, watching, hunting, scouring, sampling, barely melting that formidable iceberg tip. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my reasons for choosing certain programs are systematic and (hopefully) logical. Even with the guidelines I set for myself, the archive was still too big and expanding too quickly (nearly everyone at the last two residencies has suggested additional programming, additional genres), so I drew the line. I’m not adding any more programs, as tempting as it is (and even as I constantly remember more episodes and programs filmed in these locations!).

I’m finding the ground much more fertile when my ever-expansive view returns home, focused and narrowed on the final stretch.

My crystallized, official schema:

Program Selection

1.) They had to be filmed in Los Angeles County during the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s (the heyday of LA County as the seat of American television filming).

2.) They had to be programs I had originally watched in their first (or partial first) run, or in syndication during those same decades (in-context viewing).

3.) They had to offer some kind of iconographic contribution to the project; the “paramedics” or the “detectives.”

4.) They had to be dramas (I excised sitcoms, cowboy serials and other programs early on, as the language is quite different–though I can see returning to investigate these genres in the future).

5.) They had to be programs I had actually enjoyed watching, or felt some obsessive compulsion to engage with. This is why, for example, Airwolf isn’t on the list. I frankly didn’t like it. This is important for the earnest angle, which leaves sarcastic critique at the door.

6.) I had to be a distilled, representative array, including highly recognizable works paired with obscure memory-traces (a la Douglas Gordon, Renee Green).

For the second half of the semester, I’m planning to complete the rest of the video set, which magnifies various tropes and locations, including Ambush, Airplane (Rental), Car Chase, Auto Accident, Secret Air Base, Sniper, Desert Fire, and Military Action – (titles not final). I’ll be working my way through these with my palette of clips and ideas, though some may carry over to next semester. Plus, I’m working on new digital stills (see the two this post) and I intend to finish the next 2-3 paintings in the series.

And, here’s Pink Floyd’s – The Narrow Way. For the hell of it. http://youtu.be/TJaj_2xsHzc

August Update

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The sun is rapidly setting on August and the light in New Mexico has shifted. Time to take inventory of my late-summer work.

I’ve been reading heaps of television and new media theory, continuing investigation into remix culture, appropriation, cultural structure and  theories of memory while also honing my video production skills. It seems I’ve been reading more this semester than any previous, which is saying something, as I’m always a prolific reader. My first research paper for the semester is centered on remix and the role of artist as cultural DJ (will share it soon).

I’ve also been developing a more final, conceptual outline of why my thesis contains three distinct elements that alternately access a related core. It’s connected to notions of television experience as a virtual mosaic, to Minkowski’s graph of space-time and to Lev Manovich’s three-screen theory. Too much to go into in this update, but it’s rapidly taking shape.

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Still from “Elevator (Finding a Way out of Here, I Hope)”

My studio work has been centered on developing videos, including massive back-end sampling, altering, generating and “painting” with moving media. So I Asked… and Elevator (Finding a Way Out of Here, I Hope) were developed during July and completed in August.

Many hours go into the scouting, capping and video remix process. Over the course of July and August I completed an obscene amount of tele-viewing time, scouring all 122 episodes of The Rockford Files, re-watching 78 episodes of Adam-12, 129 episodes of Emergency!, 7 episodes of Columbo, 4 episodes of Knight Rider, 22 episodes of The Greatest American Hero and 59 episodes of Simon & Simon. I say “obscene” simply because of the dismissive attitude television-viewing tends to invite. That’s a lot of TV (not even counting the episodes that were repeatedly scoured, broken down and disassembled).

Sound crazy? Research is always a little borderline, anyway. At least borderline obsessive for me. The television deluge served to reveal a bigger image of televisual structure, the function of television as mosaic (and as an extension of oral tradition) and as compositional flow. After a while, you see segments as painted moments in a longer, cyclical turn. This is very useful to the way I’m working with the painting and video.

Still from "So I Asked..."

Still from “So I Asked…”

The videos include layers of manipulated stills, altered footage, digital painting and sound that’s been sampled, mixed, remixed and composed using Audacity. I combined remixed television sound footage with my own sampled audio taken with a Zoom Microtrack recorder.

I’ve also generated hundreds of new screen caps and I’ve just started work on the second 38″ x 50″ painting.

I also experimented with contrasting present-day Google Street Views with show clips and discovered they lead in the wrong visual-physical direction for my 2015 thesis project, but are still fascinating on an urban archaeological level. During my research, I also found devoted fan bases, like the folks at the Official Dwight Schultz Fansite (A-Team Filming Locations), who do footwork to combine video stills with Google Street Views (and actual street shots the fans carve out on their own time), not unlike my experiments earlier this semester. However, their work is a collaborative effort, making use of crowd-sourced skills and knowledge–a compelling turn, and a confirmation that the iceberg revealed by my contrast experiment is meant for another project.

The overall concept behind the fansite research, however, is highly relevant to my thesis– a reminder that fictionalized, pop cultural narratives happened in real space. And here, the landscape becomes a site of activation, a catalyst for decade-spanning personal, regional and cultural interactions. Fans work with space-place memories, track down the actual locations, build new associations with the urban-archaeological discovery (and again, new memories and experiences), then share them as part of a collaborative digital space.

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Still from “Elevator…”

My mentor is also finalized–with thanks to Peter Rostovsky. I’ll be working with Kevin McCoy this Fall (of the collaborative duo, Jennifer & Kevin McCoy).

And here is a preview of the new painting, in its early-early phase.

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So I Asked… (Elevator)

Videos include sound (lots of subtle layers, too, so turn up the volume if you can!)

So I asked…

Elevator (Finding a Way Out of Here, I Hope)
– Combines “stop animation” style stills with moving action.

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Please note–Elevator is not functioning inline, so please visit my website to view the video. 

Peter Rostovsky suggested I consider new ways of dimensionalizing the television experience (which I applied to consideration of the dimensional nature of real and constructed space; in this case, the California landscape as mediated by now-historical television).

I collapsed, condensed, mutated, fabricated and re-contextualized images that were formerly stills. Suddenly things were moving, deepening and expanding my dimensional palette. Elements were disintegrating, breathing, dancing–full of renewed agency. My landscapes were alive–and they weren’t just looping!

I treat the video work the way I handle the creation of digital images (and painting). I develop and respond, investigate and rebound.

During this process of bound and re-bound, certain characters entered the elastic-space as freshly refined icons. I was intrigued by their presence and obsessively pursued their emerging “selfhood.” It made me think of how, in the beginning, I only wanted the bare landscape in my digital desert. I had originally dumped precision details, but vehicles, individuals and even interior spaces crept into the mix. As Tony Apesos pointed out, I’m repopulating the gradually-emptied landscape phenomena, which has been losing specific objects and people since the 16th century. It’s curious, potentially frightening (and exhilarating).

The inclusion of people as part of the video cadence also flirted with narrative, which, as many of you know, has always been intentionally elusive or denied. Here I emphasized the almost-narrative by allowing moments to rhythmically rebound, but keeping with my larger concepts, the resolution of story is always denied.

I’ve been reading a ton of television theory and I’ve discovered fascinating ways of digging into the idea of mosaic and montage, implied space and the passage of time. Each video is intentionally meta-referential. Certain clips, moments and colors are allowed to cycle, forming choruses that seem familiar, yet always shift. Just past the bridge (thinking in musical terms here), a set of layered clips are allowed to temporarily emerge, only to fall away without returning.

The sound is a carefully composed layered blend of recordings I did on a Zoom Microtrack, combined with television audio and ambient noise.

I feel like an alchemical-archaeologist.

Final Mentor Meeting

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Leslie and I had our final in-person mentor meeting on Friday, May 23–and we really wrapped up a productive semester. Leslie’s help was pivotal. She asked incredibly important, relevant, often philosophical questions, allowing me to arrive naturally at fruitful answers, without ever feeling disarmed or pressured.  I was able to be myself, with expert guidance, and I’m hugely appreciative of her incredible wisdom and open-minded approach.

Since we had spent so many hours analyzing the digital stills this semester, we talked less about them as individual units this time and more as an overall, blended language.

We referred back to the set of stills as we talked about other developments, however.
Especially this one:

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The big painting is about 3/4 of the way complete and Leslie was excited about it.  My primary question was whether this was an avenue worth investigating, to which Leslie answered a resounding YES!

The painting started as a mutation of a side exercise Leslie had suggested during our very first meeting. Like the digital Cascade, it took on a life of its own and rapidly moved from exercise to breakthrough.

We talked about ways in which the painting spoke to digitality, without simply performing as a static copy of a digital printout. We also discussed line, color palette, the ambiguous, elastic-space environment and other formal and conceptual considerations. Leslie did an intense micro/macro reading of the painting surface, analyzing everything from moment-to-moment passages and color shifts to the language of mark-making and individual transitions–then we dug into its method of communicating the ambiguity of physical and social space so important to both the transitional television stills and my bigger body of work.

Overall, she was intrigued by its ability to stand up to reading both near and far, and by its fresh interpretation of the digital as counterpoint.

We could see a series of these shown in relation to video projection and digital stills–various expressions of the Cascade with different dialects, thus offering different avenues of analysis without being repetitious.

We also dug deeply into what seems the most important aspect of the painting: how it radically changed the way I work in paint.

I’m normally a fast painter, owing to my quick, responsive engagement with the content. I strategize the whole and attack. I know what needs to be done and I work to complete it as a continuous drive.

For example, we spoke about this older still life I had in the studio:

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For rendering the study above, I conceptualized the whole and dug in. It was a matter of fleshing out a complete idea where most of the planning and discovery takes place off-canvas.

What’s different with this new painting is my approach to resolving the image. Of course the style and purpose of these two works are different, but that’s not the point I’m making. In fact, Leslie pointed out that my treatment of the seemingly flat areas in the fruit study (especially the lower right, just beneath the right pomegranate) resemble the moment-to-moment shifts in the large painting (and the digital work). So, *I* am still very much doing what I have always done–just cracking it open and freshening it up.

For this new painting, I am combining three different Cascade stills, themselves already multi-layer combinations of other stills, drawings and prints.

Rather than combine them in Photoshop, print it out and copy in paint–I am mixing them in real time on paper. Deejaying, in a way. Sampling bits from each and whirling them together. I have an overall intention, but as I work into the painting surface, I am responding to each individual moment, to each brush stroke, to each passage in a new way.

I am no longer diving in to simply fulfill an expressive objective.

Instead, this painting is a process. It’s a process of reactive discovery–an archaeological dig of moments that reveal themselves, shift, change, and reveal new encounters. It is behaving like a digital or printmaking process, allowing me to adapt and respond, analyze and uncover. 

It’s taking me much longer than painted works in the past, because it’s telling its own story as the story unravels.

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Leslie was thrilled. I seem to have made an important breakthrough which allowed me to apply my digital and printmaking way of thinking to the immediacy of paint.

It takes me out of my plan-ahead strategist brain and puts me in a new, adapt-as-you-go-within-a-bigger-plan method, a la The Art of War. So I paradoxically have a plan blueprint, but my movements change from hour to hour.

Taking away the rigidity of the finite plan in execution allowed the painting to open up, to speak to digitality, to speak to the concept–and Leslie and I both felt it’s an important avenue of investigation.

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We also talked about some of the first output Horizons (above). They came out way too dark, but Leslie encouraged me to let go of my dissatisfaction with the printing process and to look at them for what they are, for their scale, their internal nature and their “happy accident” color palette.

We analyzed them for a while, with Leslie suggesting what might happen if they were selectively excavated. Would a smaller snippet still speak to the whole? This is kind of like the micro zooms idea.

The long, desert-evoking horizontality is important in these and I’ll be printing a couple more to take with me to gauge interest. Leslie also suggested she liked multiple horizons stacked, just as Conor had mentioned last week.

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We covered a lot of ground, went back over many of our earlier discussion points from other meetings and Leslie rounded it all out by taking a personal interest in my preparation level for the residency. We tackled any concerns had for the upcoming trip and we discussed the nuts and bolts of getting the most out of even the most problematic critiques.

She genuinely cares about how confident I feel and how capable, equipped and ready I feel for the Fall semester and offered to meet again if I need it during the final week of May. I will be sending her updates on the videos I’m reworking, as well as the painting, but I think she prepared me well. Thanks, Leslie!