Tag Archives: art theory

Before, After (Part 2 of 2)

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Before the machine is tripped and Larry’s chance is lost. From Channeling.

Transformation, Transition and the Song of Myself

In Part 1, I referenced how an experimentation with selfies and the reflexive psychology spent reviewing them led to several new series: Whitespace-Bluespace, Poppy Transitory (formerly Wheel of Fortune) and Channeling.

The selfies are not themselves a new series, nor were they the only impetus behind my new projects, but they did lead into further philosophical exploration of image-making, serialization and methods of re-orienting my idea of “self” and “other” (and self presented as other). They formed the outset of deeper methodology for these new bodies of work, distinct but interlaced, each emergent from The Cascade- Moments in the Televisual Desert and Desert (Loss).

I have always delighted in being a very analytical, even impersonal, artist. I’ve focused on philosophical and social-theoretical contexts, even when the core idea emerged from a secret, personal impetus. I have avoided the self-indulgent biographical–partly out of defiance, partly out of disinterest–denying how fiercely personal many artists can be about their work. But I see things changing. I am allowing more of the personal to guide the conceptual. While this essay reveals much that appears biographical and terribly personal, and I find myself conflating the personal with the public more often in this year’s work, there is still a distance between the private language and the outward manifestation. In other words, I outline the personal-historical here to help support my bigger-than-the-self concepts, though I now adroitly nod to my own participation in the “self.”

In moving through this territory, I also embraced the meditatively self-ascendant Whitman–adopting an aware position of the self, a poetic system of “selfies,” an expansion of self into non-self, and a recognition of our selves oriented within the flow of language and image, thought and word, event and recollection, place and displacement.

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“My Life is not Better than yours,” 2016. From “Whitespace-Bluespace.” Manual glitch (experimental cell phone photography). Size variable.

I sing myself.

The landscape sings itself, sings the self of my re-invented heroes, of my self re-engaging material from my past. My far past. My recent past. My soon-to-be-past in the delicious present.

I sing the association and connections of myself, within myself, within that unique, time-stamped moment that fascinated Charles Baudelaire—that for all of the sameness one moment to the next, there is something vital and undeniable about our presence in our unique moment in time, with our whirl of knowledge and histories, influences, memories and locations; “for almost all our originality comes from the seal which time imprints on our sensations.”

I am a product. A production.

I am a result of the weird, Hollywood-desert-Mojave; an abstract of my parents and friends, memories and lovers (narrative and episodic), my philosophies and writing, the fullness of food and softness of body, the buzzing of screens and static of audio, the shapeshifting Lego blocks of television and music, rocks and sky–commercials and sand, politics and play, spiky Joshua trees and burned-out cars, flaming deserts and earthquake rubble. I am the dialectic of objects lost, objects gained. The childhood-internalized language of Whitman, Heller, Plato, Dostoyevsky, Mom, Dad, truck drivers and trailers, stolen pizza and scribbled poetry, space shuttles and aerospace, mine shafts and abandoned boxes. I am a product of the television narrative, strung across so many series and characters, so many enshrined decades. Those stories written in the spare spaces in old magazines, stuffed dog under my arm (the dog dad and I picked out at an arts & crafts show, from a table of handmade plushies wrapped in coffin-like plastic, in the parking lot of Antelope Valley College in 1979).

I am a side-glance of the weird, plaster King Tut bust, bought for $5 at the Four Points Swapmeet, presented by mom & future step dad, delivered proudly in a white sheet. Brady Bunch orange and ’80s electric blue. Heavy and life-sized. Grounded and cheap. I still think of how I wrapped his head again in a sheet when we had to evacuate my childhood home. He was waiting for me to return, to retrieve him, alone in the leftovers of my room, on the knobbled orange-brown carpet, nestled with my bottle collection and space shuttle, my clothes and childhood books. He waited. I never returned.

Just as the passages above moved from the abstract to the concrete, each of my new series vacillates between the almost-gained and almost-lost, straddling subtle clues and purposeful diffusion. There is a fascinating tension between the nondescript, compressed recollection of moment-as-concept, and the radiant, often fixating pulse of raw detail–of moment-as-exposition, and I try to engage this in different ways with each of these new bodies of work. The tension between specificity and obscurity is certainly the key to much of this new work. The in-between space is where it all happens…

…The space of gray within gray, the cat whose corpse crawled with worms, my foot plunged into his cavernous body, bare in the desert, and who I later buried with a garden trowel, sending his quiet form back to the sand beneath the Joshua tree (the same tree still visible on Google Street View, on David Hockney’s–my–Highway 138, Pearblossom Highway). All those stolen guitar picks I snaked from my brother’s friends when their bands rehearsed in my parent’s bedroom, also buried under the Joshua. All those stubbed toes, seed pods and firearms…

So many luscious and terrible moments, ideas, pinpoints, pinpricks.

Whatever became of my box of plastic animals? My sister’s stories, written on notebook paper and illustrated with plastic toy animals, Scotch-taped to each page as a 3D visual: cows and fences, horses and cats, creating a thick, metered book with strange pages and caverns? I felt guilty pulling the black and white dog from his place near the end of one of her stories… I played with him out of context, with my own toy animals, and his adventures continued. I did not put him back in the book.

Now all the animals are lost. And things are still just things. And whatever becomes of them? Are they lost in the tension between specificity and obscurity, like memory, like each individual held delicately in a photograph? Before they left our possession, after they were lost?

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“These things, in their places,” from Whitespace-Bluespace, 2016. Real time photographic manipulation.

What’s become of my blue bottle and tape player? Those black trash bags filled with ephemera from our old house, piled in the cracked-stucco Model A garage, alongside the single remaining grapevine?

These mundane things, the coffee cup of our daily greet, the blue toothbrush and broken-prong comb. These delightful, simple things… I sing for them in these new visual pieces. I sing for the simple associations, as much as for the grander connections to personal loss, to cultural grief.

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“In this Moment, he heard,” 2016. From Whitespace-Bluespace. Real time photographic manipulation and additional digital glitch.

I sing the song of ordinary things. Of ordinary selves folded into ordinary moments.

I sing the tones of my self-as-formality, that outlined person on off-white bond, presented and polished, distributed and structured. I was part of the first dot com boom. I’ve been an editor in chief, private investigator, copy writer, video editor, web designer, artist assistant, sheet music salesperson–you name it, from bowling alleys to amusement parks, window painting to entertainment writing. I’ve sold hot dogs and held international conference calls. I performed for the space shuttle Endeavor roll-out at Hangar 10, marched in two Rose Parades, been on TV, built websites and wrote copy, published and rejected, I’ve lectured and researched, even been a “cover girl” for a Japanese technology magazine…

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Currently untitled, from Whitespace-Bluespace, 2016. Real time photographic manipulation and additional digital glitch.

Are employment stats part of the song of ourselves? The linear facts of metered existence?

My resume doesn’t tell the time I was nearly stabbed and coolly disarmed the knife-bearing attacker. It doesn’t reference the summer I saved a friend from wild dogs in the desert, or the after-lunch pause where I yanked a co-worker off the street by her blouse as a bus bore down on her in muggy San Francisco. These are the socially heroic thing, but there are just as many (or more) moments of fear, confusion and longing, and even more points of quiet heroism: the process of waking up each day. Of continuing. My resume doesn’t log the times I’ve been without food and electricity, couch-surfing and family-less, washing my clothes with a neighbor’s hose in high school, when I ate leftovers from friends’ lunches; the tail-end of bananas shared by my friend Dave, the tail-end of everything, all the time. It does not reference the time I missed the chance to meet Allen Ginsberg before he died, thanks to an anthropology final. Or the time I once found a life-sized, headless Buddha in the Mojave Desert. I’ll share the story some time, with or without the formality of our public, published selves.

What is biography but a creative, forced-linear narrative? Accentuating the colorful?

What is a resume, but a forced-linear evaluation of the concrete and ‘important’?

What is biographical artwork? How much biography is necessary (if any) to engage a piece?

Dissipated memory is itself pressed into coherence, and extraneous or negative details often airbrushed and removed, sensations bound to a host of romanticized facts or apprehensions, misaligned and finessed. Fierce details are often distilled into crystalline, prescient moments (but often unstable, unreliable). Other details are skimmed and polished, forming inanimate phrases like “parents and friends.”

What is a resume? Are we the sum of our “jobs”? Our roles and proscriptions? Are we the sum of our experiences, or our perception of those same encounters?

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“The Extended Agony of Finding out (after),” 2016. From Whitespace-Bluespace. Manual glitch experimental photography with digital glitch and manipulation.

Enter the song of my characters, another song of my extended self.

A friend’s large-scale figurative paintings frequently make use of his own “self” as the body-subject, though I am not certain he would consider them “self portraits” in a literal or traditional sense. There is certainly a self-portrait aspect (or else he would have enrolled other male models), and these “self” portraits speak as metaphoric modernity, becoming selfless in their representation of cultural and philosophical typologies, and are themselves headless, homogenized, repetitious, dulled in the face of the antithetic machine. Just as my discussion of the resume and the uncomfortable tension between personal detail and the airbrushed, presented self are in disharmony, the men in his paintings are rendered with sensitive realism, such exquisite specificity that blemishes are elevated to the divine, concrete.

But his figures are denied the specificity of identity, yet they possess a peculiar level of detail that would render the nude, fragile and exposed men utterly recognizable to me, if I happened upon them. There’s a tension here between the face-as-identity and the body as identifier. Quite unlike most selfies, actually, where the map of the body, in its fierce detail, is in contrast to the headless erasure of implied, conceptual decapitation. His “selves” are disconcertingly anchored in predictable normalcy, yet denied any identity through the recognizable face, any ability to communicate or understand.

My selfies are so heavily based on the “face” that they become repetitive and dulled, inseparable and blended. A monotonous stream of the same essential form and set of colors, providing a different kind of tension in the weighted specificity of features. As my friend’s work has moved to embrace first a more complete image of a headed figure (after its early headlessness)–again allowing the face to enter–a kind of non-self-portrait rooted in the self,  it now engages an emptied sense of space. The figure has been, or will be, present, but is not located within the represented moment.

My earliest Cascade works were more focused on that kind of recently emptied, but obviously occupied, urban environment, or lived space. I suggested that figures had recently passed through, left imprints, littered the environment with their stats and biographies. Slowly, vehicles snuck into the landscape, then figures emerged, oddly embraced by my formerly all-abstract eye. The tail end of my MFA work, then, allowed figures to be fully present, but the landscape was potentially more vital than the characters, a division I now find upended. Just as my friend’s work naturally moved into new territory, I bring my characters forward now, into several new phases–and the figures are more crucial than the lived space they inhabit.

My friend’s work was thus an important and direct influence on Whitespace-Bluespace and Channeling.

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“The Extended Agony of Finding out (during),” 2016. From Whitespace-Bluespace. Manual glitch experimental photography with digital glitch and manipulation.

The face and the body are the matrix upon which we exchange and interchange, the space others identify, a literal and conceptual anchor of placement, within place, within culture.  As two of the three new series are filled with figures, these bodies are a curated response to myself, to my insecurities and questions, to my isolation, dignity and indignity–and as I am not particularly an emotional or very personal artist (though these last few articles might suggest otherwise), these new series are allowing me to indulge a bit in the very idea of self.

This move toward the character, the self as other, and the time-distorted whirl of indeterminate events allows me to abandon some of the ties to regional specificity I’ve been focused on (though the ties remain, if less prominent). The character as being, as figure, as selfie, as referent and referrer, has become fascinating to me. The desert, Hollywood, California, all undercarriage, superstructure now.

The de-centered and de-structured heroes are moving into new territory, allowed to be whole and present in a sense. I grant them access to the previously abstract picture plane, just as I once allowed vehicles to enter the empty expanse. My friend Pam, a fellow printmaker, says “I don’t like the ones with the people,” preferring instead the more abstract environments. The abstraction, for me, is only one variable. I have not abandoned the abstract stills, but now they offer vital tension for the panes with people. I see myself in the people. I’ve seen myself even in the flimsy posters and watery re-reruns, the action figures and advertising.

Two of the three series are centered on men, my ultimate self-as-other (like The Cascade…) More on this gender tension in a future post.

I will also fully flesh out each of these new bodies of work in separate posts of their own, but here’s a taste:

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Whitespace-Bluespace

This is my biggie. My solo exhibition and beyond.

I spent 8 months doing real-time, photographic capture-manipulations of the Miami Vice television show, which is currently airing each weekday evening, 9-10 pm MST on Cozi TV. As with all my media work, I had watched Miami Vice in its original run, in a particular time-and-place context. More on that below.

Each night, for an hour, I did experimental photographic “monotypes” right from the television screen, making good use of the show’s one-hour time slot and its watery, softened, broadcast form. I set rigid parameters for my manipulation times and methods. I could have easily watched it all in a week or two, binge-style, and done my work in this manner, but there was something about slowing down, about restricting the raw manipulations to an hour each day, preventing me from being out, from doing other things, tying me to the TV screen each night–sometimes against my will. Slowing down put me in a different headspace. Different events, moods, daily affects–these all impacted the way I engaged the televisual language on a given evening.

Limiting myself to an hour of generating imagery created both tension and frustration–some nights I was energized, wanting more and more! Other nights, my life-circumstances bogged me and the project was dogged, nagging, relentless. That’s how I knew I was on to something. When I felt like doing more, I curated and glitched selected moments, rather than finding a way to gather more raw imagery.

As always, I used my cell phone. On my knees, in front of the TV. I’ve gotten so that I can manipulate and shift color, form, focus and distortion in fluid ways, and I worked my little iPhone 4S so hard, I killed it.

The project was all-consuming. Gathering became an intense daily ritual that lengthened the scope of the project, requiring focused introspection and systematic gathering. After gathering, I also put some of the stills through additional glitch manipulation, to purposefully lose, obscure and erode key information that might have provided clarity and resolution. I watched the series through twice, researching and taking notes, then on the third time through, one hour each day, I extracted particular kinds of imagery–one season at a time.

The result is a 23,000 + image archive, composed of the original, real-time manual glitch / experimental photographic pieces and digital glitch images. This in itself has a stark relevancy I’m still unpacking. It makes prolific use of the “before” and “after” I describe in Before, After – Part 1, and the characters are trapped in a terrible cycle, suspended within an indeterminate space of the impending and the retreating. Some of the experiemental photographs, rather like monotypes in their single-shot pull from the screen, are left raw. These don’t undergo more manipulation after the fact, and are prescient, alive. Others, as I mentioned above, receive glitch treatment for conceptual reasons I’ll explain in a future post.

Whitespace-Bluespace – Project Statement

Life is a rush of contingencies. The wonderful, terrible sublime of “before” and “after,” a strange and delicate dance of relativity. As we commit experience to memory, details become blurred, lost, remixed—fact folded with sensation, sequencing lost to the abyss of recollection. Over time, we may even embellish, or crystallize moments, often losing more than we retain.

Memory formation relates to the way we engage television—we grab bits and pieces of information about characters and situations, often by viewing episodes out of order. We understand events by assembling a sensitive web of memories, culled, even appropriated, from different seasons. Like episodic TV viewing, we construct a mosaic by assembling clues extracted from the media flow—from our life experiences—allowing us to “know” people, places, and events by collating often disparate pieces of data, much of it reframed (often misunderstood).

Using cell phone photography in a real-time system of manipulation, I spent 8 months capturing digital “monotypes” from the TV screen, generating an archive of 23,000+ experimental images. These image-cells were mined from a personally poignant television series—Miami Vice, which I watched in its original context, during a time of personal loss and disruption. Using an obsessive, ritual system of watching and extracting, combined with manual and digital glitch, I suggest the imperfection of memory and our incomplete understanding of situations. These suspended moments are seemingly extracted from the “before” and “after” of an unclear, yet disturbing, system of events that vacillate between the almost-gained and almost-lost.

The characters, like memory, are composed of fragmented, episodic information, sampled and informed by our own recollection of other images in the installation. The viewer might begin to understand, but true clarity is denied. There is a tense passage of moment into moment, an endless catastrophe of “instants” presented as passive works on paper, active video and intimate View-Master spaces.  My eroded heroes are denied resolution, forever stuck in transition, their lives suspended as frozen, oddly linked moments—undermined, human, uncertain, temporary.

Why Miami Vice?

My engagement with the televisual language of the program is tied to a distinct sequence of “before” and “after” life-moments of personal impact. As I mentioned in the first half of the essay, I watched Miami Vice on our little TV (when we had electricity), recorded at a friend’s house on a watery VHS tape because we couldn’t afford a VHF antenna, watched and re-watched because it was a precious capture. The process of borrowing and remixing media via tape, and savoring each chance I got to watch it, was tied into my parents’ impending divorce, and the downward spiral of homelessness, distancing and confusion that resulted.

The characters seemed so strong at the time, I longed to be both of the male heroes in alternation.

I reacquainted myself with the series quite by accident, just after my thesis work, which also dealt with the impact of televisual media on concepts of self and place. Stumbling across it on Cozi TV also coincided with tumult in other parts of my life, and at first it was a welcome, aesthetically compelling refuge.

After only an episode, I found it stirred a lot of surprising sensations within me–from gushing philosophy to raw emotion, adding fuel to my media-mind. I found a fascinating, compelling thread running through each episode–the male heroes often faced loss, destruction of the self, a terrible sense of distancing–the deaths of loved ones, failure to complete missions, subjugation by terrible enemies, denial of closure–in episodic tenacity. They were rarely successful in an iconic fashion, instead suffering loss and resistance at every turn. Resolutions were complicated, problematic, and even when things tipped in their favor, it rarely resolved the way they expected (or hoped). There were no ridiculously triumphant heroes here.

I had rediscovered heroes already plagued by a strange tension between the appearance of success and the corrosion of endless defeat. A progression that unsettles and warps the main characters, with Sonny in particular emergent as a jaded, unwilling participant. As I mentioned above, I watched the series several times through, savoring each moment as I had in my youth, while realizing I was simultaneously tipping over into a new body of work, with new territory. It’s funny how that happens.

It’s so easy for many artists (and people in general) to deride “old” TV, as if by the very nature of its context, it epitomizes failure and deserves ridicule because it is from the time “before.” You, dear readers, know me by now. I never deride. Each media-moment is vital, worth refreshing and revisiting, or revitalizing in the present moment. I never judge the programs that compel me for being simply themselves. How could I?

 

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Poppy Transitory

You can read more about Poppy Transitory in this blog post, as I went into greater depth about the now completed series.

Artist Statement

Poppy Transitory investigates the sincere absurdity of processing loss with decorative memorials, themselves transitory tokens of grief. Based in a fiercely personal, yet oddly abstract pain, the series considers the story-infused space of mourning—colorful, obsessive layers behave like memory extracts.

Conflating the mysterious Mojave Desert deaths of my sister Cindy Adams (1972) and musician Gram Parsons (1973), I ask what it means to “know” someone through location-tied story; to “understand” events via embellished clues, just as I “knew” both individuals through family narrative. What does it mean to assuage loss through well-meaning transference? Do gifts for the dead resolve our perplexity?

To engage this, I use transparent layers to suggest recalled memory, story cycles, and the deluge of tokens posthumously offered to Cindy and Gram. I deconstruct and reframe the language of the Mojave Desert, the visual vocabulary of memorial shrines, and personal iconography from Cindy and Gram’s clothing, whirling them into a sensitive system of overlaid shapes. The desert they loved represents and consumes them.

Aware of its own artificiality, the work earnestly embraces our candy-colored attempts to mediate the space of grief with flowers, cards, and condolences—the physical trappings of a cultural process of mourning, often our only recourse in grappling with the unexplained. Poppy Transitory is itself a fragile, momentary monument to the passage of imprints, the trace of Cindy and Gram, and to our moment, an undeniable passage of its own.

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Channeling

The most undeveloped of the new series, I see Channeling as a project destined for excavation in fall and winter, bleeding into 2017, just as the seasons echo an appropriate, often monstrous shift in perception and place.

I watched a lot of movies and TV growing up. Obviously. Hell, all of my work in maturity grapples with this, my “self” intricately connected to media. I recorded sounds, voices, music, from the TV screen and remixed them with portable tape players. I took pictures of the screen long before I knew it could ever be “art,” ever be socially relevant in any way. I understood the world, the interactions of people through media, parallel to my own physical dealings in the “real” world, through media.

Thus, I experienced a lot of films broadcast on TV, scrunched and reformatted for the mosaic mass audience. Of particular interest to me were the Universal films with tragic, despairing heroes like the Wolfman–monsters more human than the humans who attempted to subjugate them. Lon Chaney Jr. was a recurrent figure, and my familiarity with his form,  his voice, is tied to an experiential window that speaks to me both of childhood, and of survival-as-desperation; his characters are nearly always haunted, ineffectual. His lifespan nearly echoes my grandfather’s,  born the same year,  died three years after grandfather, before I was born, but after Cindy had died. Another fascinating shuffle of before, after tied to the other two series.

Each time I watched a reprised film, it reactivated the media in the present moment. Each time I watch one now, it’s like raising the media-material from the dead–revitalizing it in the present. Film supercedes mortality in a sense, both the original recording and in the re-engagement of older films… as if the characters, the actors, the movie sets and lived spaces, the flora and landscapes, are all reborn in perpetuity because of media.

I see this work dealing with living memory, re-emergence and the transitional states of bodies (and images) that are positioned between manifestation and death, between the archive and the actively engaged. Watching the performance of before, after, watching the performance of dead performers in lived, current space, is, in essence, a method of summoning. Channeling. Not unlike the Wolfman, who rises from death when hit by moonlight, the act of engaging material in the present moment reinvigorates it, reinforces its presence, its existence. It returns to vitality what has been lost.

Then there’s the added lore of film still impacting living memory. My memories of watching the films years ago–my new memories and connections, made when revisiting each film, when discussing and viewing, capturing and renewing–channeling the before into the after. This will be developed in the series. Artists Renee Green and Douglas Gordon deal deftly with this in different ways, and I am also turning again to their work for dialgoue.

Television as medium becomes, in itself, a medium (think spirit medium) spanning lived memory, experience and the inheritance of media culture as cultural and personal memory. Is watching a film akin to attending a media seance?

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With Channeling, I also see there is something in this utter, diligent sense of despair… recognition and denial, submission and resistance found in Lon Chaney Jr.’s character panoply.

Is it the curse of modernity? The desire to find a place within the chaos?

The deliciousness of silence, each image and its mutations are a recorded, but experiential point—there was the point lived by the actors and creators, the viewers and me as the manipulator, the literal time in which I am photographing and working with the raw digital bytes. The literal time it took to film and cut the original footage. This is the experiential point of both subject and manipulator, mortality and immortality.

 

Before, After (Part 1 of 2)

Still from "Whitespace-Bluespace," 2016.

Still from “Whitespace-Bluespace,” 2016. (Erasure)Head; the heroes are eroded. Ren Adams. Between signified and signifier.

What is self?

It is easy to dismiss the process of taking selfies as a product of vanity, self-obsession—but it’s now a cultural practice of self-shaping and formation, not unlike our understanding and practice of social photography. If mom says we’re taking a group picture by the fountain, we have a socially programmed method of assembling into a posture of now-historical weight, of establishing the proscribed order of presentation, adopting the necessary behaviors for the creation of said social document. We even naturally understand what aspects can be stretched—that bunny ears over a friend are fine for funny moments, but abandoned during the “serious” method of recording presence; visual data as a tangible record of officiated memory, itself constructed and predicted on cultural behaviors.

The selfie is no different. The ubiquity of digital imaging has made the process of repeatedly snapping shots of yourself, your hamburger, your cat, an acceptable and common practice. As someone who generally avoided having their picture taken for years, I became somewhat fascinated with the self as represented to the self, through the mass-snapping of self portraits, made diminutive by the affectionate (yet fleeting) term “selfie,” as a way of identifying the social presence of yourself as being, your body and face filtered by various easily applied affects and social behaviors.

I’ve lately used the selfie to ask myself who I am. Where do I fit? I asked the selfie, “what is self?”

In high school, I snapped endless rolls of film with dad’s flip-top K-Mart camera: friends, locations, events, moments, rarely turning the camera on myself. I recall one shot of the Pep Band admiring a sunset over the College of the Canyons, as a high school football game played out below (the same game in which our quarterback sacked the ref and got barred from all future games). Jose wore his Rush 2112 hoodie. Jen sported her funky Indiana Jones hat. I was there as subtext, purveyor of the lens, recognizer of the moment’s socially proscribed weight on photographic paper. Each roll developed at the Fotomat film hut in the Market Basket parking lot. Each roll printed, tucked in a chronological album with true archivist intention, shared at gatherings.

If I was included in a photo, I allowed someone else to take the reigns in order for me to include myself in my own memory-media record, because I didn’t grasp (or lend import to) the idea of turning the camera on my own face, with my own hand. The process seemed to require an external agent, as if another body could help confirm the formality and importance of the capture. These high school albums are crammed with individuals I sometimes chat with, others yet who have died, are physically lost to me, or emotionally distant, but recorded and archived in a string of now-past moments. To quote Roland Barthes, “whether or not the subject is already dead, every photograph is this catastrophe,” the endless catastrophe of having-been-there, of endless, interminable passage. Indeed, “whatever its nominal subject, photography was a visual inscription of the passing of time and therefore also an intimation of every viewer’s own inevitable passing” (Geoffrey Batchen on Talbot and Barthes).

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That’s me down front, with the funky, unmatched rainbow shorts and pink top. This was the drama cast of The Wizard of Oz at Palmdale High School, gathered on a Saturday to do cleanup after the final performance. We felt it necessary to document the occasion. Someone else took the shot, so I got to be included. Notice how we all fall into a system of posing, posturing and presenting togetherness, with one boy standing defiantly against the tree, yet remaining part of the social arrangement? Of course, I once had a crush on the boy who stood apart. LOL. And I refused to match my clothes or wear socks.

These physical documents, in my mind, are “photographs,” yet I now find myself calling all photographs, and all other visual output related to photographs, “images” instead. “Images” as a term becomes diaphanous, embracing paper and digital output alike, separating the visual from the inherently physical.

Much of my work on The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert was a method of engaging the impact of visual (and audio) media on our concept of self and site, memory and spatial distinction, but this was of course connected to me as individual, not based in a randomly chosen location or system, even though I expanded in order to be less personal. This connects to the way selifes (combined with my close-up, cell phone method of extracting a conceptual California through television) has led into a new angle of media-memory portraiture; capturing that much-debated, well articulated concept of the photograph as index of life-in-a-moment, and of the imminent, undeniable and future death of the physical being, as well as the eventual erosion or eventual change of places and things.

For those of us who warp, manufacture and sample imagery, some of which results in images that are not indexical of a physically real event or person, I remind the humble viewer that neither are most photographs truly indexical of anything tangible at all (addressed well by countless art historians and theorists, of course, including Geoffrey Batchen, Roland Barthes, etc.), neither are they completely fabricated–existing in an odd, in-between space that I enjoy.

"First Responder" View-Master and stills from "Elevator (Finding a Way out of here, I Hope) on display at The William Platz Gallery, the event my student references in her description of the reel vs. the paper images

“First Responder” (2014) View-Master and stills from “Elevator (Finding a Way out of here, I Hope) (stills 2016) on display at The William Platz Gallery, the event my student references in her description of the reel vs. the paper images

I recently had excerpts from The Cascade in an all-abstract exhibition, and several of my students attended. One student described my First Responder View-Master reel in a fascinating way. She said clicking through the reel forces the individual image cells together, implying a certain continuity, even though the language of each individual image prevents a clear reading of the total event. Instead they are frozen, oddly linked moments, seemingly extracted from the “before” and “after” of an unclear, yet disturbing, event.

She felt the act of putting images together (on the reel) asks the viewer to consider each shot in continuity, even when the order of events is unreliable and fleeting. The separated images, printed on paper and distanced by a few inches and physical frames, represented a different kind of engagement with the same proposed event. Each framed still became a single, contemplative moment that she could not specifically tie to a continuous string of events, but which gently suggested a relation through presentation (and color palette, characters), in which she could choose to ignore aspects of the moment, where the reel was inescapable. She looked at me hopefully and asked, “did I get it?” Yes, indeed. Something may have happened, but she is unable to determine at true order of events, instead receiving snippets and clues which described to her a sense of emergency, where something terrible must have happened on a highway, but the exact order of events was unimportant. The reel encloses you in a private sense of before and after, the paper allows you to fixate on certain moments and leave others behind.

This rotating reel relates to my process of selfie-taking, and to several new series I’m working on, which behave as punctuation marks and spokes on a bigger churn (Whitespace-Bluespace and Channeling). Lots of things in the works, all turning, turning.

A sampling of raw, real-time manipulations from Whitespace-Bluespace:

I also think of image-cells as life moments or even expectations, in a way. When I’ve heard people describe a “mid life crisis” (really a culturally propagated construction, much like the “seven year itch”), which asks us to evaluate whether our lives are fulfilling a certain, proscribed linearity, we determine whether our circumstances are satisfying (ourselves, society) or failing to satisfy a projected set of needs and understandings, milestones and way posts. Some of this falls into a real field of suffering, realizing one has resigned themselves to a certain quality of existence due to obligation, expectation, denial and repression. Anyone who allows self-analysis can pass through such a “mid-life” crisis, many times, and at any age. The imagined mid-point, framed by expected progression through an average life span, is famously pivotal, as we perceive ourselves to be halfway to the finish line, never taking into account our lives might end well before the first turn–or that we might again live longer than the standardized mid-point, and that all expectations and requirements are manufactured and superimposed. Perhaps it seems we’ve only just begun, or we’ve “frittered away the hours in an offhand way.”

What are the individual image cells in your reel? Do they fit any kind of continuity? Should they? Is there only one reel? Only one View-Master?

What have you denied yourself? What have you indulged? Who are you? Can a selfie suggest what you have, or what you lack? Do we find ourselves in the mirror of the other, even our other halves, as Socrates suggests? Or is this like his attitude toward love: that love itself is an unending quest for immortality, found within the passionate unity of self-and-non-self, the desire to propagate DNA, including the fiber of ideas and concepts. This relates to a bigger philosophical discussion, of course, but I mention it here, as it connects to the emerging bodies of work that are resulting from all of this material.

Thus, I’ve been taking a lot of seflies. At first, I wasn’t sure why, until I realized I am looking at myself as a structured and p(resented) self, then looking at my image as “other.” Looking, seeking, attempting to uncover what it is to be me, through the fabrication of “me” as digital object. Who am I? How does the camera dismantle and rebuild my sense of “me”?  Who is Ren? Renee? Why am I “Ren” and not “Renee” here and now? Why have I been so afraid to include myself in photographs in the past, when the images were on film, and why so many selfies now?

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.

 

 

It’s as if a string of self-portraits document your humanness, your presence, your flaws and strengths, presented and even polished, your space of being, your stamp of mortality. They ask you to think about where you stand within your physical environments, your society, your sense of physicality, sensuality, both virtual and physical, your broader cultural connections, your sub-cultural belongings, within a point on the planet surface, the sheer disposable joy of repetitive shots, once the luxury of expertise and film roll, now snapped, shaped, delayed, displayed, posed.

Am I cute? Am I ugly? Am I worthy? Do I belong? What will I lose? What do these terms even mean? None of these posed images are me, yet they are all me. Within a string, a screen full of myself becomes severely repetitious, a bold formal pattern, homogenized and dulled. A screen full of me becomes a mass, a distilled rhythmic pattern, digital beats that follow a flow of costume and direction, of pose and misdirection.

In a mass-row faced with my own face, I no longer notice flaws and ridiculousness, instead I see raw prescience, suspended and removed from the flow. 

I am also reminded that I have the luxury of taking selfies. I can experiment with displays of the manufactured self, because I am still present as a potential signified, a real and living significator. I am alive.

 

Looking through the crossfade. There is the before and after, the action and reaction. From Whitespace-Bluespace.

Looking through the crossfade. There is the before and after, the action and reaction. From Whitespace-Bluespace.

The time before, the time after

I recall a series of photographs in my parents’ photo box—taken at their home on 70th St. East, in Palmdale, California, then again at my childhood home at 3255 East Ave. S (near 35th St. E, also in Palmdale, on Highway 138; Pearblossom Highway).

They took this series of photos the year my sister was murdered (at night in the desert, outside the house next door). The year they buried her, changed residences, shifted slightly across the Mojave desert, but only a few miles from their shared ground zero.

They took a lot of photos during this time. A time when you might think they would retreat into sheer grief and silence. Instead, they took photos of each other. Of themselves. The white border at the bottom of each picture was clearly labeled:

“1972 Before”

“1972 After”

They never mentioned what the “before” and “after” meant explicitly, of course.

There is a shot of my dad, serious, bending down over a six pack of bottled beer in front of the carport. He is wearing an odd hat, jeans, a T-shirt. He is not smiling. It says “1972 After,” in capital letters.

There is the suggestion that all photos inevitably record and shadow the represented subject’s own mortality, but in these, the photos inevitably bore the presence and absence of a significant being. The signified and the signifier, present and invisible in the same frame. The suggestion of relocation, based on the loss of the distantly signified, was heavy in the yellow dirt, the artificial white borders. I suppose they wondered if they would remember when each shot was taken, that there might have been some passive, nearly invisible sense of completeness in the “before” that was absent in the “after.” Rather than happiness and grief as dichotomy, though, the portraits were quite the same—the words “before” and “after” the only identifier delineating the process of grief that was just beneath the surface.

I would share them here, but none are in my possession, so instead I’ll use entries from my new Whitespace-Bluespace.

So instead of this:

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They really looked more like this:

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Not much different. Only a subtle shift, with text to guide in the originals, no text here.

I see the same thing, at different conceptual levels, within each digital photo I work with:

before I knew her

before he vanished

after he went dark

before the bag was stolen

before Pants had his ear removed

After my thesis

That all my selfies, in relation to Cindy Adams are

After

“2016 After”

That my newest work is before I am writing this blog post, after I was rejected by you, before I enjoyed tomorrow, after I go down the spiral again.

That my images are definitely “before” things yet to come down the pipeline. That they are all after other interactions, losses, events, recordings, other bodies of work. That it is all a dance of relational interlacing. I think of the term “Relational Aesthetics” and though that’s not what Bourriaud meant, the phraseology seems to apply to this.

After I noticed (but yet before I knew him at all)

So here, in some of my newest work, the selifes led into a deeper spiral of time and associative image-memory, allowing me to revisit concepts of the self in image, the image as time moniker, the image as segment in narrative and non-narrative association. I thus began three new bodies of work: Whitespace-Bluespace, Channeling and Wheel of Fortune (tentatively titled). Each related to the excavation of media, to memory and temporality, and to additional, emerging associations.

2016-04-08 21.04.10

Before and after lives and deaths, moments and experiences

before you knew this, after you read the above

Before I knew you didn’t love me, after my brother disappeared

Before you left us without food and we had to sit through an hour-long sermon about how we were terrible, broken people to get a box of peanut butter and margarine

After I watched Miami Vice on the little TV, recorded at Misty’s house on a watery VHS tape because we couldn’t afford a VHF antenna, watched and re-watched because it was a precious capture

After they rebuilt the freeway onramp (after the Whittier-Narrows earthquake made me late for school and broke her windows, after the 1994 Northridge quake knocked down the I-5 and 14 Freeway interchange and killed Officer Dean on the bridge from so many movies and TV shows)

Before the earthquakes, but after Cindy

Before I decided never to do this again

Before we had to steal food and starved in the dark

 

All of these television programs recorded after mom was born, some before Cindy died, some before the beginning of me, all before the end of me–are all before, during and after my work, they are excavated and integrated and I always seem to live in a desert fused with Hollywood.

Loss and distance, “before” and “after” on the time-stamp of their visual lives, my newly re-emergent and disarmed “heroes” are lost, wandering, on the highway, at various stages of before and after. Like the heroes in The Cascade, they are undermined, human, uncertain, temporary. They move through conceptual and literal environments, they are indexed by image, yet they are neither real nor unreal.

My work is moving more toward the character, still rooted in the land, but now somewhat freed from the bounds of the Mojave itself. More on that in Part 2.

For now, these heroes in my new series borrow from the selfie, the reel, embodying The Cascade, the conceptual distance of event and memory, of idea and placement. Whitespace-Bluespace and Channeling are each grappling with related, yet explicitly different material in this vein, and I’ll be sharing more specific information on each new series in the second half of this update article.

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A working image from “Channeling.”

Before Larry killed an innocent man

After Larry was cursed and awoke confused, despairing

After despair, before release

Before Sonny realizes his desires will be denied again

Before Sonny eats tacos and kills a kid by accident

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After Tubbs’ girlfriend dies in his arms (again)

More in Part 2

MFA Thesis – Televisual Memory and the Telescoping Fire Station: Landscape as Media-Memory Site

From "Foothill Incident,"part of The Cascade - Moments in the Televisual Desert

From “Foothill Incident,”part of The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert

MFA thesis – Televisual Memory and the Telescoping Fire Station: Landscape as Media-Memory Site.

Adams Thesis 4.3 PDF 1 – standard PDF

Adams Thesis 4.3 PDF 2 Adobe – Fancier PDF with hyperlinked footnotes

Adams Works Consulted 3.3 – selected bibliography of works consulted, but not directly cited in the final thesis.

Thesis abstract:

‘Landscape’ is an active site of occurrence—a platform of media-influenced exchange. Reflected through televisual language, it offers a relative experience, tied to our sense of geography, time and shifting notions of history. The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert engages TV-inflected landscape as a permeating condition. In this telescoping space, landscape conflates time and memory, location and topography, television and reality.

Rooted in a personal connection to Southern California, which permeates American television from the 1960s-80s, I hunt, excavate and deploy conceptual instances of the Mojave Desert and its entanglement with the real, the vividly scripted and the iconic. Mediated by television, Los Angeles County becomes mercurial, behaving as stage and script, environment and blueprint—a mythic, cultural hunting ground. This transitory televisual landscape informs our understanding of place and event, blurring fiction and fact. The Cascade arrests this instability as an interdisciplinary investigation: a hot-and-cool mosaic that asks viewers to seek, receive and connect.

Derived from a body of moments excavated from television, The Cascade suspends semi-narrative traces as elements removed from their physical location by the original filming and further removed by capturing and mutating temporal instants. The environments thus inhabit the actual, the imagined and the transient place of recollection—a collapsed space conflating personal history, geologic reality and cultural production. Using layers as an economical mode of storytelling (focused on suspension in the moment), I compress events and location into a system of surface-screens: layers provide non-linear depth and conversations between media offer different modes of viewing and consuming.

 

Introduction:

Through my multimedia work, The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert, I offer a meta-narrative of the television mosaic and the act of watching and remembering. Populated by a vulnerable recast of heroes engaged in a kind of primal forensics, an endless hunt plays out across time-compressed paintings, through active, audio-infused videos, and via digital montage.  Viewers (and characters) investigate this unstable environment, traveling between media, events and their realizations. There is a pervading sense of déjà vu—such that television becomes its own self-haunting specter.

Television is part of our working memory-experience, blended with the ‘actual’ to form a ‘hyper-actuality,’ linked to experience and place.[1] TV itself enables an image of culture and history as an “assemblage of dissembled distances from the instantaneous present,” but the present is always rebuilding itself, revitalizing the once-old (Dienst 78), just as television cannibalizes its own history in a continuous present.[2] The space between the original filming, its presentation as cultural object, its excavation and manipulation, and its relation to past-present-future are part of this telescoping space. My installation is a way of enabling the elusive hunt, of sculpting the media-inflected landscape itself—taking it and its cast of characters out of the living room and into an elastic convergence-space. Theorists Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass claim “media equals real life…” that familiar, deflated distance between broadcast and reality:   “knowing that fiction is fiction doesn’t stop the emotional brain from processing it as real…” (Gottschall 775).
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[1] Philosopher Gilles Deleuze proposes that “when a film returns us to the scene of a room and we recall simultaneously another scene that took place there, there is an overlay of present and recalled, real and virtual, as if facets of a single image” (Deleuze qted. in Farr 23). Though Deleuze saw this in cinema, I suggest it also occurs in television and in our individual relationship to real and fictional spaces represented through image (moving and still).

[2] Archived and older television still exists with a strange vitality that eludes even classic cinema. The televisual past is renewed via the abundance and proliferation of specialized viewing (with growing veracity thanks to genre channels, Netflix and on-demand delivery). Television is a medium that contains its own history and frequently resurrects and cannibalizes it (Buonanno 21), thus televisual history is constantly mediated by viewing it in an endless present.

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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).

day-after

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.

inthedream_valdes

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).

Televisual Memory and the Telescoping Fire Station: Landscape as Media-Memory Site – RP2 F14

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Ren Adams
Research Paper 2
Peter Rostovsky – Advisor
September, 2014

Note: Footnotes are below (and relevant), even if page links don’t work.

Read or download PDF version

Televisual Memory and the Telescoping Fire Station:
Landscape as Media-Memory Site

There are wormholes in Southern California; space-time tunnels that link varied points, fusing time with landscape, reality with the vividly scripted. Los Angeles County Fire Station 127 is one such distortion—the perfect metaphor for the conflation of time, place, memory and contingency I refer to herein as the ‘telescoping elastic-space’[1] of mediated landscape. Media impact individual, cultural and historical negotiations, affecting our understanding (and even recollection) of locative forces. Televisual information also informs memory and our associations with real places and events, with little distinction between fiction and fact. Landscapes become dynamic memory-sites—active platforms that condense (and overlay) our perception of time, history and place. This interrelationship becomes multiform when landscapes are recognized or remembered in (and through) television—referencing the way media[2] informs our understanding of space-place, generating connections to distant or imaginary locations and interactions. When we think of a specific, culturally mediated site—including settings only encountered via representation—we engage a spiral of physicality and temporal locality. The site is shaped by the mutable process of remembering and forgetting, by literal and virtual encounters, often without index. This elasticity is ripe for artistic investigation and I probe the condensation of place, time and media-memory in my interdisciplinary installation: The Cascade: Moments in the Televisual Desert. My engagement with the conceptual space-place of Los Angeles County and its entanglement with the real, the scripted, the culturally iconic and the personally mythologized considers landscape a functional site of cultural and geologic exchange. The work attempts to open dialogue between the real, the fantastical and the geologic, conflating place with time and allowing landscape to index a kind of relative oscillation: a memory-textured platform of exchange.

Station 127 (Figs. 1 & 2) occupies a literal, physical location (at 2049 East 223rd Street in Carson, California), simultaneously operating within the scope of fiction, imagination, history and recollection—an active, transient state; a telescope of temporal engagements. In continuous operation since 1967, it has also ‘performed’ as the fictional Station 51 on Emergency! (1972-1977),[3]—and whose interior was replicated on a Universal sound stage, with half of the filming occurring on-site, the other half on a precision simulacrum (Yokley 102).  Through international syndication, the building became familiar to millions—its likeness spanning 129 television episodes, 6 TV movies, syndicated replay, photographs, individual memories (experiential and scripted), the lives of stationed firefighters, actors and producers who worked in its parallel metaverse, the journeys of media pilgrims[4], local populations, Google Street Views,[5] websites, home videos, even fan culture inclusions (fanfiction, fanart). The native desert-urban space of the television program and the humble firehouse present a mythologized America, an elastic platform affecting public understanding (and cultural memory) of the American medical system and of Los Angeles, reframing the region for those who live it, and defining it for those who virtually experience it.[6]

Scholar-artist Renee Green suggests “many people’s earliest recollections now include films and TV or films on TV or played by VCRs. Memories include social and private recollections—how old I was, who I was with, where I was. Films themselves now serve an indexing function to assist in gaining access to memory,” (Green 53).[7]  Returning to our telescoping fire station, LaCo Firefighter/Paramedic Jeff Brum describes his youthful fascination with Emergency!, claiming it directly influenced his decision to become a paramedic; the fiction of media-place influenced his career. Later, Brum was actually stationed at 127 and found the confluence of personal, televisual mythology and lived experience uncanny. The physical reality “still looked like it did in the TV show,” yet Brum was now living the hyper-real by literally embodying a once-mythical media role in life, in the literal, physical location where the show was filmed (Brum qted. in Yokely 103-104). Television narratives themselves have become part of our working memory-experience, blended with the actual to become a ‘hyper-actuality,’ tied to moments, perceived experiences and places. TV distorts our sense of the “situational geography” of social life, allowing us to be present at (and to remember) both real and fictional events that occurred across vast and even imagined geographic locales (Buonanno 19). The limits of physical space no longer solely determine who we are, or what we remember.[8] Dislocated televisual experiences transcend physical geography (Buonanno 86) and, in fact, “where TV confronts the real, or Being, it is no longer easy to say where real ends and the deviation, distortion or diffusion begins” (Dienst xii). In Brum’s case, the two are permanently intertwined.

This phenomenon is not limited to a two-engine fire station, of course. ‘Telescoping elastic-space’ can describe nearly any media-imprinted monument, cityscape, building, or region.[9] The Vasquez Rocks (Agua Dulce, California) are another excellent elastic-point, capable of referencing the collision of the personal-historical and the ubiquitous, packaged nature of ‘experience’ through Hollywood. Google it and you find a wormhole of interrelated and meta-referential material—including screen captures from Star Trek “Arena” (Gorn vs. Kirk!), scenes from Star Trek the Next Generation (which meta-references “Arena”) and The Big Bang Theory, the latter of which features characters in Star Fleet uniforms, performing a media pilgrimage to the site of Star Trek filming fame, as they operate within a fictional superstructure that recognizes both the ‘realness’ of the national park and the media-memory embedded in both viewer and character (inciting future imitation of the imitation).[10] The literal Hollywood-referent site collapses past and present, personal and cultural, underscoring the idea that the Vasquez Rocks are part of a lived, regional experience, even as they embody a semi-fictional fantasy-space which can literally be traveled to, but which requires some act of memory or fabrication to complete the connection. In a broader sense, these memory-resident sites take on a mythical status, a link to the lore of Americana itself (Bourriaud 97). Both fire station and rock formation embody a telescoping rift of extant space, imagined worlds, and personal history.

Television happens in (and affects) real space, in real time, no matter the resulting moments and relationships. The fire station is real. The rocks are real. They are subject to the passage of geologic time and human intervention. Scholar Johanna Drucker suggests “every photograph has temporal dimensions… the time of exposure, historical time, time of development, cropping, the time of reception and circulation—like any other cultural artefact… caught in a web of ‘varying temporalities’ (Drucker 23). This can be expanded to television representation, which is composed of similar temporal dimensions, including the time it takes to film, edit, cut, score, playback, broadcast, syndicate, and so on. The image and its time-sandwich, moving or still, becomes an experiential event. Every reference, episode, story—every encounter with people, the physicality of stucco, bricks, urban density, coastal industry and desert canyons overlay the site-platform, viewable as a collapse of points into one presence; a present that identifies, even revisits, its own history, fiction and future.

The Cascade: Moments in the Televisual Desert extends this flexible, television-inflected space beyond the metaphoric Station 127 to encompass greater Los Angeles County, with its juxtaposed urban-desert environment, endlessly indexed through the specter of Hollywood. I am interested in this landscape as a site of personal, cultural and social exchange—mediated through programs that were filmed there during the height of Hollywood.[11]  As a child, I recognized the collision of my lived reality-space with the fiction of televisual time—the TV screen mirrored my sense of place. Famous programs played out in familiar environments—stores, streets, freeways and regions, forming a simulacrum of my world, or perhaps a wholly present extension of it. This virtual landscape, collaged and montaged, deflated the distance between broadcast and reality, in some ways nullifying the distinction.  Theorist Alfred Shutz suggests—there are “multiple realities” in our life-worlds (Shutz, qted. in Buonanno 75); media-inflected wormholes that form who we are. For Shutz, “TV’s imaginary worlds flow with everyday life; it blurs separateness between orders of reality.” (77), co-existing in multiple states. The TV-mediated landscape becomes a permeating condition not limited to Mojave Desert locals, extending a collage of interpretive micro and macro relationships made possible by telescoping elasticity—as each viewer navigates their own media wormhole.[12]

Video works from The Cascade… deal with this wormhole effect, tackling the fusion and fracture of landscape as it encounters the language of television. To develop videos, I use footage sourced from a handful of television programs filmed in LA County, mutating and manipulating clips in order to emphasize a pervading sense of landscape as root (and catalyst) for media-site experience. I cross-reference actual locations, excavating instances of city and desert, action and interaction, in order to collapse, condense and entangle sequences that defy narrative resolution. Elements tumble in a time-warp montage, flirting with story, yet existing only as suggestions linked by place and space. Events may be concurrent or overlaid on the same spot with years, hours, moments or only seconds between instances. Thus, connections repeat, fracture, loop and expand, folding moments back in on themselves as if caught in a transient spin.

Encounter (Fig. 3) provides an almost theatrical, yet televisual, experience that suggests the rich mythology of the supernatural desert—a well-circulated cultural memory-myth. A web of events occur along the same strip of desert highway, collapsing televisual time around an endless night. The ambiguity combines memory and fantasy as characters negotiate a sequence of encounters—from the suggestion of alien abduction and military conspiracy to the complexity of interpersonal relationships.  Familiarity with the original source material is not necessary, as the language of television remains—as does our cultural awareness of ‘encounter’ tropes. The unstable event ‘simulcasts’ multiple points in telescoping space[13]—actions and events taking place in simultaneity, yet with a fleeting sense of before, during and after: “something happens, is happening, goes on happening…” (Drucker 25). These traces are once removed from their physical location by the original filming, again removed by the act of capturing a temporal instant, then re-entangled with an incomplete, cross-time patchwork. The mutative environments thus inhabit the actual, the imagined and the transient place of recollection, emblematic of a collapsed space conflating personal history, geologic reality and cultural mythology.

The videos attempt a kind of hybrid memory experience; history interceded by television. Repetition even invites the viewer to experience a certain déjà vu, as characters repeat motion sequences and camera zooms. Movement and layers suggest time, though there is no single, grounded moment—instability, ambiguity and contingency speak to the unreliability of memory, geology and Hollywood fabrication. The videos play on theorist Margaret Sundell’s suggestion that “we encounter the struggle to represent ‘what it might be like to momentarily inhabit the gap between an object’s existence and our ability to pin it down” (qted. in Farr 21). It reminds us that for every act of recollection, every fictional performance, there is a physical and experiential subtext—and that media affects our understanding of history, myth, location and identity.[14]  In this case, I attempt to activate a telescoping elastic-space by re-entering the language of video.

TV enables an image of history as an “assemblage of dissembled distances from the instantaneous present” in one respect, but the present is always rebuilding itself, and revitalizing the once-old (Dienst 78), just as television constantly cannibalizes its own history in a continuous present.[15] Telescoping elastic-space connects varied points in time, physical space and personal experience, exhibiting the kind of “televisual flux [that] emits a new kind of history—jumbled, familiar, open—which is never yet ours.” (Dienst 78), yet never completely separate from our perception. It is like the distance between the indexical photo and the digital image which can represent that which never existed, while mediating assimilated cultural (and personal memory) in virtuality. The mutable telescope has no beginning and no particular end. Even after the fire station is demolished, the geologic site remains to link a new series of relationships.

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Figure 1. Los Angeles County Fire Station 127. Screen capture from Emergency! Season 2, Episode 10, “Dinner Date” (1972).

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Figure 2. Los Angeles County Fire Station 127. Google Street View. Google. Image captured Nov. 2011. Web. Accessed 6 Aug. 2014.

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Figure 3. Encounter (2014). Ren Adams. Video.

Works Cited

Bourriaud, Nicolas. “The Journey-Form (3): Temporal Bifurcations.” Memory. Ed. Ian Farr. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2012. 96-101. Print.

Buonanno, Milly. The Age of Television: Experiences and Theories. Trans. Jennifer Rice. Chicago: Intellect, Ltd: The University of Chicago Press, 2008. Print.

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.

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

“Filming Locations.” The Official Dwight Schultz Fansite Message Boards. The Official Dwight Schultz Fansite. 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 Aug. 2014.

Green, Renee. “Survival: Ruminations on Archival Lacunae.” The Archive. Ed. Charles Merewether. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2006. 49-55. Print.

McCoy, Kevin. Mentor meeting. 3 Sept. 2014.

Newcomb, Horace. Television: A Critical View. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.

Reyes, Jorge. YouTube Comment. “Station 51 Inside Tour.” YouTube. YouTube, LLC. 9 Feb. 2013. Web. 3 Sept. 2014.

Yokley, Richard and Rozane Sutherland. Emergency!: Behind the Scene. Sudbury, MA:  Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2007. Print.

FOOTNOTES

[1] It is “elastic” because it is capable of expanding, contracting, mutating and adjusting for each observer and at different times, in different contexts. The telescoping reality of a location includes its physicality, temporality (simultaneous past, present and future as experienced by individuals and groups), its stories and associations…

[2] Cinema also frames our understanding of location, identity—even ideology, but for this paper, I focus on televisual impact and television theory, especially given the vital differences between televisual and cinematic language (Farr 23).

[3] An hour-long, American medical drama produced by R.A. Cinader (Adam-12) and Jack Webb (Dragnet), which had measurable impact on the growth of paramedic and emergency response programs (Yokley V-VI, 16-17). In recognition of the show’s effect on the American medical industry, the Smithsonian inducted equipment (including the BioPhone and helmets) into the National Museum of American History, a fascinating cross-over between the scripted, the iconically hyper-real and the nationalist narrative of the museum-archive (Yokley VI).

[4] Television theorist Milly Buonanno suggests “media pilgrims travel to sites where TV was filmed. The visit can take on a ritual occasion. The rare opportunity to be physically present in the real place where TV was filmed” (79-80). Bridging this gap recognizes the poignancy of real-unreal connections, and liminal spaces between extremes. Visiting the real makes the fictional experience all the more real, even if the pilgrim knows the site is fictionalized.

[5] Shows like Emergency! function as an early form of Google Street View; a proto-virtual-database of streets and locations, caught on tape as establishing shots (McCoy). The actual television footage becomes a semi-documentary process of space-time that reminds us the programs are shot in real, yet mutated, space.

[6] Fan sub-culture, like the memory-seekers at the Official Dwight Schultz Fansite travel to locations captured in The A-Team (1983) which also spans greater Los Angeles County. Fans journey (literally, or via Google Street View) to match television mythology to real sites, discovering which places still exist and which have undergone dramatic change (“Filming Locations”). They build a collaborative archive of material online. For many, their only understanding, or at least their earliest understanding, of California comes from virtual representation. For those who lived there, before or after the original filming, the televisual information adds new depth to the personal experience.

[7] …concepts she actively investigates in her own work. Many of Green’s pieces, like Partially Buried in Three Parts, start with a “genealogical trace” tied to the artist as individual, but which negotiate broader considerations of media as history, monument, and time (Merewether 50). For Green, media allows the viewer to regain a sense of access to past events, while considering the way media itself affects personal, social and cultural social memory (Merewether 53).

[8] Maine artist Matthew Meyer had a connection to, and familiarity with, the California desert, as referenced in The Cascade… though he had never personally been there. His landscape-memory was informed (even created) by the site’s televisual presence. Thus, he related to the artwork, and its referenced sites, through this personal filter. His associations with the desert were mediated through the fabricated specter of popular culture, and this dimensional play between public and private memory is vital to The Cascade…

[9] It can even encompass entire nations and national identities. The image of America presented to non-Western cultures, by way of media distribution, carries with it the kind of interpretive sense of space-place locative media can imply. American heroes and theories, frustrations and ideologies are packaged, either overtly or as blended subtext, within American televisual products. The televisual information become exports subject to a space-place that affects how ‘outsiders’ understand, perceive, and even expect America to behave.

A mentor of mine originally viewed The Wonder Years in India, before moving to the United States. Set in the 1970s and idealistically scripted for a 1980s Baby Boomer audience, the dramedy presented a non-specific, typified American suburban pseudo-reality that my mentor understood as a factual representation of life in America.  In this case, his understanding of American socialization was heavily influenced by the ‘Anywhere, USA’ fantasy that itself was tied to a non-indexical (and metaphoric) version of a typical suburban landscape. He later showed his wife, also from India, the series, in order to give her an idea of what American children experienced in school—though most viewers, myself included, recognized the saturated, sentimental and fabricated nature of the content.

[10] Beyond Hollywood references, the photo deluge includes pets and campers, models and postcards, run-of-the-mill landscape photography, fan remakes of TV sequences, selfies, digital manipulations and official park materials. This whirl of media tourism—fun in itself, is more compelling when we consider the way sites become iconic memory connections between fiction-reality and physical space.

[11] The height of Hollywood-in-Hollywood. Now ‘Hollywood’ as televisual concept includes countless production sources. The project may be rooted in my personal connection to Los Angeles County, but it is important that the landscape of my childhood was itself the body of Hollywood. By 1960, American television was Hollywood (Newcomb 34).

[12] The impact of media-memory on the relationship to site is a textured, multi-faceted web that affects those who lived in the depicted spaces, as well as those who only saw it through television, including others mentioned throughout this paper, like Matthew Meyer, Jorge Reyes, Jeff Brum and members of the Dwight Schultz Fansite.

[13] The site is actually the Vasquez Rocks National Park.

[14] YouTube user Jorge Reyes posted an anecdotal, relevant comment on one fan’s filmic documentary of his media pilgrimage to Station 127: “my parents purchased a 1974 Nova at Cormier Chevrolet, and one morning (sometime in the mid 1970’s) my brother and I accompanied my father to the dealer for car service.  I suggested to my brother (I was about thirteen years old, and he was around eleven.) to go for a walk around the corner, and we encountered the station looking exactly like the one in the program, and as a firefighter drove in, apparently reporting for duty, I confirmed with him that it was the Emergency station, but it was not Station 51; it was Station 127.  I still have the two 110 Kodak film prints, and negatives, that I took that day (I happened to have my Kodak “Hawkeye” 110 camera with me that morning, and I still have that little camera to this day.); one shows my brother in front of the station, and the other is of the refinery-type structures across the street visible on some program exterior scenes.”  Reyes’ personal account ties his childhood experiences to both a system of documentation and confirmation, planting then-contemporary experiences with a show he was already familiar with, still currently watching, and which, years later, still stirs site-based recollection.

[15] Archived and older television still exists with a strange vitality that eludes even classic cinema. The televisual past gets renewed via the abundance and proliferation of specialized viewing (with growing veracity thanks to genre channels and on-demand delivery). Television is a medium that contains its own history and frequently resurrects and cannibalizes it (Buonanno 21). History becomes constantly mediated by viewing it in the endless present. By re-using television from previous decades, I also re-engage the archive, opening and re-contextualizing material with a personal bend that still grapples with undying media tropes.

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

New Work

v4

Just wanted to share the new painting I’m working on, including the earliest layers. Expect it to undergo many mutations in the next week!

I’m also plugging away at several new videos, still in the rough cut stage. They continue my investigation into the conceptual nature of looping, telescoping space, situational montage and semi-narrative. They are also allowing me to develop firmer iconography that relates to televisual memory.

Stills from the rough cut of Encounter…

encounter1 encounter2 encounter3

Stills from another of the working clips (currently untitled):

wc1 wc2