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These Moments

In completing my artist talk for June, I’m sifting through ‘reams’ of images, including many screen caps I’ve produced of my own videos. Here are a few that interested me.

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Transitional spaces between the desert fire and hospital–the moment of cross-fade is like the slip where one memory folds indiscriminately into another.

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The firefighters attempting an elevator rescue definitely recall one of my influences, Zbigniew Rybczyński, especially Take Five (1972) and Tango (1981). Echoes fall away to become past, present and future engagements with the attempted rescue

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Another transition near the Sylmar Cascades fire… the red squad occupies its own before and after, its own middle.

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Rather painterly, reminds me of my printmaking approach. Characters partially punch through a strange Hollywood overlay.

Time-Based Screenings

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If you’re attending the Spring, 2015 residency (or if you will be near Lesley University) this January, please do stop by the screening for our program’s video art and film folks. I will be showing So I Asked…, Elevator (Finding a Way Out of Here, I Hope), Rental (Requesting Backup) and Encounter.

Monday, January 12, from 4-6 pm.

Snacks. There will indeed be snacks.

Third Mentor Meeting

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Kevin and I had our third meeting on 11/10. We discussed several specific pieces, as well as logical directions for the View-Master reels and exhibition display.

We discussed the completed Encounter video in depth, covering everything from formal considerations to broader intellectual angles, including:

  • Consideration of TV vs. cinema and their underlying paradigms.
  • Kevin was interested in the evolution of Encounter and its narrative flow. The process of events and interactions are enjoyably difficult to entangle, even ambiguous. This is compelling.
  • Encounter has the most narrative of the bunch, though it’s still operating on a semi-narrative level.
  • The repetition, overlap provide a dreamscape feel.
  • The addition of landscape-specific information and desert physicality successfully anchors it in the same ‘scape’ as the rest of the installation; an improvement over the rough cut.
  • The darkness addresses a psychological, mythological space.
  • I made many positive improvements between the rough cut and the final version,

We also discussed the interactive / digital image component, the View-Master.

I explained my reasons for choosing it:

  • The View-Master format provides a relevant, interactive method of negotiating the digital stills. Using an app, website, Processing/Arduino or specifically electronic angle may have pushed the content and concept too far away from televisual language (though they are options for future work).
  • View-Masters have been a popular way of dimensionalizing television, media and even landscape/vacation photography (site as participatory culture) for a number of years, especially during the 60s, 70s and 80s (the related period of TV I’m working with). They may also suggest nostalgia, which is fine, but they are not completely rooted in it.
  • It provides a method of interaction that speaks to the original, semi-narrative forms of the reels themselves (and to my video works).
  • It breaks the digital stills away from a simple life on paper

I also explained that I was a little worried about it being too kitschy or gimmicky. Kevin pointed out the View-Master itself has always been gimmicky, so there’s no reason to shy away from it. It fits well with the project, the language of commodified television, and the moving-stills aspect of the digital work.

He suggested that I make the reels stereoscopic-proper; fully 3D, like most of the originals reels. Kevin felt considering the three-dimensionality of the digital stills in a stereoscopic, or anaglyph manner carries contemporary importance, especially with increasing interest in 3D viewing, and in light of other artists investigating structure (like Godard’s Goodbye to Language, which intentionally breaks 3D, preventing typical resolution).

To do this, I can turn the original stills I made into 3D versions, or I can use tracking shots found in TV footage. Composites can develop spatial distance.

Kevin also encouraged me to consider ways of grouping images from the Cascade archive. I can approach the reels as entries in a system of typologies (gunfights, car chases, joshua trees, freeway shots…). He encouraged me logically group stills, so that there is some categorical relationship to the other stills in the same reel, and then to the project at large.

Videos

We discussed several of my original format and exhibition ideas for displaying video works in the installation. Kevin and I were on the same page with my final decision to present television ON television and we went over (agreed upon and expanded) my reasoning for leaving other formats behind, like:

  • Larger scale video projection references cinema, not television, and leads way from the televisual core
  • Projecting images into a self-contained space, to suggest “walking into” television, could be interesting for a future project, but my thesis makes more sense when presented on a contemporary television screen, especially in context with the paintings and View-Masters.
  • Setting up a TV / DVD player with remote and allowing the viewer to choose which video they want to watch directly references television, and could be interesting in another context, but it would shift too much emphasis on the nature of interactivity itself. Kevin pointed out that once the viewer is given creative control of video choice, the flip-through takes center stage, undermining the power of the videos as self-contained works of art. Viewers would inevitably flip around and spend more time engaged with the act of action, than with the works.
  • As with above, any kind of choose-your-own or Jukebox setting would detract from the weight of the autonomous pieces.
  • Presenting the works on a computer screen or as an app does not specifically suggest the language of television and again could be part of another project in the future.

Kevin also suggested that each video feels self-contained, though related through the larger body of work. They are individual works that should be considered as complete thoughts in themselves.

Since each video has that sense of individual impact, he felt they would be best be served with discrete screens set for each of the video. So, if I selected 7 videos, there would be 7 different television monitors cycling through the videos individually.

My idea had been to offer a single television, or a set of three televisions, each cycling through the videos on a playlist. Kevin’s suggestion makes more sense and in an optimal installation, each of the final videos would have a single TV presenting (and looping) them as discrete units. Knowing that my Cambridge installation will *not* be optimal (as in, I will likely be physically limited in the number of television sets that can be displayed), I will limit the video display to 1-3 TVs as originally planned, but I may adjust the videos shown, or the cycle of rotation, to more adequately address Kevin’s observation.

We will meet again in December, at which time we can discuss the newer version of Elevator, Rental (Requesting Backup) and any other final thoughts.

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Roy and the Dimensional Dilemma – painting #2 progress

It’s been a while since I shared a painting update, and I do apologize! Here’s the current state of the second large painting, plus a gallery below featuring all progress shots to date. Time warps in the desert. Currently untitled. IMG_3836_2

Almost finished!

Here’s the current state, with the previous painting nearby for context.

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Progress shots, in order:

 

August Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still from "So I Asked..."

Still from “So I Asked…”

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

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

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

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

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Still from “Elevator…”

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

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

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Residency Summary, June 2014

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Ren Adams
Group 3 – Fall, 2014
Peter Rostovsky – Adviser

Residency Summary

My digital hybrid investigation, The Cascade, marked an important pivot point in my work. It grew from a sideline experiment into my core thesis, which examines the transient nature of virtual, social geography and the time-stripped environment of digital elastic-space. The work I brought to the June residency was centered on a deeper investigation of landscape as a permeating condition and I included experimental output formats as part of an interdisciplinary installation.

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Critiques[1]

Congruent responses to The Cascade:

  • Fresh, compelling work. Exciting.
  • Sophisticated color combines my core desert/lotus palette with video blue (an improvement over the video-dominant palette of last semester’s Cascade stills). Moments of broken color are also effective.
  • Layering temporally allows the viewer to metaphorically go back in time as they excavate layers. Fluidity is critical.
  • The work collapses the essence of site into a single moment. Directional entanglements create a philosophical space where the past erupts into the present. At times it is even less about “site” than superseded historical memory. What does it mean to reactivate the past as specter, enabling a platform for it in the present?
  • There is a sense of time-relativity, ambiguous perspective, contingent and indistinct intervals—all with unreliable physicality.
  • The work is most novel when it’s difficult to disentangle.
  • Nothing is ever fully resolved. There is no single, grounded moment—the instability, ambiguity and contingency speak to the unreliability of memory, geology, Hollywood fabrication and television. It carries a sense of the uncanny.
  • The density of information leads to a kind of claustrophobia, which at times disallows the sense of space, becoming a kind of passive consumption (as in television).
  • Sense of memory, recollection. Compelling layers make it a challenge to separate memory from lived experience; a sense of obscuring/revealing occurs.
  • Horizontal display recalls storyboarding or linear narrative, without actually providing closure. It encourages flow, yet the story remains elusive, or denied.
  • Characters are vital. They allow a point of entry and disrupt the ambiguous space.
  • There is an intriguing sense of “shimmer” and dimensionality that references lenticular images—which may warrant additional investigation.
  • Shifting horizon provides spatial ambiguity and layers weave in and out of a painterly mode. This diversity in mark-making works well.
  • Pieces deal with the space between objective and subjective ideas of landscape, operating in a middle-ground that provides tension. This engagement with interstitial space is painterly, oddly filmic. It also occupies a liminal space between abstraction and representation.
  • It references the strange reality we’re in, where TV informs our memory of real places and social interactions. It manipulates the scripted, the cultural and the real.
  • Like beginning of a movie—suggestive, not narrative explicit. Work is also like growing up on a movie set, offers discussion of history and the language of illusion in television.
  • Stills exist over time, not physical space, though they’re rooted in place. Lots of formal dynamism, interesting integration of mark and background. Representation emerges from the painterly moments.
  • Panoramic horizons refer to cinema, rectangles to television.
  • Both characters and landscape behave as ephemeral, ghostly, even spectral intrusions—spirits from our own mind (personal or cultural) that inform how we understand landscape, place and time.
  • The compartment view (hurtling across the desert in a vehicle) is of specific temporal and logistical importance to the work, as well as California culture.
  • Images are sites of activity and archaeology. Some viewers see horizontal cross-sections, others felt the layers provide peel-back digs.
  • Tony Apesos pointed out that over time, landscapes became emptied of people. 16th century landscapes, on the other hand, were crowded with characters, events and intersections of activity. I should further investigate (and understand) my desire to repopulate the land.

 Specific responses to the video/animations

Engaging and painterly. Backlighting enhances digital imagery.

Video performs differently at each projected scale, which can be advantageous.

Add action clips, or individually animated objects in the video feeds.

 

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Split responses (video):

  • Some felt the videos were too much like slideshows or screensavers. Others actually preferred the slideshow-like fade that references TV cross-fades.
  • Viewers either preferred the projections to the digital stills, or preferred the stills to the projections.
  • Half of the viewers responded more to the TV-format videos, which directly references the intimacy of television. Others responded favorably to the large, full-wall or screen projection, suggesting it offered a more immersive experience, reinforcing landscape. The least compelling format was the in-between size (30-60”), though some faculty felt the in-betweeners were fine as part of a multi-channel installation, choreographed to deliver a guided experience.

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Micro and Macro Reads

My critique with Matthew Meyer is an excellent example of the kind of relational (micro/macro) reading I intended for The Cascade: the play between public and private memory. Matthew knew the California landscape instantly, relating through a personal response rooted in his original experience with the environment: television. His associations with the desert were mediated through the fabricated specter of popular culture—even though he grew up on another coast and had no physical connection to the site. A number of faculty critiques also highlighted this relationship, ranging from activated nostalgia to a broader understanding of the Hollywood-ization of the West.  Pivotal points along this investigative angle include:

  • Fantasy-Hollywood happened in real space.
  • Landscape functions as a site of cultural and geologic relationships and exchanges.
  • The dialogue between the real, the fantastical and the geologic conflates place with time.
  • The landscape indexes time and experience. In fact, landscape is conflated with time.
  • Landscape is a site of occurrence. A location for micro and macro relationships, personal and cultural overlap. As a site, landscape becomes an active platform of exchange.


Specific Suggestions for The Cascade:

  • The form The Cascade eventually takes is centered on the construction of an interdisciplinary project, which articulates (and mutates) the concept across varied mediums.  Multiple mediums open dialogue with transitional spaces, allowing the viewer to recognize each medium’s ability to articulate different aspects of the total concept.[2]
  • Formatting suggestions:

o   Print on large paper to test the effect of scale on the viewer’s ability to enter ambiguous space.

o   Do the prints need to be large, or are they best served as a string of smaller moments?

o   Avoid traditional photo papers (concept better served on matte paper).

o   Try displaying video on cathode TVs.

o   Try videos or stills in digital photo frames.

    • Consider ways to dimensionalize the television experience. Collapse viewing into geometric interludes. This locates references specifically in the text.
  • Try less modest installations.
  • Use of text intriguing—references the larger framework of the collaborative, appropriated experience. It questions/overturns the nature of authorship.
  • SOUND. It came up in nearly every critique. I need to work with sound. Whether I include videos in the final project or not, most felt I should investigate soundscapes and sound mixes, sampling everything from music to ambient background noise as a counterpoint to the stills. The sound can be integrated with the animations, or used as a separate comment.
  • Develop a clear iconographic system.
  • Stay at a critical distance from the exactness of film. The work’s unreliability, denial of resolution and references to television are richer than the explicitly cinematic.
  • What will the final forms be? Painting, digital and video?
  • Use referentiality to my advantage. Why not embrace Hollywood more directly? Specificity is okay.
  • Will more negative space/void improve some pieces?
  • Horizons may be more effective if they’re really long.
  • Try inserting blanks into the video projections, or into the longer, more encompassing still installations. These breaks reference TV formatting (commercial breaks, transitions).
  • Play with the establishing shots used in television to indicate location, think more cinematically.
  • Give critical consideration to the migration of work between painting and digital. What happens in this transitional state? Do mediums become subordinate to each other, or to concept?
  • I need several paintings to form a counterpoint to the digital work.
  • Try looping animations of un-manipulated screen caps.
  • Generate an entire video with only stills.
  • Consider the ever-expansive mythology of the west as a cultural and political construct. How are these considerations playing out in the work? The west behaves as a blank physical and cultural canvas, cut through by human intervention.
  • Curate, choreograph and activate different spaces and marks, in video and stills.
  • Tony Apesos suggested I go either more minimal or intensely baroque—avoid the in-between (a few responses indicated the work was too dense and I should consider simplification).

 

Out of step critiques and comments:

One faculty member felt the photographic stills were not working at all (he called them “overworked” and “flat,” denying narrative and resolution.[3] This response was at odds with most, who liked the difficulty resolving, or disentangling, individual moments. I asked if printing the digital images at a larger scale would solve some of his issues—and he indicated that larger scale and different paper would improve his response. He preferred the painting and wanted to see a direct narrative, with simplified images. One other faculty member also pushed me toward narrative, though I am not interested in explicit storytelling.

Direction of Future Work:

I plan to focus on further investigation of the Cascade, both in terms of conceptual excavation and physical manipulation, considering new micro and macro layers of meaning and interaction. I will be refining my varied output techniques, in order to solidify a multi-part, interdisciplinary project. I expect to produce 2-3 additional paintings, new video work and new methods of developing the digital stills on paper.


Artist suggestions included:

Albrecht Altdorfer, Diana Thater, Doug Aitken, Jack Goldstein, Jennifer Steinkamp, Joachim Patinier, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, TJ Wilcox and 16th century panoramic landscapes. As always, I will continue researching influential artists from previous semesters.


Suggested readings/videos:

Readings that were suggested during the residency:

Appleton, Jay. The Experience of Landscape.

Barthes, Roland. “The Third Meaning.” Image-Music-Text.

Benjamin, Walter. “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” Illuminations.

Casey, Edward. Representing Place: Landscape Painting and Maps.

Clark, Kenneth. Landscape into Art.

DeLue, Rachel Z. Landscape Theory (the Art Seminar).

Malpas, Jeff. Place and Experience: A Philosophical Topography.

Malpas, Jeff. The Place of Landscape: Concepts, Contexts, Studies.

Mitchell, W.J.T. Landscape and Power.

Schama, Simon. Landscape and Memory.

Since I’ve been working with digital projection, I also received a smattering of video recommendations from faculty including: Bladerunner – The Aquarelle Edition, Michael Snow – Wavelength (1967), Chris Marker – La Jetée (1962), The Birds (1963), Psycho (1960) and Richard Altman’s Short Cuts (1993).

 

[1] I had group critiques with Ben Sloat, Stewart Steck and Andrew Yang, and one-one-one critiques with Lynne Cooke, Peter Rostovsky, Tony Apesos, Judith Barry, Matthew Meyer, Britt Snyder and Jonathan Macagba. Members in my like-media critique group were: Wendy Wolfe Fine, Sean Quirk, Jesse Stansfield and Anna Spence. My large-scale videos also garnered feedback during the time-based screenings from a variety of students, including Mark Teiwes, Regan Rosburg, Susan Donatucci-Hopp and Ann Olsen.

[2] This is becoming rooted in the read-only, write-only and read-write culture articulated in Oliver Wasow’s Digital  Visual Culture in the Age of Social Media lecture.

[3] It should be noted that the work intentionally attempts a denial of clean resolution and elusive narrative.

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