Above: two views of Soledad Canyon. Though they do not share precise coordinates, they do suggest the almost interchangeable nature of both canyon and project topography; one mediated through a contemporary site-logging image practice, the other recorded as an (inadvertent) site-log via television. Together they facet two points of access into an elastic-space.
I had my first mentor meeting with Oliver Wasow last week.
Oliver has been pivotal to my developing thesis since the first residency (The Cascade grew out of a curatorial exercise from his Digital Visual Culture in the Age of Social Media seminar, combined with a daily media exercise suggested by John Kramer) and we wasted no time jumping into discussion of the installation. He had viewed the recent installation in person and had seen all previous versions, he just needed to catch up on the videos. We discussed the installation as it was presented in Cambridge and we analyzed various optimal, or variable setups.
In a larger space, I would ideally display all of the paintings, each video on its own monitor, View-Masters on pedestals or tables and (possibly) additional digital images in a room-like formation. The condensed installation he viewed in Cambridge was worked via discussion with my advisor, and it suggested a living room space. Oliver said the installation, even abbreviated, does not necessarily need to stay in that form. In fact, the domestic space won’t really work and is not particularly necessary. He is easily able to relate all of the parts, without the physical superimposition and felt the average viewer would not sit and engage a ‘living room’ with any guarantee.
We also discussed the ongoing nature of the project and its output. All this time, I had been expecting The Cascade to reach a finite, finalized, ‘evolved’ form (how Hegellian of me!). In writing my zero draft, I also came to realize The Cascade is a fluid, ongoing archive–capable of developing new ‘databases’ and being expressed in a number of ways. Ultimately, I will adjust it, and its components, to suit the space at hand, knowing I can always present it in other ways in the future (and I can discuss optimal or alternate installations in my thesis).
Oliver suggested I can work with this variability over the semester (and the future), and it can be adapted to communicate with the final exhibition space, to suit the project’s deployment at each location and in each localized moment.
One angle Oliver felt could be addressed more directly is the original site-as-platform, landscape-as-cornerstone found more readily in earlier versions of the project. He felt this was still very important, and might possibly have become subordinate to some of the newer developments (like the hunt, the semi-narrative, televisual space, etc.). Since the landscape itself is still vital, it can be pulled back into the project with a stronger presence that can, in turn, strengthen the other elements.
He asked me to revisit landscape as landscape itself by including additional media–digital or photographic street view images. These unmediated, unlayered images provide a different kind of time engagement, perhaps even functioning as ‘breathing room’ within the tension of the painting-video-reel dynamic. He asked me to consider the Google Street Views and in-program, still landscape screen captures I had dealt with last semester, with my mentor Kevin McCoy. Kevin found the street view/TV cap pairings compelling in much the same way as Oliver, so it’s worth revisiting if it contributes to the whole.
Since the painting provides important physical and temporal layers, suggesting initial jumping, and the video works offer a complementary fragmentation of the suggestion of the ‘real,’ including single-layer landscapes might offer the critical distance of comparison Peter Rostovsky suggested was left out of the installation. Of course, without the safety of critical distance, the viewer is thrown into the action–my intention all along–and a point which Oliver and Peter suggested is fine. However, including a moment of pause may be beneficial. The straight landscape images may provide the critical distance that is denied in the panicked, fragmented videos, reels and paintings.
Oliver likes the idea that the landscape itself, as a physical site, and as a media backdrop, is really interchangeable with itself, in its own sphere. I’m fascinated by this as well; the original impetus behind the curatorial project. The sunny, arid locations are almost modular (like the two shots at the top of this post). In fact, rather like the entire thesis project itself. When I compound forms in my thesis, they behave like jump-cuts, creating a density of space, place and nostalgia itself that can obliterate this quiet, weird, modular simplicity. Allowing the land back in reinforces the importance of site and gives the density a place to happen.
Though other aspects of the project grew in weight (the re-cast characters, the pervading tension between fiction and reality, the dissection of story), the original anchor was this landscape, or site, itself. All of it remains important. And, there’s no reason I must stop at only three media. It’s interdisciplinary. I can use as many as I like.
Other notes on this:
- Memory is similar to old TV shows.
- We reconnect with a filter, passing through, experiencing things in different ways.
- The street view, as in the TV show, is an experience.
- The street views, if used in the installation, should always be visible as a reference point–not stuck as oscillating slide shows between videos. Try them printed out and framed, or if they are digital, they need their own permanent monitor.
- Some concern that the videos may dominate the installation. Will they? If they do, is that okay?
- Do not stick the street views on View-master reels.
Johnny, Roy and the blank canvas–just waiting for me to begin.
The Relevance of the Painting
The paintings are important and necessary to the project. They provide another model of representation, interaction and consumption.
- The paintings become a slower, meditative (subjective meditation) on the immediacy of the video
- They are warm vs. the cool of television and the View-Masters (which fits into my three-screen and cool vs. warm research/theory). The painting warms the installation up, invites a different form of reflection.
- Time unfolds differently in the paintings than in the other media, which is important
- The paintings, for Oliver, are actually the most effective at making use of layers. Layers behave differently in the video, but offer a counterpoint.
- The project is concerned with different forms of representation and consumption, different modes of mediation and memory.
- It is also not specifically tied to that time period, even as large parts root it in the 1970s
- There’s no need to be limited to three media
- The paintings are important. It’s okay to combine new and old media.
- An overly theoretical approach can kill the subjectivity of personal memory; be careful to preserve it
- The digital manipulated/layered stills should not be included on paper in this version of the install, because they become redundant with the painting and video present. In the View-masters they play a different role, so it’s okay. But no photo print outs. The digital layered stills suggest time-based temporality that the videos handle better.
The sound is incredibly important. Oliver and I agreed that it should be openly audible. It is designed to be heard both while intently watching the videos, and while observing the painting and View-masters in an indirect manner, rather like overhearing a television set they may suck you into the drama if you hear something compelling. Forcing viewers to don headphones limits the concept of the work (and most people won’t do that, anyway).
If the final setup prevents full, audible sound, he suggested I at least go with an ambient volume that can still be heard, without disturbing other installations. Worst case would be headphones.
Oliver identified the importance of the multi-layered sound as another function of time.
At this point in the program, my studio practice is focused on resolving the installation, completing the third painting and doing some output work with the street views and single-layer stills.
I have plans for additional videos, paintings and digital reels, but these will be reserved until the thesis is complete. If there is time to do more, I will. If not, I have enough digital material to work with already. I am focusing on arrangement and painting.
I am aware that the integrated whole and its modular parts do not have to settle into a single, final form, but can exist in a remix-heavy system of permutations, which gives the project the possibility to be worked an re-worked as part of its very nature.
With that said, I still need to resolve the final installation for June. I will meet with Oliver again in about 2 weeks and we’ll experiment with installation formats.