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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.

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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.

Alchemy of Image – The Spacetime, A-Team Supercluster (Research Paper 3)

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Alchemy of Image
(
The Space-Time, A Team Supercluster)

This is a paper excerpt. Download the entire paper here. 

We live in an age of information—a socio-cultural climate that straddles the material and immaterial, our daily interactions taking place across physical and theoretical environments. The phrase “Information Age” itself endeavors to define an entire sphere of existence, production, interface and influence. Technology frames it. It proliferates across the arts and sciences, through economies and empires—and an ethereal, pervasive component, information itself, occupies the core, in place of steam and iron. Information is the philosophical spark of all matter and non-matter, all theory and concept, all communication and commodification.1 The Information Age is the heart of Postmodernism, the platform of Post Postmodernism,2 hinging technology, digital visual culture and interdisciplinary thinking. Within it, we have unprecedented access to data—all artistic styles, all points in history and geographic locations in a single click.3 Space and time collapse in the face of this new, digitally-driven landscape, redefined by delivery and access, shaped and re-oriented by the “Information Age” itself. As we encounter the data cascade, “each of us constructs our own personal mythology from bits and fragments of information extracted from the media flow… transformed into resources through which we make sense of our everyday lives” (Jenkins 3). This pronounced hypertextuality4 of information allows we contemporary artists to mix style, medium and influence on multiple levels, developing the privatized language Frederic Jameson feared5 out of a kind of “celestial jukebox” (Wasow), itself interconnected to the mythology of others.6 Making use of this connectivity, information and new media have become vital to my visual art production. Several recent projects, like The Cascade, investigate this hypertextuality of time, space and matter, informed by information flow, across various mediums. The result is an alchemy of image that addresses the time collapse, integrating micro and macro7 layers that echo multifarious networks and the constructed personal mythology8 we generate in our daily lives.

The 20th century saw tremendous interdisciplinary evolution (Gleick 9, 242-243).9 Theorist James Gleick argues that our awareness of information itself led to many 20th and 21st century breakthroughs, changing our understanding of everything from telephony to the network relationships traceable from star systems to DNA (Capra 35). Information was paradoxically understood as a pulse freed from semantics, as in Information Theory, and as heavily-laden language. Both physical and ethereal, it describes the transmission, replication and even biological order of all things and the study of information made digital technology possible. In my course of research, I discovered analyzing the information cascade, in all its manifest forms,10 is another way of accessing the interconnectivity (and generative nature) found in Eastern philosophy and physics that I worked with in the past.11 It also relates to the network of matter, social systems and data flow found in Fritjof Capra’s writings, equally important to my visual considerations.

While researching source material for previous work, I became fascinated by the process of digital research itself. I would sketch the Vazquez Rocks12 from memory, then Google additional photos. What resulted was not a static spill, but a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style hypertext journey. It led from vacation shots at “Gorn Rock” to maps, street views, paintings, postcards, weather reports, TV stills and film caps, all from various eras, with varied intent, some of which referred to the pre-existence of other images in an endless feedback loop.13 The search results are a hypertext “cloud” of concepts related, sometimes indirectly or tenuously, to the Vazquez Rocks. In this instance, snapshots taken in the 1950s occupy the same digital space as recent cell phone caps or Vine videos. The cascade of images effectively reduces the Vazquez Rocks to a series of suggestive, webbed data streams that a viewer can explore in a non-linear, metanarrative fashion.14 It forms a virtual relationship between time, spatial location, regional influence and an alchemy of virtual geography. Add the storied detail of our own micro readings to the mix and this new kind of relativity allows time to lose linearity in deep digital space.15 If you were to draw a map of the related links and remixes, the web-like clusters would uncannily resemble the very nature of our universe’s biggest galaxy networks: superclusters (Figure 2), as well as models of internet connectivity (Figure 1) in data flow and hardware.

I pursued the levels of micro and macro information present in this “celestial jukebox” of data and media, and the fascinating, philosophically endless spiral of connections between each source. An abundance of information lead to the possibilities of hypertext, new ways of finding and expressing patterns, and new methods of art production. Enter Mr. T and The Cascade.

If you’ve ever caught The A-Team, Knight Rider, MASH, MacGyver, The Dukes of Hazzard or Star Trek, you’ve seen it: the color palette, the geographical relationships, the creosote bushes, Joshua trees, tilting rocks. You’ve seen the Mojave Desert of the 1960s – 1980s.16 The arid outlay of folded rock may even be familiar—from personal visits or the whirling, hypertext pool of Hollywood reference. Offset by urban density, the dry turn-outs and canyon highways are the geographic language of the region. Areas like the Vazquez Rocks have become a rhythmic, cultural motif, acting as referents to television, fictional narratives and life events, while also suggesting an unreal, imagined geographic space, a cultural recognition of their use. The rocks (and the Mojave) inhabit the very real, the imagined and the transient, iconographic of a collapsing space between personal history, geologic reality and cultural production.The fact that snippets of experience can be gleaned from the background of popular media implies other cultural connections contain trace landscapes17 from the interactions of others, from the geographic and cultural history of entire areas. Storied-details can overlay the real and the enacted as a kind of remix—and our entire experience is formed, like matter itself, from the possibilities of the void and the special combination (and recombination) of generative elements.

Form itself is malleable, shifting. Artist Cai Guo Qiang says of his work (which addresses an imagined Mexico, constructed of myth and memory): matter and consciousness are always in a state of flux (11)—just as information. This relationship speaks to the integration of public and private, digital and analog, cultural and personal.18 Someone watching Star Trek, for example, might have visual familiarity with the fictional “Arena” episode, may have also been on picnics at the Vazquez Rocks and may have a blended understanding of the popular and personal, the social and representational aspects, its original cast and crew, its place in American history, its reception and impact on the digital and physical world. These fractured overlays behave like artifacts, or layers, in visual art, stemming from the cascade of information that inhabits multiple levels of construction. Physical space and linear time become collapsed and reframed as they rush through data streams, allowing “digital media [to] transform physical form into conceptual structure” (Binkley 109).

The Cascade freezes a trace of this physicality in an instant, settings once removed from their location (and time) by the original filming and again removed by the act of capturing a temporary instance. The project makes use of three 1980s TV shows I had multi-level responses to: The A Team, Knight Rider, and MacGyver.19 The transitory landscape found in these rapid videos elude focus, as action tends to preclude wide, sweeping vistas. Yet, landscape is integral to these television adventures.

Moments are snapped in real time with a cell phone, during viewing. Characters and commerciality are de-emphasized in favor of transitional spaces (time depicted in the narrative) and regional collisions (shifting camera views). I then use traditional media to interpret each of the screen captures—exploring surface and the representation of space and time on a 2D plane. The next phase remixes the two, digitally layering the original screen caps with new caps and drawings. The result is an ongoing series that exists in a virtual gallery, where the user is empowered by navigation and interaction. They may choose to comment, share, save the image, click randomly and otherwise invert the traditional, linear reception of work. The endless connections between medium, content, context, digitization and viewer participation can allow the project to behave as a network within a network: as a supercluster.20

This is a paper excerpt! To read the entire paper, with works cited, visit my Papers page.


1 John Archibald Wheeler manifestoed, “Information gives rise to ‘every it—every particle, every field of force, event he spacetime continuum itself’…” (Wheeler qtd. in Gleick 10). Gleick himself claims “information is what our world runs on: the blood and the fuel, the vital principle,” where atoms are the basic units of matter, bits are the basic units of information, themselves describing the nature of the atom’s existence (9-10). Werner Lowenstein even articulated the transformation of the term “information” itself: “ The information circle becomes the unit of life… it connotes a cosmic principle of organization…” (Lowenstein qtd. in Gleick 9).

 2 Also dubbed “Pseudo-Modernism” and “Digimodernism” (Kirby).

 3 Alan Kirby identifies this kind of access as a fundamental paradigm shift, a rupture of existing cultural relationships: “Digimodernism identifies as the critical event in contemporary culture the profound and shattering encounter between computerization and the text. Its most recognizable form is a new kind of digitized textuality—onward, haphazard and evanescent—that disrupts traditional ideas about authorship and reading, and is found on Web 2.0, a range of applications…” I would argue that it explodes the broader concept of “text” itself, with things like the re-orientation of the idea of the original (Jarvis) and the strange collapse of all eras of information and all geographic locations into a binary-based, digitized space-time environment (or, deep digital space).

 4 “Hypertext” refers to the plastic referentiality of text (and information) made possible by electronic devices. There is a sense of immediacy and interconnectivity within non-linear space. Branching structures resemble trees, galaxy filaments or network superstructures. “Hypertextuality” allows one to “transcend the linearity of the written text by building an endless series of imagined connections” (Riffaterre qtd. on “The Torque”). “Hypertext” is also used to describe not only “imagined connections,” but literal, web-like relationships that can be accessed from any point.

 5 According to Jameson, pastiche is used in Postmodernism due to the erosion of the idea of a linguistic or cultural norm as a result of increased language privatization (130). Jameson was concerned about growing linguistic bubbles that would generate parallel, but separate, paths of interaction. With pluralism, the Modernist idea of a linguistic, cultural pinnacle goes right out the window.

 6Contemporary artists can work across mediums, across the limitations of style, choosing the right components and context for projects in “remix” fashion. Style becomes a tool, not an end-game in itself and importance is placed on context, arrangement and association (Jarvis) (Binkley 237-238). As such, no style, no medium is off-limits.

 7 Edward Tufte describes macro and micro readings in Envisioning Information. He uses a street view map of New York to illustrate the viewer-activated phenomena of generating “individual stories about the data” when viewing visual information (Tufte 37). Someone who lives in the city would have extended micro readings of the street view map, shops visited, favorite lunch spots, perhaps even identifying life-event locations like the place where they celebrated graduation, or suffered a break-up. The map contains layers of theoretical information applied by the viewer, which varies dramatically between individuals. A tourist who visited the same locations might also have micro readings of a macro map, as would someone familiar with the setting via movies or television. Someone who had never been there and knew nothing of the setting would have a broader macro understanding of the map as a piece of data, providing insight into a distant series of structures. This kind of extended context allows for what Tufte calls “storied detail,” and layered reactions connected to the “relationship between the measurements of its space and the events of its past” (38).

 8Eli Pariser also refers to the “unique universe of information for each of us” (9), as we navigate and extrapolate information and experience from the filtered digital experience.

 9Notably diverse fields like physics, mathematics, biology, electronics, telephony, code-breaking, linguistics and even psychology expanded and overlapped, corresponding to the rise of a new age—the rapid increase of movable data and technology (Capra 5).

 10 My research included information theory, networking, digital culture, astrophysics, the internet, convergence culture, video games, spectacle and new media, which builds naturally on my previous research, allowing me to investigate 21st century concerns more directly than previous work.

 11The body of work I completed in 2012 investigated the nature of emergence—matter and non-matter, the point at which being emerges from non-being. I explored the relationship between physics and Taoism, finding that the seemingly different language of philosophy and mathematics were intertwined, often describing identical conditions. Layering elements mimicked strata unearthed in archaeological digs and its resulting reveal of relative truth. Pieces were two-dimensional, on paper, and combined printmaking with mixed media, emphasizing the interdisciplinary. Newer work is pushing the mixed media even farther and incorporating some of what Eli Pariser called “transmedia,” expanding my field into web-based, time-based and digital overlap.

 12 The Vazquez Rocks are a rock formation located in Agua Dulce, California (Mojave Desert), north of Los Angeles. They are part of a 745 acre county park, minutes away from Santa Clarita and Palmdale. Though the formations are millions of years old, they’re best known today for guest appearances in countless films, television and commercial productions (Digital-Desert).

 13 Of interest to the feedback loop of referentiality were shots of people reenacting fictional narratives, which occupied the same digital space as the “real” screen caps of the original Hollywood narratives. The intertextual reference of characters imitating characters at the site was especially prolific for Hollywood backlot sites like the Vazquez Rocks. For example, the cast of The Big Bang Theory dressed like Star Trek The Next Generation characters, stranded at the Vazquez Rocks—where the Next Generation episode they refer to via costume was itself originally a reference to the infamous Kirk vs. Gorn battle in the Star Trek episode, “Arena,” itself a pastiche of older science fiction shorts recorded at the Vazquez Rocks. Choosing any side topic, such as the Kirk vs. Gorn fight itself, yields another spiral of fractured, referential (yet networked) results—everything from fan art and fan-reenactment to screen caps and contemporary parody.

 14 The de-centering of the traditional narrative is a primary component of Postmodernism, Post Postmodernism and digital visual culture (Darley 56). The “meta” progression intensifies in digital culture, where web pages, image searches and even web sites can be viewed in any order, accessed from varied sources and dispersed across unrelated platforms (Flickr photos curated on Pinterest, then shared on Twitter via Pinterest). The “proper” viewing order gets turned on its head and new, macro and micro, contextualization occurs. The feedback aspect of the image loop is also vital, as it indicates a recursive, almost organismic system.

 15 A Google search (or Picasa database) might span all times, eras, moments and progressions, allowing us to hop hypertextually (or intertextually) between moments, condensing them into the same instance of experience.

  16 My formative years were spent in the Antelope Valley (Mojave Desert, CA), which Frank Zappa referred to as a land with its own lore. Just north of Los Angeles, the “AV” and its related environs (Santa Clarita, Soledad Canyon, Agua Dulce, etc.) saw explosive growth from the mid-70s, through the early 90s. The expansion was partly related to aerospace, but largely a result of increasing costs of living in the LA basin. Hundreds of thousands of people moved to the area over the course of 25 years, treating the rocky expanse as a “suburb” of the valley, entering the quirky land of abandoned gas stations and burned out cars with urban interests. Its close proximity to Hollywood invited the production of movies and TV even before the boom. It was cheap to film there, easy to get to and had pockets of vast open space peppered with cities. The broader Mojave Desert became Hollywood’s backlot. As production moved out of the sound stage, sequences were often shot on-site in areas whose very geological, sociological and ecological makeup had affected my perceptions, guided my aesthetics. In some ways, the backgrounds of popular TV froze a contextual moment for me, capturing the essence of environment within an actual time-sensitive narrative rooted in geography and the progression of time.

As a child completely immersed in popular television culture (the TV was rarely off), the tales I internalized were filmed in areas I frequented. The adventures were built of familiar flora and fauna, recognizable roads, understandable weather. It was a visual vocabulary I inherently understood, composed of a unique kind of relational linguistics. I intuitively understood that these stories involved my own personal geography, my own generation of space and place–filtered through the lens of popular culture as a kind of remix. This is the micro reading. The trick is to make work that can use the micro, while offering the newly inverted author/viewer relationship to allow the viewer to bring their own micros to the macro in an endless experience.

17 I would venture to use the term “landscape” beyond the restriction of sheer physical geography. The landscape, as in the digital landscape, can contain many levels and associations, internal and external relationships, tied to a loaded set of media—all in exposed in the instant of consideration.

 18 I do not use the term “universal,” here as the unique personal mythology of each individual prevents a cohesive, “universal” response to stimuli. There may be broad tendencies, especially when the viewers of a work are culturally tied, but I prefer to think of macro readings as the broad, camera-pulled-back encounters, rather than universality. Edward Tufte believes “the space-time grid has a natural universality with nearly boundless subtleties and extensions” (110), but this is a descriptor of the nature of physics, which is not usually a victim of subjectivity.

 19Though potentially nostalgic, my intent is not an investigation of sentimentality, but of time and context (Figure 3). Since the project is ongoing, it will eventually expand to include 1960s and 1970s and other 1980s programs, of relation to the first group.

 20Likewise, another recent series, Superclusters, builds on my cornerstone interest in the development of matter from non-matter. Some of my familiar archaeologically-infused rock shapes tumble in a state of ambiguous gravity. Working through these spinning, connective ingredients, I’ve blended glyphs and language, the linear strings of maps and filaments and even pictographic suggestions. I’m interested in the convergence of raw material and the information that defines their construction–an attempt to reach an alchemy of image through mixed media and surface play, applying some digital techniques to the mix. While still working in two dimensions, I attempted to employ Tufte’s methods of “escaping Flatland” by emphasizing layers (13-14). By researching digital visual culture, info theory, convergence culture, remix and appropriation, systems thinking and networking, I have taken the “snow globe” of visual elements from previous work and shaken them vigorously, allowing them to expand and shift with digital hypertext in mind (and applied to works on paper).