ESSAY I - THE SCREEN / VIEWER INTERFACE

 

 

 

 

The Screen-viewer interface

 

Lina Laraki

January 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                            For the page is a space

                                                                                                                                                           For the word is manifest

A happening of you and I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

______________________________

 

 

 

Content

 

 

Foreword.

Introduction.

Screen as Interface.

Locational Film.

Doubleness Through Screen.

Architecture of Spectatorship.

Spatial Dynamics of Spectatorship / Embodiment at the Interface.

Conclusion.

Afterword.

Bibliography.

Figure Index.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How does the interdependent screen-viewer relationship places screen-based installation art spectatorship as progressively critical and generative of the work’s meaning?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreword

 

 

“Writing has nothing to do with signifying. It has to do with surveying, mapping, even realms that are yet to come.”(Deleuze, Guattari 1988: 5)

 

 

From right to left, I have come to attempt a crossing of readings, analytical processes, thoughts and implications. From there, I am shifting to writing, and crossing the space of a page, as much as your space, you, as my reader.

In order to cross you, I am creating an interface, and intersubjective space happening between our formulations through language.

Right now for this undertaking, there seems to be a limitation in making my experiences and desire tangible through words on a paper. Language seems to me as being an alien tool, especially that english is not my first, nor second language. But at the same time, I find it very interesting in its unique way of occurring as a space itself where things kind of just happen to shape and make sense. 

In this situation it would hardly be anything else other than an itinerary of my own means of expressing myself via a double screen of estrangement, an opportunity to invent ways for me to pass (you) through this.

I have always been a fervent claimer that silence is the most eloquent speaker, but aren’t words born out of silence? I keep wondering how words, that have been invented millenniums ago, could still be a tool and process for innovative thought. As much as silence and language are coextensive, I wonder how they position themselves spatially, in order to allow things to happen. Furthermore, during a conversation, where do words fall out and in-between silences install themselves in order to allow things to form and make sense out of each other? Where is the passage from language to the formulation of the image?

In this piece of writing I would like to counter-use the idea of language being a limitation but rather emphasize its bouncing tension with that other language, which is of the image, forming, between my language, and our agreed consensus, cognition.

This is where I choose to define that ‘space’ as intersubjectivity. Language is a communal space where the individual stops partaking a private, apart meaning from any other subjects. Intersubjectivity can also be understood on a psychological level as the energy that moves between plural subjects, as a bridge between the self and the Other.

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

 

“I am Kino-eye. I am builder. I have placed you in an extraordinary room which did not exist until just now when I also created it. In this room there are twelve walls, shot by me in various parts of the world. In bringing together shots of walls and details, I’ve managed to arrange them in an order that is pleasing and to construct with intervals, correctly, a film-phrase which is the room.”[1]

 

 

Dr. Henrik Ehrsson [2], researcher at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, undertook a media research-based experiment on volunteers. Implicating the use of head-mounted displays, the participants were situated watching a real-time video recorded by cameras placed behind them. The two left and right videos were respectively displaying the two cameras, thus creating the illusion of watching their own back, from the perspective of another someone standing in their back. Ehrsson states that from this experiment, a shift occurs in the participant’s perception of self, from the first person, to a position outside of the corporeal. The study posits alternative spaces within which intersubjectivity might exist.

Other than in neurosciences, Artists, especially pioneers of installation art, have been creating thus exploring spaces for intersubjectivity. Enabled by the play withtechnology and informed by the cultural context, the majority of this work requires active, how much ever conscious or not, collaboration with its audience.

Whether the artist replicates or simulate such situations as metaphorical references to social relationships, he creates new systems of communication, leading to new connections in new spaces, through human-to-technology and interaction, to conceptualize these ideas of new agencies and perception, whether social, political or cultural.

I would be particularly looking at screen-based installation art during this study. Installation Art has brought a new dynamic where narration moves to being spatial and three-dimensional, willing to activate the viewer within it. Installation has thus answered a psycho-social question : giving the viewer an active role to play in the piece in which he becomes one of its parameters.

Jean Fischer explains “This form of art, implied a move away from the object as a self-contained and pre-given reality, towards art as a context in relation to which the spectator introjects and reconstructs its own reality ; that is, the work becomes itself a ‘theater’ in which the spectator is ‘co-performer’ … The work sets up a kind of semipermeable ‘membrane’ and everything that overflows the frame of the image - its mechanisms of production an interpretation (the spectator) - contributes as much to its signifying powers as what appears naturally inherent to it: its content and point of ‘origin’ (the creator)[3]. After the experimentations of several artists since the 1960’s, it shows that the outside of the image is to be thought of as a mental-inclined field that is still to be explored.

It would seemingly resemble to the idea of traveling through a piece of text in which we could still make choices. Encompassing the viewer as an actor and an interpret of that field has its limits, and deserves to pursue further research.

Nowadays, the appearance that a work takes is none of matter anymore, it is rather its movement, its vector that engages us. It is not really the image and its immediate outfield that are important, but rather its circulation. The objects are part of a chain, an interdependent ensemble that operates in different frames and according to different statuses.

Alternative experiences, explosions in the space, or merely cinematic devices, all explore the different possibilities of the trialectic relation that ties together the spectator, the screen, and the atypical environment.

I will undertake the study of four different works through this paper in order to intricately formulate a critical thought through text and image, case studies of screen-based works and language as being my own screen between you and I. 

This is where my interest comes to sharper focus, investigating the notion of anactive, empowered spectator since the 60’s and 70’s, through screen-reliant art.

By bringing this forward, I would like to question the intentions and motivations of screen-based installations in relationship to their audience.

 

 

How does the interdependent screen-viewer relationship places screen-based installation art spectatorship as progressively critical and generative of the work’s meaning?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen as Interface

 

   In the mid-1960’s, Art spectators were invited to both construct and be constructed by their interactions with the screen, as material, emphasizing the site and the experience of ‘screen spectatorship’.  A shift was occurring in a newly concern of what can be called the ‘screen-viewer interface’: the multiple physical and conceptual points where the observing subject encounters the media object. The context and situation here aims to display media objects as much as their viewing regimes, literally and figuratively, through sculptural and experiential works of art.

 

Here the context that reveals the exhibition space as material, along the possible dynamics of spectatorship, emerges as content.

 

By viewer-screen interface, what I imply is merely the film apparatus devices such as film, camera, projector and screen, their architectonics and ideological effects on the viewer, withdrawing considerably from psychoanalysis theorization of ‘the screen as both material surface and site for psychic projection’[4], involving the psychological, phenomenological, and indeed ideological relationships between viewing subjects and media screens. The viewer-screen relation is a place for inter-implication: it implies the projection screen but also integrates sensitive bodies and their psychic dimensions, along discursive constructs.

Screens themselves are ambivalent objects functioning both as material and immaterial gateway presenting another space and time dimension, embodied through it solid structure. Although it is outrunning its physical shape, it creates an immediate space forming a phenomenal form and relationship to its viewer. Their capacity to reorganize space and time conceive them as hybrid spatial and temporal art objects.

 

 

I will undergo that study through two film environments that theorize the critical relevance of these suggestive art objects - Paul Sharit’s Soudstrip/Filmstrip (1971-72) and Michael Snow’s Two Sides to Every Story (1974).

 

 

 

Locational Film

 

“Cinema is occurring when one looks at screens, not through them”, Paul Sharits claimed in 1974. “The space between screens is filled with actuality without recourse to phony densities”[5]. Sharits qualified his film work as “locational” pieces incorporating the “real, physical environment” as Rosalind Krauss argues, taking “the viewer’s actual experience between the parallel planes of screen and projector” into the work itself. Here, both the context of cinematic viewing and the materiality of screen itself became core components to the work’s meaning. Sharit’s work can be described as multi-screened locational environments installations.

 

Soundstrip/Filmstrip content includes four film projectors enclosed in four large boxes positioned side by side in the middle of a half-illuminated gallery space. The four projectors simultaneously ‘cinemascope-ly’ screen an abstract color film of parallel lines onto the wall, which could be mistakenly interpreted as a single film projected sideways. The soundtrack is made up of a male voice stuttering word fragments that accompanies each film resulting in an overlayed mix of nonsense sound, all played in loop. The abstract non-narrative aspect of the film seems to oppose itself to the illusionism structure found in more traditional cinematic forms, here placing the function and materiality of film amidst the subjective nature of perception itself, whether visual or auditive. It seems that Sharits directly questions the film’s space and the elements that allow or deny us its immediate experience. Viewers ofSoundstrip/Filmstrip are invited to move physically through the life-scale projection within the exhibition space, offering an exploratory durational experience through the looping of the locational installation. The unfolding of the piece here relies on the viewer’s decision of the time spent within the space, progressing between the relationship of the moving image and the sound fragments, exploring it from various spatial points. The viewer is invited to make its own way to the film, insofar as he is invited to more through the entire spatial environment, understanding the sound is moving from right to left and that the seemingly indecipherable word fragment are splits of one single word: “miscellaneous”. This step generates the meaning of the work along the viewer’s steps, serving the idea of film viewing through an embodied condition.

 

   Fig 1   . Paul Sharits,  Soundstrip/Filmstrip , 1971-72. Installation view from “Paul Sharits: Figment” exhibition at Espace Gantner, France, 2007. Four projectors on black pedestals simultaneously emit four separate but related films onto a single wall/screen in what the artist refers to as a “locational” exhibition. Copyright Christopher Sharits

Fig 1. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Installation view from “Paul Sharits: Figment” exhibition at Espace Gantner, France, 2007. Four projectors on black pedestals simultaneously emit four separate but related films onto a single wall/screen in what the artist refers to as a “locational” exhibition. Copyright Christopher Sharits

 

 

The screen-based work Soundstrip/Filmstrip posits the viewer-screen relationship in a self-reflexive context, through its locational environment/installation while exposing its material process: the film is considered to be aspace, to be crossed, in order to be unfold, and penetrated. The film is made of an immaterial, intangible projected image, through physical devices such as the screen, the film and the projectors considered as sculptural objects structuring and defining that space, that is inhabited by the mobile viewer. That same viewer who is invited to actively and phenomenologically engage within that space and time, which situates Sharit’s work within the critical frame of the 1970’s contemporary art discourse.

 

   Fig 2   . Paul Sharits,  Soundstrip/    Filmstrip   , 1971-72. Artist’s diagram indicating the artist’s conception of how to install the work’s sound, image, and object elements in relationship to the gallery space. Copyright Christopher Sharits

Fig 2. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Artist’s diagram indicating the artist’s conception of how to install the work’s sound, image, and object elements in relationship to the gallery space. Copyright Christopher Sharits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doubleness through Screen

 

The Theorist John Rajchman uses Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 2 as representative of the thought concerning a larger theory of image installation. “In making such invention possible, dispositifs like the cinematic are distinguished as something more than ‘media’ or technical supports, more than means of transmitting and receiving information”, Rajchman explains. “They are, rather, ways of disposing of our senses in such a way as to enable thinking, to make ideas possible”.[6]

Michael Snow’s film installation Two Sides to Every Story(1974) makes a good illustration in this regard as it offers new means to inhabit screen interfaces and, in doing so, “makes new ideas possible”.

 

         Fig 3  .    Michael Snow,   T    wo Sides to Every Story,   1974. Installation view from “Projected images exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1974. This complex 8-minute work consists of two synchronized 16 mm films, color and sound, projected continuously on two sides of an aluminum screen. Copyright Michael Snow. 

 

Fig 3.Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Installation view from “Projected images exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1974. This complex 8-minute work consists of two synchronized 16 mm films, color and sound, projected continuously on two sides of an aluminum screen. Copyright Michael Snow. 

Two Sides to Every Story is constituted of two 16 mm color films synchronously projected onto the two sides of an aluminum screen, in loop. The two films projectors are mounted onto a black plinths and opposite ends of the rest of the space. The sound consists of ambient sound of the recording and Snow’s voice directing the action, which, depending on how the viewer is placed in relation to the screen, may or may not address accordingly what image is depicted. One side of the screen positions the viewer as a cinematic one, looking at the story in image into the screen, while the other side offers the position of the filmmaker, showing the filming process. What is there to know, is that Snow placed the two projectors in the gallery room, according to the respective positions of the cameras on the film shoot location. By duplicating the production set up, Snow transposes the shoot space, into the exhibition space. Additionally, as the two cameras were placed in opposite corners recording the action happening at the center of the room, they both recorded the other tripod and camera situated opposite.  Thus, the two films simultaneously recount each’s production.

The content of the film narrates the movement of a casual woman, walking between the two cameras, under the direction of Snow’s audible voice, showing a thin, transparent sheet of paper that she sprays with green paint, covering its see-through surface. At some point, she comes back with another board colored in blue on one side, and yellow on the other. The way I understand it, is that the plastic sheet echoes the dual screen that Snow installed in the room, linking the symbolic of the immaterial image to the screen (very thin aluminum) and the spray paint to the projection plane in the installation. The way the screen is displayed, hanging in mid-air from the ceiling, also presents it as a hybrid sculptural object. It is placed in the middle of the gallery as a materialized dual-sided projection surface, emphasizing its objecthood, and architectural quality as it rifts the room in two, leaving no other choice to the viewer to position himself in one side or the other. Here again, the screen embodies this ambivalence of being almost immaterial from the choice of the very thin aluminum, and in the meantime according to its position, materializes a depth of image and space within the room. It is perfectly standing for what Snow calls the ‘radical non materiality of the filmic image’. Snow writes “Film itself - what one sees when a film is projected - is almost nonexistent matière on a flat surface. The fact that the image, which can contain such convincing representations of depth, is truly very, very thin, is for me a poignant aspect of projected-light work. I believe that the actual thin, physical manifestation which is the image is as important in artworks as what the image represents.”[7] The screen also holds a symbolic role in the structuring of this experience, through pointing at one’s physical point of view being key in either upholding or dismantling the cinematic illusionism. Similar to Sharit’s “locational” work, Snow’s installation requires the viewer to ambulate through time, and observe from different spatial perspectives the two projections in order to grasp the essence of the work. However it subsists that despite the viewer’s mobility and willingness to get around, it remains impossible for him (or her) to see it all at once. It somehow places something of the work out of reach, perpetually. And in so doing, the situation creates a juxtaposed space of meanings, that are simultaneously of the artist’s intention, and the spectator’s interpretation and experience. “Events take time. Events take place”, Snow inspects in Artforum in 1971. “In relation to events one can only be a participant or a spectator or, both”.[8] Snow emboldens the film viewer to consider himself in this double role. By enacting the double screen situation, he embodies the concept of a dual screen-mediated spectatorship. From one side, the viewer is mirrored as the film subject, semblant to the film protagonist’s mouvements through the room, while on the other side he is also mirrored by the cameras and their status as mediators and translators of the work’s meaning. The visitor is thus understood to be both passive and active.

 

  Fig 3  .    Michael Snow,   T    wo Sides to Every Story,   1974. Installation view from “Projected images exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1974. This complex 8-minute work consists of two synchronized 16 mm films, color and sound, projected continuously on two sides of an aluminum screen. Copyright Michael Snow. 

Fig 3.Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Installation view from “Projected images exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1974. This complex 8-minute work consists of two synchronized 16 mm films, color and sound, projected continuously on two sides of an aluminum screen. Copyright Michael Snow. 

In 1974, Regina Cornwell acclaimed Snow’s installation according to how the screen would make the viewer aware of the space of the event, opposedly to its ‘beta’ function as a “‘window to the world’ in order that we may lose ourselves”[9]. This situation posits the viewer in a phenomenological context exploring a liberation of the spectator-subject by conceding the media apparatus, strongly rejecting the “cinematic” and illusionist model of viewing, as constitutionally passive therefore uncritical. However, Cornwell’s reflexion intuits that interesting aspect that is not fully articulated, in which Snow essentially places that “illusionist” space -which in thought is rejected- as in center to that critical reflexivity of the viewer.

Critic Dominique Païni writes about Two Sides to Every Story “It is the screen, essentially the screen, more than an abstract filmic material, which is Snow’s burden”[10]. Snow’s work originates a hybrid form of representation between painting’s illusionist representation and sculpture dimensional materiality. He remarks himself “I do think that my work ‘is more radical than that’, and why I think that is related to my attempt to make the work a ‘now’, ‘materialist’, yes a ‘modernist’ experience as well as to have and to direct the references elsewhere of representation, ‘away’ and back to you and the workitself.”[11] The film screen is disclosed as both a non-site for illusionist content and an object in itself. Through this, Snow’s installation exposes a clear paradox of media installation spectatorship: this condition of viewing is simultaneously phenomenologically engaging the viewer materially with objects in real time and space and immaterially through the viewer’s metaphorical projection into virtual times and spaces. Snow substantially reinforce this interpretation in an unpublished interview with Cornwell, in which he remarks “that he wasn’t so much working against illusory deep space in film as he was using ‘the belief’ in it along with the ‘fact of flatness’ and having it both ways”.[12] Two Sides to Every Story inherently represents and deconstruct filmic conventions through this constant doubleness present in the work. The tension between subject-object, the flat screen and the deep field it displays, its material and immateriality all echo the spectator presence in the gallery space and its relation to film viewing. Confronting the virtual window’s ‘interior’ space while being reminded of its staged constructedness, the viewer faces that structural doubleness again both in relation to the film screen and the viewer’s experience around it within the gallery space. Here, Snow insinuatingly plays with the ideology of a habituated viewer who sees “into” screen spaces without raising attention to its material aspect and the relation it has to its site.

Sharit’s and Snow’s redeployment of screens-based apparatus in the center of the gallery powerfully interrogates the ideology and phenomenology approach one could have to screens themselves. It places the viewer-screen interface as a content itself, inherent to the meaning of the work, reflexively exploring the complex nascent nature of this relationship, also questioning our everyday relationship to countless screens surrounding us that we only look into, and not at them.

Roland Barthes distinguishes an alternative way of experiencing mainstream cinema in his essay “Leaving the Movie Theater”: “by letting oneself be fascinated twice over, by the image and its surroundings - as if I had two bodies at the same time: a narcissistic body which gazes, lost, into the engulfing mirror, and a perverse body, ready to fetishize not the image but precisely what exceeds it: the texture of the sound, the hall, the darkness, the obscure mass of the other bodies.”[13]

Screen-based installations make the viewer as reflexively aware of its own condition, conclusively reminding him of his embodied screen subject situation through the material nature of the screen-viewing relationship.

 

The next point will take us further in that study of screen-directed spectatorship, through the study of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider work, where they take us to a more literal screen-subject proposition that is defined through our everyday interactions interceded by the technological devices surrounding us.

 

 

 The Architecture of Screen Spectatorship

 

Ira Schneider and Frank Gillette’s Wipe Cycle (1969) is of nine tv monitors stacked as a grid of three by three (columns and rows). The monitors display continuously flickering black and white images of pre-recordedand live footage, scattered with recordings of the piece’s viewers. It is amongst the first piece to include live feedback within the work thanks to a closed-circuit video technology. The spectator walks in and faces the illuminated sculptural disposition, and looks within the visual display. The stacked screens are all interdependent and follow a very precise and scripted chain of displays: the live feedback showing the viewer’s image is always showing in the middle monitor, while the other recorded footage and television broadcasting shifts around the other screens. (see fig). While we first focus on trying to understand the scripts displayed on the stacked surfaces, we forget to question how does the viewer look at screen-based sculptures? And how would that differ from looking at other art objects?

 

 Fig 5.rank Gillette and Ira Schneider, pe Cycle, 1969. Installation view from “TV as a Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, 1969.  This side view emphasizes the objecthood of the screens that compose the closed-circuit video environment. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.   

Fig 5.rank Gillette and Ira Schneider, pe Cycle, 1969. Installation view from “TV as a Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, 1969.

This side view emphasizes the objecthood of the screens that compose the closed-circuit video environment. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

 

The moving images that we encounter in screen-based art works call for a different kind of absorption from any other art object, psychologically as much as physiologically. The first basic impact it has on the viewer is the discipline of her or his body as the glowing imagery calls insistently for the viewer’s gaze. Art historian Jonathan Crary states in hisSuspensions of Perception that attention is the characteristic of perception that allows subjects to focus on parts of their surroundings and setback or inconsiderate the rest. The spectator changes his attentive behavior in relation to screen-based devices, and thus affects media art spectatorship.

  Fig 6.rank Gillette and Ira Schneider, pe Cycle,969. Artist’s diagram of the installation’s complex video-programming cycles. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

Fig 6.rank Gillette and Ira Schneider, pe Cycle,969. Artist’s diagram of the installation’s complex video-programming cycles. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

 

Scientist Christof Koch, explains in a neurobiological study of consciousness, how the viewer’s attention on particular object is inherently involuntary. “Some things don’t need focal attention to be noticed. They are conspicuous by virtue of intrinsic attributes relative to their surroundings,”(...)”These salient objects rapidly, transiently and automatically attract attention.”[14] He specifies that screens in particular, brutally and necessarily call for a precise amount of focus. “It takes willful effort to avoid glancing at the moving images on the TV placed above the bar in a saloon.”[15] Koch’s contribution here helps us understand the viewer’s submissive position facing flickering images as in Wipe Cycles , even if, as we pointed in the previous part, certain sculptural installations employing sculptural screenings can be more complex that just that. This, is a key point in our reflection on screen-based art spectatorship, as Koch’s points at how certain prominent objects inescapably alter our viewing mode as subjects, and therefore constitutes an important note for theorizing the function settings of screen-reliant art spectatorship.

  Fig 7.rank Gillette and Ira Schneider, pe Cycle,969. Installation view from “TV as a Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, 1969. This view demonstrates how images of the viewers observing the work are captured by closed-circuit cameras and represented in the center and bottom screens. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider. 

Fig 7.rank Gillette and Ira Schneider, pe Cycle,969. Installation view from “TV as a Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, 1969. This view demonstrates how images of the viewers observing the work are captured by closed-circuit cameras and represented in the center and bottom screens. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider. 

 

Art criticism that looks into media installation and more precisely into the role of the viewer can be separated into two principal groups. The first one acclaims the idea of an empowered and liberated spectatorship in regards to audience participation, also described as “interactivity”. The second one opposes itself in pointing the passiveness and uncritical experience encountered through mass media screens and its featuring technological structure and controlling characteristics brought by recent capitalism. [16]

 

Gillette and Schneider’s installation Wipe Cycle ‘make you look’, and even closer, as you are literally in the image. Schneider states “The most important function of Wipe Cycle was to integrate the audience into the information.”[17] Schneider considers the work as interrupting the operative television viewing by putting the image of the viewer within what is usually considered to be a one-way flow of information. The work Wipe Cyclesuggest an essential interpretation of the discipline and attention found in screen-reliant art spectatorship. By studying these illustrative works where the viewer’s imagery is straightforwardly implicated within the work thanks to feedback, one can stretch the thought in which media art environments dictates precise physical arrangements upon their spectators in some less apparent cases. The pioneering video installations of the late 1960’s and early 1070’s propose accurate examples to illustrate this thought, the type of spectatorship they advance endures in more recent media art production as well.

Through Wipe Cycle study we can scrutinize not only how the illuminated sculptural object defines and its viewing mode defines the relation between bodies and screens, but also how a closed-circuit video purposely underlines the forceful nature of screen viewing, that can also be symbolized in Wipe Cycle through the placing of the live feedback in the center monitor of the sculptural disposition.

 And this is executed through a complete composition of different techniques such as multiplying the alignment of cameras and monitors, joining live and pre-recorded feedback, inverting images, separating camera footages from their monitors, incorporating time delays, etc. All these technological apparatuses induce specific kinesthetic and psychic consequences upon their viewers.

While this piece implicates a critical rupture from conventional forms and techniques of screen control, these same screens that requires the viewer’s body’s discipline and focused attention, induce notably unfixed subjective effects. Same as in the first part, we here again observe another paradox occurring in between the very disciplinary aspect of screen-based spectatorship, and the way installations such as Wipe Cycle bend around these rules while using them and incorporating them within the work itself, affect the way the audience is implicated in innovative and disturbing ways. Wipe Cycle tricks the viewer by emphasizing the way mass media viewing operates through the way they interact with the screen-based object in the art gallery context, while insistingly placing the viewer’s body and experience as central to generate the meaning of the work.

 

 

Spatial Dynamics of Spectatorship / The Embodiment at the Interface

 

Following with Peter Campus’ closed-circuit video installation Interface (1972), stages another kind of experience for its audience. (fig) When entering the room, the viewer finds himself in a nearly empty room integrating a video projector and a camera placed at opposite sides in the gallery. The space is traversed by a large transparent glass screen that separate the light source placed on the ground and the projector, from the camera posited opposite. When the viewer walks into the space and faces the screen, he observes a simultaneous double image of himself appearing on the screen: their live image feedback recorded by the camera and their mirror reflection. Campus’ proclaims the viewer as entirely able to influence the content reflected over the glass screen, could it be this peculiar dissimilar double representation.  Interface works with a troubled representation of its viewer as in real-time experience retransmission, and thoroughly places forward the materiality of the body-screen interface. Centric, the screen’s role is made aware to the viewer in its mediator role, as in both conceptually and physically, operating the relationship between itself, the projection, the viewer, and the site.  Interface directly address the spatial presence of the material screen object, but here in a manner that emphasizes its performative feature: any object can work as a screen under specific conditions. Campus uses the screen to underscore its function as a window onto another space, by using the sheet of glass. “We see that from the start there is a sense in which the screen was less an illusionist window or ersatz classical stage than a moving frame with an ‘out-of-frame’ that allows movement and time to be rendered in new ways that would move beyond the conceptions of space in classical painting or theatre, suggesting alternatives to them”[18]. Similarly to Two Sides to Every Story, Interface focuses on that double feature of the screen as being flat and deep at the same time. But here precisely, that doubleness is operated through the transparency of the glass and the opacity of the images reflected onto it, light being revealed as matter. It is like Campus conceived a nearly disappearing screen in order to re-materialize the interface of screen-based viewing itself, as being here centric meaning to the work. The screen’s translucent glass clearly operates both metaphorically and materially as window. It is questioning the screen conventional role as interface between the real and the represented, highlighting its usual operation as literal and conceptual boundary, demonstrating a facade to the spectator of independent disengagement from “the other side”. However, Campus decided to show both sides of the screen existing in real space, allowing the viewer to explore and navigate around it. Continuingly, Interfaceextends the spatial perception of the viewer by actually taking the ‘barrier role’ of the screen down and disabling its characteristically discontinuous representation that divorces from the viewer’s own space. This work profoundly challenges our conventional experiences simultaneously touching the screen space and the real space in an art context. While viewers are usually accustomed to fist their eyes to the represented space within the screen media, they are invited here to interrogate their representational integrity. Interface offers the contemplation of the material gallery space, as related to the representational screen space. Campus compelled to reveal the coterminous relation that bounds real space and illusionist space, echoed by the material / immaterial aspect of the screen itself. It importantly suggests a self-consciously dual spectatorship, one that is simultaneously held in the illusionist representation, while made aware of the material mode of the viewing experience. There appears to be the constant tension of allowance in partial immersion in the illusionist representation, they must be aware of their real, embodied presence in the time and space of the gallery space. Interface’sreflected and projected images underscore this dual aspect of embodied media viewing. Here, the viewer’s image, like all mirror reflections, appears in reverse, while the accompanying black and white video projected image shows the accurate position and orientation of the viewer. Confusingly, the video projected image thus implies a “more real” image than the occurring reflection, confusing the viewer into what may seem to show how he is seen from outside, others or ‘without the self’.

  Fig 8.Peter Campus, Interface,972. Installation view of projector, glass screen, and camera, showing a spectator’s dual reflected and projected images. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Fig 8.Peter Campus, Interface,972. Installation view of projector, glass screen, and camera, showing a spectator’s dual reflected and projected images. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

 

in Interface Campus asks to reconcile the labyrinth of screen-based spaces through both the self-images, the consideration of the space in front of the screen and its coexistence to the representational space inside the screen, placing them at the center role of the work as embodied observers, unfolding the relationship between their images, their body placement, the camera, the projector, the light and the screen.

  Fig 9.Peter Campus, Interface,972. Artist’s diagram depicting the spatialized arrangement between camera, monitor, observer, glass screen, and the related feedback imagery. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Fig 9.Peter Campus, Interface,972. Artist’s diagram depicting the spatialized arrangement between camera, monitor, observer, glass screen, and the related feedback imagery. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

 

In clear contradiction, Interface brings out an embodied spectatorship by inviting the viewers to engage with virtual and actual space, material and immaterial screening. This dual spectatorship that we observed in the three works studied, questions our conventional relationship to screen spaces (Campus seems to discern three screen spaces, the space behind the screen, the space before the screen, and the spatial presence of the screen itself.)[19] Interfacecontinues to illustrate and provide a destabilizing model for analyzing our contemporary screen-reliant subjectivity. The closed-circuit loop of the work renders an embodied present viewing experience through the viewer’s physical engagement and implicitation within the work.

 Fig 10.Drawing of Peter Campus’s Interface, 72. Designer Antonio Trimani’s sketch of the glass frame constructed for terface the exhibition “Zero Visibility”, Genezzano, Italy, 2001.  Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Fig 10.Drawing of Peter Campus’s Interface, 72. Designer Antonio Trimani’s sketch of the glass frame constructed for terface the exhibition “Zero Visibility”, Genezzano, Italy, 2001.

Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

 

By bringing forward the active relationship that ties the spectator, screen spaces, media objects, exhibition space, these screen-based art installations imply a complexified spectatorship: a clearly self-conscious and incidental in relation to the articulated tension between the actuality and virtuality of the times and spaces. The viewer is simultaneously here and there, now and then.

 

Taking the spectator’s relationship to screen space as their core subject matter, Sharit’s Soudstrip/Filmstrip, Snow’s Two Sides to Every Story, Gillette and Schneider’s Wipe Cycleand Campus’ Interface all work to concede media’s spectators approach featured by their focus on the information contained “inside” the screen, and doing so, drastically divorce the image space from their own. These sculptural situations invite their audience to acknowledge the association and implication of their physically embodied and subjectively disembodied relation to these media’s interfaces: in all the situations the viewer is constantly reminded of the embodied condition of all media viewing in this context.

 

 

Conclusion

 

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world” Wittgenstein once wrote.

Anne Friedberg extends the life of this quote by layering it to the visual register: “The limits and multiplicities of our frames of vision determine the boundaries and multiplicities of our world.”[20] This to me sums up the theorization and construct of the interactions with screens we’ve gone through in this paper. At present, as viewers, we are subjects to screen, as much in art as in our routines outside gallery contexts. The question of our relationship to screens is key and our understanding of the interactions constructed between our bodies and screen medias serves our existence. Visual language nowadays is overly exposed by screens - from our cell phones to electronic billboards, screen-based viewing won’t go unnoticed. The works which we’ve studied in this paper also what seems to be a disequilibrium between the apparatus and how it functions on underscoring the viewer’s self-reflexivity: by inviting us to “think through” our thinking through media screens, these works of art grandly enriched our position as viewers, thinkers but also extended our sphere of current cultural activity orchestrated by screens.

The technological apparatus used within these installations showed how the artists distorted what first seem to be a brake to the reflexivity of the spectatorship, as the conventional relationship we observe to it depicts a passivity from us. But by using it to dismantle its own function, takes the spectatorship ideology one step further, and posits the viewer in a newly context, giving him therefore a newly status.

“What we need is respite from an entire system of seeing and space that is bound up with mastery and identity. To see differently, albeit for a moment, allows us to see anew.” quote from Parveen Adams.

 

 

Afterword

 

After writing this piece in a language that I have only been familiarizing for the past four years, it was interesting to me to push the boundaries of the meaning I could imply through the words and vocabulary that I could reach. But going through this particular study of screen-based art installations, I’ve also come to realize that, literal language so to speak can limit us in our thoughts, as opposition to visual language, which remains indefinitely open-ended. Tension is only a tool for interplay, but always in a subtle disequilibrium.

The way the artists undergone in the analyze also contorne objects, their functionalities into new situations and contexts to generate new meanings was greatly inspiring into the layout of this paper, that I have chosen transparent sheets as also being illustrative of a second screen, joining others, through which the reader can weave its own meanings, using the blank white pages to either opacify the screen paper and undergo my dictated narration, or use it at material for the projection of his own interpretation. I have also chosen to show the apparent structures of the page, its movement, the crossing and printing of the word, and the relationship it might create between you the reader, and me the writer, through this mediate ‘second screen’, where I would eventually position you anew, and would therefore generate anew thinking.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bibliography

 

 

Books

 

Barthes Roland, 1989. The Rustle of Language. Edition. University of California Press

 

Bishop Claire, 2012. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. 0 Edition. Verso.

 

Bishop Claire, 2010. Installation Art. Edition. Tate.

 

Buchloh Benjamin H. D., 2003. Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975 (October Books). 0 Edition. The MIT Press.

 

Coleman James, 1996. James Coleman (French Edition). Edition. Yves Gevaert.

 

Deleuze Gilles, 1989. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. 1 Edition. Univ Of Minnesota Press.

 

Friedberg Anne, 2009. The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. Edition. The MIT Press.

 

Horkheimer Max, 2007. Dialectic of Enlightenment (Cultural Memory in the Present). 1 Edition. Stanford University Press.

 

Huyghe Pierre, 2000. The Third Memory & La lecon de Stains (French Edition). Edition. Centre Georges Pompidou Service Commercial.

 

Koch Christof,  2004. The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach. 1 Edition. Roberts & Company Publishers.

 

 Lacan Jacques, 2007. Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English. 1 Edition. W. W. Norton & Company.

 

 Le Grice Malcolm, 1996. White Cube/Black Box. Edition. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig.

 

Leighton Tanya, 2008. Art and the Moving Image: A Critical Reader. Edition. Tate Publishing in association with Afterall. London

 

Marks Laura U., 2000. The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses. 0 Edition. Duke University Press Books.

 

Merleau-Ponty Maurice, 2011. Phenomenology of perception. Edition. Nabu Press.

 

Mondloch Kate, 2010. Screens: Viewing Media Installation Art (Electronic Mediations). Edition. Univ Of Minnesota Press.

 

Païni Dominique, 1997. Le cinéma, un art moderne (French Edition). 0 Edition. Cahiers du Cinema Livres

 

Petrić Vlada, 2011. Constructivism in Film - A Cinematic Analysis: The Man with the Movie Camera (Cambridge Studies in Film). Updated edition Edition. Cambridge University Press.

 

Rajchman John, 2000. The Deleuze Connections. Edition. The MIT Press

 

Ranciere Jacques, 2011. The Emancipated Spectator. Reprint Edition. Verso.

 

Sharits Paul, 1978. Film Culture : No 65-66--1978. Edition. Capital City Press.

 

Vertov Dziga, 1985. Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov. Edition. University of California Press.

 

Vidler Anthony, 2000. Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture. 0 Edition. The MIT Press.

 

Youngblood Gene, 1970. Expanded Cinema.. 0 Edition. E P Dutton.

 

 

 

Articles

 

Artforum X, no. 1, September 1971.

 

Nicole Gingras, “Michael Snow: Transparency and Light,” trans. Frank Straschitz, Art Press, 1980.

 

 

 

Catalogues

 

Friedman, Martin/Felshin, Nina (others).  Projected Images: Campus, Krebs, Sharits, Snow, Victoria, Whitman, Minneapolis Walker Art Center, 1974.

 

 

Weblinks

 

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0708/07082305

 

http://www.horschamp.qc.ca/article.php3?id_article=99

 

http://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/public/article/viewFile/31969/29230

 

http://blogs.walkerart.org/filmvideo/2011/04/21/artists-cinema-projected-images/

 

 

 

 

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Figure index

 

Fig 1. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Installation view from “Paul Sharits: Figment” exhibition at Espace Gantner, France, 2007. Four projectors on black pedestals simultaneously emit four separate but related films onto a single wall/screen in what the artist refers to as a “locational” exhibition.

Copyright Christopher Sharits

 

Fig 2. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Artist’s diagram indicating the artist’s conception of how to install the work’s sound, image, and object elements in relationship to the gallery space. Copyright Christopher Sharits.

 

Fig 3. Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Installation view from “Projected images exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1974. This complex 8-minute work consists of two synchronized 16 mm films, color and sound, projected continuously on two sides of an aluminum screen.

Copyright Michael Snow.

 

Fig 4. Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Recto and verso views of the moving imagery projected simultaneously onto both sides of the installation’s two-sided screen.

Copyright Michael Snow.

 

Fig 5. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, Wipe Cycle, 1969. Installation view from “TV as a Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, 1969. This side view emphasizes the objecthood of the screens that compose the closed-circuit video environment. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

 

Fig 6. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, Wipe Cycle, 1969. Artist’s diagram of the installation’s complex video-programming cycles. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

 

Fig 7. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, Wipe Cycle, 1969. Installation view from “TV as a Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, 1969. This view demonstrates how images of the viewers observing the work are captured by closed-circuit cameras and represented in the center and bottom screens. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

 

Fig 8. Peter Campus, Interface, 1972. Installation view of projector, glass screen, and camera, showing a spectator’s dual reflected and projected images. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

Fig 9. Peter Campus, Interface, 1972. Artist’s diagram depicting the spatialized arrangement between camera, monitor, observer, glass screen, and the related feedback imagery. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

Fig 10. Drawing of Peter Campus’s Interface, 1972. Designer Antonio Trimani’s sketch of the glass frame constructed forInterface in the exhibition “Zero Visibility”, Genezzano, Italy, 2001.

Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 1. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Installation view from “Paul Sharits: Figment” exhibition at Espace Gantner, France, 2007. Four projectors on black pedestals simultaneously emit four separate but related films onto a single wall/screen in what the artist refers to as a “locational” exhibition. Copyright Christopher Sharits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 2. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Artist’s diagram indicating the artist’s conception of how to install the work’s sound, image, and object elements in relationship to the gallery space. Copyright Christopher Sharits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 3. Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Installation view from “Projected images exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1974. This complex 8-minute work consists of two synchronized 16 mm films, color and sound, projected continuously on two sides of an aluminum screen. Copyright Michael Snow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 4. Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Recto and verso views of the moving imagery projected onto both sides of the installation’s two-sided screen. Copyright Michael Snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 5. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, Wipe Cycle,1969. Installation view from “TV as a Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, 1969. This side view emphasizes the objecthood of the screens that compose the closed-circuit video environment. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 6. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider,Wipe Cycle, 1969. Artist’s diagram of the installation’s complex video-programming cycles. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 7. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, Wipe Cycle, 1969. Installation view from “TV as a Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, 1969. This view demonstrates how images of the viewers observing the work are captured by closed-circuit cameras and represented in the center and bottom screens. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 8. Peter Campus, Interface, 1972. Installation view of projector, glass screen, and camera, showing a spectator’s dual reflected and projected images. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 9. Peter Campus, Interface, 1972. Artist’s diagram depicting the spatialized arrangement between camera, monitor, observer, glass screen, and the related feedback imagery. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 10. Drawing of Peter Campus’s Interface, 1972. Designer Antonio Trimani’s sketch of the glass frame constructed for Interface in the exhibition “Zero Visibility”, Genezzano, Italy, 2001.. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Dziga Vertov, Kino-Eye:The Writings of Dziga Vertov, ed. Annette Michelson, trans. Kevin O’Brien (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 17.

[2] http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0708/07082305

 

[3] Jean Fischer, James Coleman Paris: Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1996.

[4] Psychoanalytic theory, especially Lacan’s theorization of the mirror stage, was at the forefront of these debates. Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience”, inÉcrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (London:Tavistock, and New York: Norton, 1975)

[5] Paul Sharits, “Statement Regarding Multiple Screen/Sound ‘Locational’ Film Environments - Installations” Film Culture 65-66 (1978): 79-80.

[6] John Rajchman, “Deleuze’s Time, or How the Cinematic Image Changes Our Idea of Art”, in Art and the Moving Image, ed.Leighton, 326.

[7] Nicole Gingras, “Michael Snow: Transparency and Light”, trans. Frank Straschitz, Art Press 234 (April 1998):23

[8] Artforum X, no.1 (September 1971): 63

[9] Regina Cornwell, “Michael Snow” in Martin Friedman et al., Projected Images: Peter Campus, Rockne Krebs, Paul Sharits, Michael Snow, Ted Victoria, Robert Whitman (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1974), 26, 31.

[10] Païni, “Should We Put an End to Projection?” 44.

[11] Michael Snow, “A Letter to Thierry de Duve,” Parachute 78 (1995): 63.

[12] Cited in Cornwell, “Michael Snow”, in Friedman et al., Projected Images, 30.

[13] Roland Barthes, “Leaving the Movie Theater”, in The Rustle of Language(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), 348.

[14] Christoph Koch, The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach(Englewood, Colo.: Roberts and Company Publishers, 2004), 161.

[15] Ibid.

[16] The critical thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School were the first to theorize the relationship between advanced technologies and the “culture industry”. See Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York: Seabury, 1972) Benjamin Buchloh, Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000).

[17] Quoted in Youngblood, Expanded Cinema.

[18] (John Rajchman, “Deleuze’s Time, or How the Cinematic Image Changes Our Idea of Art”, in Art and the Moving Image, ed.Leighton, 320.)

[19] Le Grice, “Mapping in Multispace: Expanded Cinema to Virtuality,” in White Cube/Black Box: Video, Installation, Film (exh. cat.), ed Sabine Breitweiser (Vienna: Generali Foundation, 1996), 267.

[20] Friedberg, The Virtual Window, 7.