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ThemesArt and CinematographyImmersion/Participation
»That’s the only now I get«
Immersion und Participation in Video-Installations by Dan Graham, Steve McQueen, Douglas Gordon, Doug Aitken, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Sam Taylor-Wood
Ursula Frohne

«Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarité…» Charles Baudelaire, The Poem of Hashish

«Aber drinnen, keine Grenzen mehr!» Jean Tardieu

«I look elsewhere and differently, there where there is no spectacle.» Hélène Cixous

Dissolving the Picture Frame

In an early Sam Taylor-Wood photograph, the British artist appears in the role of Jackson Pollock, imitating the legendary pose of her historic colleague painting in his studio on Long Island. Barely recognizable as a female, Taylor-Wood restages Pollock’s dance-like rhetoric familiar from Hans Namuth’s photographs, which have become world-famous icons of the modern artistic subject. In «A Gesture Toward Action Painting» (1992), Taylor-Wood directs attention to this key moment in art and media history—the moment in which the artist-subject enters the picture via the physical act of painting («action painting»), indexed and inscribed in the canvas as moving traces of color, and thus bursts through the boundary separating self and representation, art and life. [1] Taylor-Wood’sappropriation of an artistic gesture that has crystallized into myth can be taken as the starting point for a reflection upon the effects of contemporary video installation: in this gesture and its replication a number of categories circulate such as those of the theatrical, the notion of performance, mise-en-scène, repetition, the transformation of «the image» (the screen) into a theatrical space as well as the transformation of the observer’s perspective to a range of experiences made up of various (art) historical perspectives. Pollock’s working method marked a turning point in the development of art, dissolving the traditional notion of the art work into structures of action and performance. Film, photography, and video—those «new» media, whose history is inseparable from that of the dark room, the technical and metaphorical transparency of the black box—made the concept of the work accessible to a wider public. Pollock’s drip technique, an act of painting liberated from the control of reason, eliminated the boundaries of the picture surface, smoothed the path for a multiplicity of concepts of experience-oriented artistic pursuit, which steadily withdrew into dark environments as contemporary generations of artists increasingly improved their aptitude in the realm of new media. Taking the form of theatrical scenes and kaleidoscopic, largeformat projections, these projects added the parameter of time to the space-defined visual parameter of the classic museum; indeed the mechanical means of representation increasingly shifted the focus of visual perception from the experience of space to the experience of time. Pollock’s color diffusion, a seismograph for the artist’s ecstatic osmosis (a form of auto-immersion), which also visually dissolved the material basis of the painting, was a harbinger of this transformation of artistic practice. During the decades that were to follow, and aided by new technologies, artists perfected ways to stimulate the observer by creating spatial settings that engrossed him or her entirely. The all-encompassing effect of action painting initiated the tendency to de-materialize the medium and emphasized the importance of physical presence in the process of representation to the point at which, as Pollock himself stated, the act of forgetting the self through painting led to the artist literally entering the painting. Similarly, in cinematic, illusionary spaces, today’sobservers experience the reality-altering maelstrom of projected images. Owing to both the influence of time as a medium which itself makes reference to the situation of reception, and the atmospheric conditions of that reception (the flickering and often acoustically-intensified sequences of images in the darkness), these images are inscribed in the viewer’s perception as either an emotional overload of stimuli or as distanced moments of reflection.

From the White Cube to the Black Box

Sam Taylor-Wood belongs to the generation of artists whose work methods have absorbed the cinematic experience. Their installations transform the static, presentational space of the museum into a space for projection and illusion. Looking at the consuming, all-encompassing effect of Pollock’s paintings from today’s perspective, we can now say that the artistic practice of the past two decades has turned the black box into the new place for the dissimulation of the frame. The black box has become a sphere for virtual events, where the public experiences moving pictures as engrossing images that stimulate the senses, while the boundary between the self and visual representation blurs. The museum itself is undergoing a metamorphosis, and is becoming a cinema in the process, in which, as Boris Groys stated, the necessity for darkness creates a state of invisibility that fuses with the structural impossibility of viewing a video work in its entirety. [2] This fundamental lack of visibility becomes a challenge for the observer: perception turns into participation. Paradoxically, however, the power that unfolds in Pollock’s action paintings connects the affective history of the «white cube» closely with that of its paradigmatic opposite, the black box. Since 1945, the reception of modern art has been inseparably united with the representative function of the «white cube» as a framing device; in a white cube, an object is dissociated from its real surroundings, and the power of this de-contextualization elevates the object to an artwork. For Pollock’s painting, the «intensified presence» of the evenly lit, «white, ideal space» [3] became the setting for the performance of an existential aspect of expression—the embodiment of the artist-subject in the image—revealing a practicallyarchetypical aesthetic effect. Hans Namuth’s visual characterization of the screen as a «stage» for the artist-actor, has evolved, in the contemporary context, into the black box, the new field of action for the public. The black box reacts to the experience of projected images and sound dramaturgies, and through the intensity of stimulated emotions, ultimately interacts with narrative structures and numinous scenes. Brian O’Doherty, a leading exeget of the white cube ideology, states that the white cube connects «some of the sanctity of the church, the formality of the courtroom, the mystique of the experimental laboratory» with «chic design to produce a unique cult space of aesthetics.» If this is so, then the black box is the aesthetic correspondent to this space of modernity, which demands distance and embodies unity. The black box fascinates because its magic is of an entirely different order. Its power is won from the revival of stimulating aesthetics, which tend to make use of spectacle’s ability to engross, beckoning with the theatrical allure of the unknown and the immeasurable. Observers can step over the threshold of the black box and immerse themselves in the illusionary world of the video, without endangering their own physical safety.

The Art of the Spectacle

The growth of the cinema itself is closely connected to the modern era and its metamorphosis through mass media into a cinephile culture. Regardless of whether its forerunners were the panorama, the panopticum, the wax museum, the amusement park, or the architecture of 19th-century metropolises, which brought about the flaneuer, cinema has evolved into the pinnacle medium of the 20th-century entertainment industry—despite (or perhaps because of) its popularization through television. [4] The reception aesthetics of the cinema, which Panofsky recognized not merely as «luxury» but as a «necessity» of modern life, [5] has strongly influenced the artistic developments of the past decades. Despite its technical requirements, however, something survived in the cinema that has been viewed with more suspicion in the modern era: the popular rhetoric of the nineteenth-century stimulation machines coupled with a genre-like narrative style, the result being themelodrama. To the present, at the heart of this culture of distraction (which resulted from the aforementioned development of the cinema) is the human need to be in another place, to take on another identity. This urge is satisfied by a perfect illusion, which, with the help of optical effects and new picture-making technologies, causes the frames that define the image as an image by circumscribing it to disappear: As his visual field is expanded, the observer is able to imagine that he is part of what he perceives. [6] This sort of stimulus aesthetic first began to be investigated as early as the eighteenth century. The English country garden was an imaginative area, which one entered as if one were stepping into a living painting. It allowed the visitor to be transported to another reality, as if he were wandering through a naturally staged film set. We could consider it to be an immersion tool, whose visuality anticipated the cinematic effects of Hollywood movies. Alexander Pope’s instructions for artfully concealing fencing in parks, or alternating between rural accents and fantastically staged surprises such as classical temples, monuments, artificial ruins, illuminated waterfalls, fountains, and bizarre grottoes provide evidence for the existence of an elementary need for illusionary effects that imitate and intensify real life. With the ascent of the Gothic novel in this era, themes such as the experience of emotion as an overwhelming maelstrom and emotional stimulation as a medium for entertainment were further developed, ultimately moving far beyond Friedrich Schlegel’s prophecy of the «escalation of the interesting.»

The Aesthetic of the Remake

As recently as Cindy Sherman's series of «Film Stills» or Jeff Wall’s dramatically staged light boxes, contemporary artists have made the seductive power of filmed images their own. Degraded to a mass medium by the industry in Hollywood, film has experienced its artistic elevation through the medium of video. Contemporary video installations do not simply employ the (identificatory) illusionary effects that make commercial entertainment films successful. They also themselves employ interpretive approaches, thus consciously bringing about the disillusionment of the observer, creating a palpable distance from the visualeffects of cinematographic staging. One hundred years after the birth of film, the artistic «re-make» uses various methods and degrees of alienation to return film classics to their elementary structures, employing analytical procedures to shed critical light upon the history of the medium’s effects. The «original» is made strange by contemporary artists, who thus explore the history of the cinema’s effects, the products of an apparatus which have become a constant in our processes of reception: from the «cinematic character» of the black space, to narrative norms (which captures the narrative flow of the plot in sequences of images), to (continuity) editing, which enables the viewer to experience the illusion of «real life.» Accordingly, for artists of the post-cinematic era, cinema and film are not interesting primarily as examples of genres, but as a repository of visual raw material that floods the pictorial worlds of ordinary culture. Two general tendencies can be discerned in their working methods: video installations by artists such as Pipilotti Rist or Doug Aitken react affirmatively to the illusionist, affective principles of the cinematic parameters by using perfectly harmonized image and sound scenarios that absorb the viewer in a kind of hypnotic camouflage of reality, to create an allenveloping spatial effect. In order to attain such effects, which produce a kind of hypnotizing camouflage of reality, they consciously draw on professional editing techniques and the entire technological repertoire, from MTV to Hollywood production, which all endeavor to overwhelm the viewer, both visually and acoustically. Such immersive installations as these are interesting because they explore themes dealing with the social mainstream: the need for transcendence; the search for extraordinary experiences such as the rave or the Love Parade; the penetration of technology, mass media, and trends, and their influence upon all areas of contemporary culture; the stimulus of speed; the maelstrom of information; and the fascination of the potential for omnipresence, which is the futuristic promise of the media. The other, more conceptually defined trend in video installation exposes the cinema and media culture in general as a constructed spectacle. Working with found footage and icons of film and television history, artists such as Douglas Gordon orPierre Huyghe open up reflective approaches to the nature of cinematic images and their relevance for the patterns to be found within our inclination to identification. These impulses, both iconophilic as well as iconoclastic, are inherent in the re-make indicating an interest in transforming the usual models of representation in the cinema, a theme which is the actual focus of each formal «re-framing» of found materials. These approaches do not satisfy the public’s need for cinematic spectacle, as do old, familiar hits such as Alfred Hitchcock's «Rear Window»(1954), «Vertigo» (1958), «Psycho» (1960), or David Lynch's «Blue Velvet» (1985); instead, attention is redirected to the requirements of the medium itself. In refocusing the remake on the dispositif, the position of the observer becomes the actual topic. Splintering the standpoint (multiple-viewers, double vision, time-delay, etc.) causes Christian Metz’s principle of the identification with the camera (or alternately, with the actors) to become invalid. [7] The observer’s position, which, to this point, had had a defined frame of reference in a museum, loses its certainty regarding the object of reception, because the observer’s ability to synthesize information when viewing images is challenged by the time factor. This paradigmatic change is primarily characterized by the fundamental instability of the viewer—which is, by the way, increased by the freedom of the viewer to move around in front of and inside the video installation. In a museum setting, the concentration is upon the viewer’s optical reception of the work. Under such changed circumstances as these, however, concentration is shifted with a focus upon the responsibility of the observer. [8]

Representation as Visceral Experience

The experimental character of the video installations made by younger generations of artists has brought them closer to the category of performance. Performative practices of the late 1960s and early 1970s have been revived, a gesture which makes a nod particularly to the directness of performance art, realized through the relationship between the director’s instructions and the space of the performance. While such practices focused on the body and the psyche, they were further expanded byfilm and video into an enquiry into their social and medial conditions. In this respect, the works of the 1990s are fundamentally different from early video works and other practices, which were definitive for video art until the late 1980s. For one, the particular frameworks of a given work—which at first remained largely intact in monitor sculptures by artists such as Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, Marie-Jo Lafontaine, or Bill Viola—increasingly evolved into variable fields of images. With walls, ceilings, floors, and free-standing screens now strewn with multiple projections, the static frame of the black box has been dissolved into a spatial experience of infinity. Cinematographic formats allow for kaleidoscopic panoramas of movement pictures, in which larger-than-life protagonists seem to take corporeal shape in the space, as if they were onstage. For another, what were once minimal patterns of action in earlier video works—representing an «aesthetic of documentation» barely revealing the trace of a director’s hand—have been transformed into theatrical microdramas. Works such as those by Tony Oursler, Monika Oechsler, or Eija-Liisa Ahtila capture the audience in a psychologically loaded narrative structure and fictitious dialogue sequences, which force the audience to oscillate between role of the eyewitness and the potential fellow actor. This kind of reception aesthetic, which Michael Fried has criticized for being a «fictitious viewing position» pre-calculated and inserted in its entirety by the artist, is based upon a revealing psychology of reception. Its performative disposition can be compared to early documentary videos by Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, Chris Burden, or Joan Jonas, in the sense that it transposes the action (a depiction of an all-encompassing experience) through the medially over determined physical presence of the (virtual) protagonist onto the (real) viewer, thus giving the impression of a real, live situation through physical, psychic, and institutional frameworks. At the beginning of the 1970s, film and video broadened the visual spectrum of performance and action pieces, by forcing their respective presence as two types of media «between» the artists and the public. In emphasizing «presence and place,» the physical presence of both performer and public in a given space was initially the chief characteristic of this form of art, which was up-andcoming in the 1960s.The new possibilities afforded by the ‹video performance› allowed for a more experimental development of these ‹situative› forms of artistic expression. Interweaving action and recording media allowed each to become increasingly complex, without fundamentally depriving either of the ‹aura› of the live event, which was the public’s orientation point. Fried’s critique of the minimalist work of art’s dependence on the observer — that it depended upon the public to act as a sounding board, and thus secretly elevated the public’s status above that of the actual «work» — is blithely undermined by the conscious use of theatricality in the works of the 1990s. This theatricality does not merely demonstrate the importance of time for the medium of video, but precisely accentuates the explicit, performative quality of the relationship between the observer and the work. [9]

Dan Graham

An early attempt to experimentally investigate this transition or disruption between representation and physical experience is Dan Graham's installation «Body Press» (1970–72). A man and a woman stand back to back in a cylindrical room covered with mirrors; each one carries a camera on his or her naked body. After the actors exchange cameras at a certain point, they continue the performance, while the pictures are projected on the opposite walls of the room. [10] The viewer is thus confronted with an almost life size documentation of the human body. Three mirrors represent the different perspectives of the actors, the camera, and the observer. These views are splintered, cubist-style, allowing the physical, tactile quality of performance, lacking in its medial form, to be incorporated into the filmed images and condensing the representation of the body in its relationship to the real as well as to the projected space where the viewer stands. This creates an «exploding dynamic,» so that the film seems to transmit a sculptural, spatial presence. [11] The exploration alluded to here, of the human body and its relation to architecture and to the medium as the virtual extension of the (public) space, anticipates Graham’s time-delay video installations and mirrored, semi-transparent constructions, in which the observer and the observed are blurred into each otherby the multiple mirroring, albeit no longer due to the apotheosis of a pictorial event, but rather due to the indefiniteness of the boundaries between the spheres of the mobile, active body and its reflections. As in Dan Graham’s later mirrored environments, viewer in post-cinematic projection spaces no longer experience themselves as simply the ‹gaze,› but also as solid, corporeal subjects, because this dynamic transformation of space leads in fact to a spatialization of the temporal, an effect which has new repercussions for the projection’s moving pictures.

Steve McQueen

In his installation «Deadpan» (1997) Steve McQueen works with similar ways of affecting the viewer. As is the case in many comparable works of the 1990s, the film image here is shown in a closed, dark space, covering the wall from the ceiling to floor. In this black and white, uninterrupted loop, Steve McQueen himself appears in a scene that pretends to be a restaging of a slapstick scene from a popular, American silent movie. Patterned after Buster Keaton's role in the comedy «Steamboat Bill Jr.» McQueen’s character stands still, with his back to a house façade that is slowly toppling toward him. Surprisingly, though, he is left unharmed, because he is standing exactly at the place where there is an open window in the falling wall. The bottom edge of the projection meets the floor of the installation space, so that it looks as if the wall is falling into the (real) space—or out of the installation space. This silent scene is repeated for four minutes. The splitting of the point of view represented in the image into a variety of camera angles combined with the dramaturgy of the depiction, intensified by means of the ever-increasing speed of the falling façade toward the end of the loop, causes the viewer to become increasingly, physically aware of the repeated event and insists upon the «physical tactility of the cinematic experience.« [12] Steve McQueen describes this in his own words: «Because the film is projected on the back wall of the gallery, completely covering it from ceiling to floor and from one side to the other, it has a kind of allencompassing effect. You get pulled into the event… It’s supposed to be a silent experience, because when people enter the room, they become more aware of themselves, their own breath… I’d like to put people in a situation where they are aware of themselves whilethey watch the piece.» [13] This effect is emphasized by the reflection of the image on the floor of the black box, which can be freely entered by visitors, who are then allowed to experience the «space-filling» [14] resonance of the projection light as a physical reality the closer they get to the image and hence the event. Referring to James Coleman’s installations, Rosalind Krauss once stated that the physical distance between the observer and the image is lost, as in a «lightening storm.» Krauss’ statement can also be generally applied to all of the genres of art that work with light projections, because the fact that video images themselves create light in space explains their power to attract viewers when they enter the darkness. [15] The slapstick-like, yet claustrophobic, repetition of the scene in McQueen’s «Deadpan» functions as a quotation of the monotone language of actions of the 1970s, which aimed to «hit the viewer-subject in the centre of his physical presence.« [16] One could compare the moment of anxiety, felt by the viewer when the façade begins to descend in the direction of the actor with Chris Burden’s 1971 performance «Shoot,» in which Burden stands still and allows himself to be shot in the arm. This is only one of many examples of the numerous performative approaches, which, since the 1960s, have provoked - in a very pragmatic fashion - actual physical, psychic reactions (between desire and fear, disgust and arousal) in the public.

Spaces for Projection and Suggestion

The connection between repetition, drama, and effect, which McQueen’s work stresses, defines the black box (as opposed to the contemplative clichés of the white cube) as a space for psychological, affective projection and suggestion. While recalling the affective characteristics of the white cube - «shadowless, white, clean, artificial—the space is devoted to the technology of aesthetics« [17] – the metaphor of the black box consists in the return of the repressed. Enabled by means of the aesthetics of new technologies, this return is not only the product of an affirmation of the flood of images, common to popular culture, but in the compensation for and deconstruction of areas that are otherwise excluded and suppressed in commercial media aesthetics. Thusthe museum has become a new site for presenting cinematic experiments, since they are less and less frequently available through established distribution circuits. Film and video sequences in art installations develop their own visual dynamics by repeating themselves, like traumatic experiences, to the point of compulsion. Particularly when individual sequences are repeated, the motif of time is foregrounded as an aesthetic experience between excess and reduction — an effect produced by the refusal of narrativity.

Douglas Gordon

In his «re-makes» of films, such as Hitchcock’s «Psycho,» Douglas Gordon has emphasized the refusal of narrativity by slowing down the speed of the film, so that it takes 24 hours to play disrupting the continuity of the film. In «24 Hour Psycho» (1993), for instance, the almost motionless images are experienced as a series of stills; the medium is re-translated back into its original raw material, killing the narrative flow. The double meaning in the word «suspense» corresponds to the dialectic of meaning production inherent in Douglas Gordon’s process. Literally suspending the film so that the sound is also lost, Gordon stops the linear narrative (which is centrally important to building suspense in Hitchcock’s films), thus shifting the emphasis to the absolute presence of the moment, to the theatricality of isolated actions, gestures, and poses. Sequestered in schemata of frozen expressions, such gestures and poses create a system of affective references that connects the actors and viewers. The technical capabilities of the video recorder first made it possible to structurally dissect film, using the film print as a «ready-made,» since the individual frames of which a film strip is composed, which would become apparent when projection speed decreases, remain hidden in the slow-motion video version. Like an academic, Gordon made use of this type of «video analysis» in order to draw out symptomatic elements of a given film which act as a touchstone for our cultural assumptions. The depiction of extreme psychological conditions such as psychoses, ecstasy, insanity, and euphoria dominates the aesthetics of his compiled film material, adding to the psychological effects of Gordon’s installations—particularly when they include projections on both sides of free-standing screens, so that audience members are motivated to move aroundthe pictures. Viewers cannot avoid being struck by the beam of the video projector; thus their bodies intrude upon the projected images like patterns of shadows, «like a negative invasion of the scene.« [18] In these de-constructive «re-framings» of old film footage, [19] the images evoke the fundamental, exploitative constellation of relationships between the director and the artist, the observer and desire. Moreover, because the medium is reduced to its elementary structures, a disturbance in perception occurs, which guarantees that the audience will watch itself watching the (extracted) film material and develop an awareness of the synthesizing role it plays in the reconstruction of film history.

Doug Aitken

Characteristic, on several levels, of many artistic explorations of cinematic media is the viewer’s «absorption» in the work. Rather than encouraging a critical distance from the Hollywood aesthetic, so familiar that it has been completely internalized by viewers, Doug Aitken speculates on the audience’s total sensual absorption, by appropriating and intensifying those already familiar techniques. (Fig. 6) Aitken sends visitors on a fictitious journey through image scenarios that resemble arcades, turning the illusionary impact into the actual optical vanishing point. Like mirages, his cinematic landscapes open up into overwhelming panoramas, creating the kind of delirious visual and spatial experiences that one has when under the influence of drugs. This experience may best be described with the word vaste (from Baudelaire’s Poem of Hashish), which describes a sense of boundlessness and immeasurability, the fascination of entering «another reality» without actually leaving the coordinates of the «real world.» This immersive attribute, which is vital to the experience of many Internet users, who, as virtual figures, navigate artificially generated spatial systems, becomes a horizon of cultural experience in Aitken’s video installations, the pictorial rhetoric of which defies frame and space. Surrounded by screens composed in equal parts of cinephile projections of exotic, mysterious settings and urban landscapes, the audience succumbs to the engrossing vortex of pictorial magic. His installations do not really aim toreveal the workings of cinematic illusion, but rather to conjure the experiential character of the absolute presence of screen events, allowing visitors to shine in the glory of a film scene, so that they feel an electrifying effect, described by the protagonist in Aitken’s «Metallic Sleep/Electric Earth» (1999) as the ultimate unification with his environment when dancing: «A lot of times I dance so fast that I become what surrounds me, that’s like food, that’s like I absorb the images, absorb the information, that’s like I eat it. That’s the only now I get.« [20]

Eija-Liisa Ahtila

Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila aspires to a vortex effect of a completely different quality: the hallucinatory scenes of her video installations suggest to the visitors, who themselves are props in the installation, that they are to become players in the theatrical staging—see «Anne, Aki and God» (1998). While the audience members watch the video images of unhappy actors, following their often-confessional stories, they are transformed into accomplices in the intimate, melancholy, and highly dramatic psychological situations. On one hand, common household utensils strengthen the documentary character of the scenes. On the other, they aid in breaking down the observer’s perception of supposed boundaries between madness and reality, sympathy and alienation, and thus blur the separation between actor and audience. This loss of balance, which Ahtila creates in her video installations by intensifying the psychological character of the space itself, gives viewers the feeling that they are like real conversation partners in a therapeutic experiment. Her video characters are like chimeras playing very diverse roles; they embody the abysses and border zones of the human soul, and at the same time, reflect the actual observers’ ambivalent roles between fiction and reality. In this sense, they correspond to the main actors in Douglas Gordon's Hitchcock re-makes. The emotional and psychic forlornness of these characters represents precisely a feeling of being nowhere, which arises when one is engrossed in the total illusion of being in another place — a sensation that is familiar to the movie-going public. Somewhat analogous to the artificiality of film sets (which are fictitious spaces beyond reality and fiction,and which claim their own form of theatricality [21] ), the artistic descriptions of the black box display all of the heterotopian traits mentioned by Foucault in his description of «other spaces.» Besides delineating geographical sites, they mark social border zones that contain divergences and crises. Although they exist synchronously with more «profane» zones, these social border zones are nevertheless organized according to their own laws, outside of the usual dimensions of time and space. [22] In a similar fashion to this concept of heterotopia, cinematic spaces embody another world, which corresponds to the dizziness, the illusion, the state of being disoriented, to which the actors in Hitchock’s «Vertigo» or Sidney Lumet’s «Dog Day Afternoon»(1975) succumb (as do their estranged forms, the remakes by Douglas Gordon or Pierre Huyghe).

Framing the Viewer

Recent developments in the field of electronic image generation have made new immersion and participation techniques available, opening up new avenues for artists. Multiple parallel projections and narrative strands in current works by Sam Taylor-Wood explode space and time structures. Moreover, by overlapping various camera angles, image segments, and audio impulses scenographically, they also achieve «multiple sight and sound aesthetics,» which require active interplay between the viewer, the video recording, and the acoustic recording. Based on the principle that the point of view can be duplicated by using various cameras (which react to each other like various points of mechanical articulation), each individual perspective of a scene is projected parallel to others; thus the spatial continuity, which is maintained in live television (even though this continuity is produced by means of several cameras, the action is always broadcast from only one side at a time), as well by means of the 180 degree rule in both television and film is interrupted. At the same time, this challenge to normative film syntax supports the spatial quality of the moment of action, which in turn is supported by theparticipation of audience members, whose task it is to synthesize the information offered by the work in question. When various aspects of the medium are thus separated, the challenge to creative reception becomes so great that the function of the actors—to make psychological and physical connections—is only fulfilled if the viewer participates in the reception of the work. To the same extent that the viewer has become an active participant in such pieces as these, the parameters of reception aesthetics as they were criticized by Michael Fried have indeed become key to the functioning of such pieces.

Sam Taylor-Wood

In Sam Taylor-Wood’s work, the main theme is the demand on the viewer’s ability to make associations. (Fig. 11) Although life-size projections are shown on all four walls of the room, they form a story that becomes legible because the individual segments, which are neither edited nor linked, are displayed simultaneously next to each other. This principle reaches its peak in her 1999 work, «Third Party» in which seven party scenes, which take place simultaneously, surround the viewer. The individual pictures form a spatial continuum, because specific figures occasionally cross the fictional room, moving between the projections. For instance, the arm of an actress appears in a neighboring image, in order to get a light from a man, who up until then has been isolated in the image. By using multiple projection surfaces, whose spatial arrangement replaces the framing device of the diegesis, the «aesthetic boundaries between stage and audience« [23] are transcended. This complex layout replaces the classical order of the auditorium, in which the viewer had sat in his or her own chair statically facing the screen; the new configuration allows for an all-encompassing scenario in which the viewer is involved in a performative sense, by means of his or her entrance into and mobility within this space, a space completely filled with projected images. Taylor-Wood’s layering of the individual projections succeeds at literally changing the black box into a party. Physical encounters, not only with the life-size actors in thevideo sequences, but also with the other viewers in the room, permit the viewer to become aware of her own role as an actor within the circular projection space, reminiscent of an arena. [24]

© Media Art Net 2004