Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

David Rokeby descritions of work at Niagara Gallery

from http://homepage.mac.com/davidrokeby/

“Machine for Taking Time” is a work commissioned by the Oakville Galleries for the show “Earthly Delights / Deep Gardening” curated by Su Ditta. This installation is asite-specific work in progress. A colour surveillance camera has been mounted outside the gallery on a computer controlled pan/tilt mechanism, allowing it to see most of the surrounding gardens. Every day since March 28, 2001, the system has been taking still images from 1079 pre-determined positions along a sweeping path around the garden.

During gallery hours, the computer software travels through this accumulating archive of images, wandering through time, but progressing very slowly and smoothly through the successive positions in the original path.

The software does four kinds of wandering. It sometimes moves along the path using images from a single day. Or it might disolve sequentially from day to day as it progresses along the path. Alternatively it might dissolve from date to date randomly. Occasionally it will stop its movement along the path and show all the images taken from that position in rapid succession. The shifting of modes and the choices of dates is a function of a somewhat random process, and so the piece never repeats itself.

While the piece unfolds experientially as real-time video, the apparent continuity is an elaborate fabrication in several senses.

Each still image is actually a 4 second exposure, and the recording process each day takes place over the course of an hour. These stills are stitched together and shifted to provide a slow, seemingly seamless cinematic gesture. (Each iteration of the path takes between 15 and 20 minutes in the installation).

Within the strong spatial continuity of this slow progression, time fluctuates quite radically (i.e. mid-summer to mid-winter in the course of one second). The progression through time is softened somewhat by dissolves, leaving many of the lesser jumps in time feeling like plays of sun-light across the landscape. Time moves very slowy and very fast at the same time.

“Seen” is an extrapolation on “Watch”, using the whole of Piazza San Marco in Venice as the source material. The installation is made up of 4 video projections whose video material are calculated live from a single video source. (Due to the extraordinary expense of running a live satellite feed from the piazza to the Canadian Pavillion on the Biennale graound, I recorded about 30 minutes of material and burned it to DVD to be the source.) The first and fourth projections are effectively colour versions of “Watch”, in which what is moving is separated from that which is still. In this case, what was moving were the people milling about the piazza and the famous San Marco pigeons. What was still was the architecture of the piazza, and the kiosks selling souvenirs and corn with which to feed the pigeons. The middle two projections offer different perspectives on the patterns of flow through the Piazza. The blue projection (2nd) takes the first image (motion) as a source and feeds it back on itself at a delay of 1/2 a second. This turns each individual person into a Muybridge motion study, or a procession of themselves. Areas which experienced the greateest density of traffic in the recent past would be quite densly packed and less travelled areas would be sparser, providing a kind of probability plot of activities in the space. This video stream has a strangely archaic appearance, looking very 17th century for some reason. The third projection traces the recent trajectory of each moving thing in the Piazza in a colour gradient estqablishing the direction of movement of each thing. The processing was performed at full video resolution, meaning that every pedestrian and pigeon on Piazza San Marco left a trace. Flying pigeons drew the arc of their flight, running pedestrians keft trails showing their dodges and turns as they wended their way through the crowds. The walking pigeons produced patterns looking rather like arabic lettering as they chased after the scattered corn.

Fri, December 2 2005 » Future Cinema