The flood of images we are so used to is so overwhelming that often only stills, “situative processes of ‘frozen’ movements,” can help us to recover its elements. How does the brain deal with all this visual hyper-information? One way, of course, is not to look.
Moving Visual Object
In 1965, American artist Tony Conrad made The Flicker, a film consisting entirely of black and white photograms, which alternated according to different arrangements or frequencies.
When projected, The Flicker produces a stroboscopic, or flashing, effect that often leads audiences to ‘see’ images or colored motifs. According to Jonas Mekas, the film actually provokes an epileptic attack in one out of every 15,000 people. Conrad, who studied the physiology of the nervous system at Harvard University, invents through this film a new film image that is different from the usual narrative or pictorial ones generally put forward in cinema.
In the videotape Numbers by Elizabeth Cohen and Michael Talley, people reflect the forces at work in our current environment; they are testing their circuitry as they remain continuously in training.
9:00 a.m. is an ungodly time for any class to begin. A young white student sits bored among her classmates in a half-empty classroom, waiting for the lecture to start. Head resting in hand, she doodles in her notebook and absent-mindedly glances at a syllabus. The day’s topic reads specters of race. “Something to do with prejudice,” she mumbles to herself, half in the hopes that at least today’s video, what was it, oh yeah, Frantz Fanon, would be something to look at.
My work on phantom limb phenomenon began with a series of artworks that explored ideas of the social affects of trauma and illness. I then turned my attention to other projects, but came back to it, and wanted to address this subject more directly. At that time, I had been doing work that explored ideas and constructions of subjectivity using 16mm film, video, photographs and three-dimensional materials.
By the end of the nineteenth century, European and American audiences had temporarily lost interest in stage magic, and the vanishing lady no longer held any particular theatrical appeal. Charles Bertram, the magician who had first introduced the Vanishing Lady Act onto the British stage, writes in 1896: “No place of entertainment was complete without its vanishing lady, but…the illusions which were attempted inflatable tiger tunnel elsewhere lost all their significance, and eventually ‘wore out’ what was a most startling and marvellous feat.”1
My work investigates a space where technology intersects with unconscious desire. Spirit Mediums in particular fascinate me because I believe the apparitions they appeared to materialize, open up new ways of conceptualizing the moving image.