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LIMINAL SPACES: VIDEO ART AS A TOOL FOR REPRESENTING SUBJECTIVITY AND POETICIZING PERCEPTION BY CHLO KENDALL A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Human i ties New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degr ee Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Barry Freedland Sarasota, Florida March 2009
! For my parents, Barbara and Colin Helen, Dane, and Kristin for being around I would like to thank Kim Anderson for encouraging me to pursue art A nd Barry Freedland for being a mechanical wizard and a calm sponsor
" CONTENTS ABS TRACT 1 LIS T OF IMAGES 3 I. I NTRODUCTION 4 I I. B EGINNINGS OF AN I NVES TIGATION 8 III. M Y W ORK & T HEORETICAL C ONTEXT 11 IV. H IS TORICAL C ONTEXT 27 V. C ONCLUS ION 37 WORKS CITED "#
# LIMINA L SPA CES: V IDEO A RT A S A TOOL FOR REPRESENTING SUBJECTIV ITY A ND POETICIZING PERCEPTION Chlo Kendall New College of Florida, 2008 A BSTRA CT In thi s thesis I investigate video as a cultural tool and artistic me dium, addressing the way in which the medium is seemingly determined to address and reiterate perceptual boundaries. Historically as well as presently, video art and video systems work to collapse pre existing modes of perceptual experience. The artwork in this thesis employs interactive video systems in installation settings to challenge subject/ object dichotomies so familiar to the process of art viewing. The body of work begins with my construction of mobile, vocal 'avatars' that aim to embody the relat ively new cultural phenomenon of electronic exhibitionism. The next series of installations employ live video, nested video, and three dimensional elements. These features combine to both mirror and distort real events in an effort to disrupt the habits o f viewership During the execution of the body of work, t he focus shifted to the disquieting neither this nor that inherent in electronic representation. The final work in the project combines video projection with three dimensional body casts in an effort to
" $ point to that very liminal space. In the paper, I aim to co nnect this liminality with the philosophical and psychological strain between the subjective 'I' and the outer, other 'me'. A s a whole, I hope these works are able to subtly modify perceptual habits among viewers by disrupting the dichotomies. Professor Barry Freedland Division of Humanities
% LIS T OF IMAGES Figures 1 Wipe Cycle 1969. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider. 2 A vatars I & II 2008 9. Self. 3 Double 2008 9. Self. 4 Parts 2008. Self. 5 Parts 2009. Self. 6 Utility 2009 9. Self. 7 Utility (Detail). 2009. Self. 8 Utility (Detail). 2009. Self. 9 No Mans Land 2009. Self. 10 Centers 1971. V ito A cconci. 11 The Mirror 1952. Dorothea Tanning. 12 Wa lk with Contrapposto 1968 Bruce Nauman. 13 V ideo Corridor for San Francisco (Come Piece) 1969. Bruce Nauman 14 Diagram of Aerial view of Naumans 1970 Corridor Installation (Nick Wilder Installation ) My sketch. 15 F/ X Plotter 1992. Tony Oursle r & ## #$ #% #' #( #& #& $% $' $) %# %$ %% %*
' I. Introduction Shame is by nature recognition, I recognize that I am as the other sees me Jean Paul Sartre Twentieth century psychoanalysis and phenomenology share a fixation with the problem of Otherness. My work aims to explore the distinction between subjectivity (self) and objectivity (other), a distinctio n that art, in particular video art, has the potential to manipulate Jean Paul Sartre was particularly concerned with the anxiety created in a subject by being looked at by an Other; "by mere appearance of the Other, I am put into the position of passing judgment on myself as an object, for it is as an object I appear to Other". Meanwhile, Jacques Lacan, working in a separate discourse but with similar concerns, describes a sort of alienation created by the discord between the reality perceived from inside our own bodies and the outwardl y perceived images of oneself. I have chosen video as not only my medium, but in a way, as my subject. Video possesses a distinct nature as an enhanced or super mirror, able to represent, replicate and simultaneously distort reality. The camera works as a disembodied set of eyes, receiving a singular input and transmitting to multiple outputs a mirror back to what has been captured that can also be removed from the source. My body of work aims to expand upon these capabilities, an experiment in collapsing interior and exterior perceptions of the self, toying with the viewer and artist as simultaneous subjects and objects, voyeurs and exhibitionists. Latent in my work is a cultural predilection for narcissism, and an electronic exhibitionism that serves as a buffer against anxiety of a heightened self consciousness.
" It may be argued that my concerns are generationally specific, and to a certain extent, I agree. The effects of the internet, webcasting, and the YouTube generation are certainly embedded in a number of my pieces. However, video art as an interrogator of self perception and subjectivity dates back to the mediums early years. Shortly after Lacans and Sartres works were published, video technology became available to the general population. The first small, portable video systems were introduced in the late 1960s. Around the same time, Western artists were turning to new processes centered around experience processes which aimed to poeticize perception. A few years after video technology became available to the general public, artists began to recognize videos potential for investigations of subjectivity taking video out of its mass media context and turning the camera on themselves and gallery goers. By doing so, these artists were transforming video from functioning solely as a picture window, the method by which the media employed it, and using it as both window and mirror. It was the artists who used video in this way, as mirror and window, whose work speaks to my own. This group was not conc erned with narrative or fantasy the aesthetics were sterile and the content meditative. They had no interest in gratifying an audience with whimsical scenery or clever story lines. Instead, they questioned pre established perceptual systems, often turning the viewer into the art object, the looker into the looked at Two actions are central to my process: taking video off the wall or the screen and manipulating levels of taping and distortion within a single video. The videos are given mobile bodies, or st aged as still images that come to life. Other times, they capture the viewer unsuspectingly, and divide the broadcasts of the captured viewer across separate spaces. Sculptural objects become the three dimensional screens onto which the video is
" + projected. The video alternates between alignment and misalignment with cast faces and body parts, creating the illusion of a hologram and then revealing its fabrication This process, combined with the sometimes challenging content of the videos, is an attempt to c hange traditional interaction between viewer and moving image. The information is distorted whether by the 3 dimensional screen or by the mixture of reality and video reproduction within a single video. Many of my works promote a tension that encourages a longer viewing. During the initial glance the video/object looks familiar a 3 D human head, a face bisected by a horizontal line. But t hen, there is something off about the work, a misalignment, electronically distorted fragments. The viewer must watch t he illusion until they can unveil its construction. Avatars I and II are the first pieces I produced in this body of work. I inserted video of my fragmented face into autonomous, mobile bodies. The Avatars roam the gallery space, bumping into viewers, sp ewing antagonistic or pathetic speech at whoever is there to listen (or no one at all). They depend on an audience; they same way internet chat room users dont enter or stay in an empty chat room. They enable a disembodied exhibitionism, and the spoken co ntent of each reflects the two most common modes of interaction in internet communities: an unrelenting antagonism and its opposite, an exposed and defenseless vulnerability. The initial inspiration was simply video as a phenomenal vehicle for subjectivit y. In the end, my work has evolved into a more complex set of collapsing dichotomies, and even the Avatars became more than mere embodied videos. They function as vehicles of exhibition served by an electronic remove. The term Avatar has its roots in Hind u; a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth How telling it is then,
" ) that in contemporary culture the word has come to reference the self, embodied in the virtual world of cyberspace. From embodied deity to embodied self, cultura l values have been reassigned and the self has replaced any higher power at the center of each of our own subjective universes. This brings us to the issue of narcissism. In a highly influential essay, art critic Rosalind Krauss posits video as psychologi cal medium that is inherently narcissistic. Krauss is concerned with video works in which the artists or viewers role is to perpetuate his or her own image, and relies heavily on a Freudian definition of narcissism and a specific reading of Vito Acconci s Centers However, I believe the term narcissism can be defined in a multitude of ways; self love and self obsession are of course popular definitions, but in another sense, desiring a total objective view oneself, a strain towards complete self awareness may also be named narcissism. It is this second definition that is embedded in my work. Not a love of the self, but a yearning to access the self the way others have access to it. Much of my work revolves around a paraphrase of a statement by Sartre ; "I n eed the other to give me an image of myself". I believe video has an uncanny power to do this, to give one an objective, other' s version image of myself. More so, modern technologies allow video to do this miraculously close to real time, and because the camera has the privilege of omniscient point of views, we can for the first time see ourselves objectively, not mere eye to eye reflection.
" ( I I Beginnings of an Investigation My experience abroad is what truly provoked my investigation into video. I had done some minor experimenting with the medium prior to that semester; however, it was in the UK that my real investigation begun. England has been called the most heavily surve yed country in the w orld due to its extensive CCTV progra m. One is on camera, v ideo surveillance nearly every minute one spends in public urban space. The idea that there was a constant video double a virtual record, for every person at every second was incredible to me. Living in a closed circuit universe brought up a variety of q uestions; I am certain for a number of people the ethical dilemma concerning personal privacy is the big issue at stake But it was not the political aspect of the situation that I found fascinating; it was something more universal Articulating exactly wh at else was happening is tricky, but it seemed as though the video doubling, the God like rewindable mirror, was a sort of non physical, dare I say psychical, extension of the internal conflict we each experience when struggling with our fragmented selves : the inner' self and the self represented externally. As these parallels were occurring to me, I was enrolled in several s tudio courses focused on video work as well as a post war a rt history course that included many of the early t elevision and video ar tists. The video work that spoke to me most was not that which was concerned with narrative or filmic aesthetics, it was the work whose imagery was sparse. The pieces, whether contained video or closed circuit installation, were concerned with performance, scopics, seeing and being seen. The content did not
" & mesmerize the viewer, but perhaps it was startling or in its surface sparseness, pricked issues within the viewers of their being perceived. One installation in particular, Frank Gillette and Ira Schne ider' s 1969 Wipe cycle (fig. 1) catalyzed my interest of video as an investigation into subjectivity. $%&'! ( Wipe Cycle featured nine television monitors assembled in a 3x3 grid. The monitors collectively showed three categories of content: live video from surveillance cameras in the gallery, time delayed video from the same cameras, and pre recorded television programs. Viewers from this era would have been accustomed to seeing the recorded programs on the screen. However, catc hing glimpses of themselves in the gallery space from omniscient viewpoints in both real and delayed time would have been startling. Gillette and Schneider effecti vely transformed the monitor as a window into the monitor as a mirror. Becoming the subject o f video (when they had previously passive spectators) embodied a disruption in habitual' experience, a disruption further intensified by two things. Primarily, that this was not an eye to eye reflection, not a traditional mirroring. The viewers were seein g themselves from behind, from above, from the side seeing
" #, themselves move in space. Secondly, a portion of the monitors featured this same point of view with the addition an eight second delay. Not only were these reflections' dislocated in space from an y reflections they previously had accessed, they were dislocated temporally. It must be said that the overall intent Wipe Cycle seems political in nature; it aimed to challeng e corporate broadcasting systems or as Ira Schneider has said, "to integrate the audience into the information". Nonetheless, Wipe Cycle broke ground in terms of transforming a subject' s relation and access to an externally represented self. -."/01"21.21"/0131"!2"456472"4"2/389951:"4"2/34!.:"4"282;1.2!<."=1/611."/01"/6<" ;43/2"<>"604/ "61"8.?132/4.?"42"@215>@A"<83"!B491"!2"21;434/1">3<3"4"E<./4!.1?"B4.!>12/4/!<."<>"/01"!B491"215>:"<.1"/04/"61"E4.">!.4557:">33<3"/01"?834/!<."<>"/01"28=N1E/@2"5!>1:"8.312<5F1?"=8/" 452<";422!F157"312!9.1?"/<"<=2E83!/7C"-"=15!1F1"/04/"F!?1<"6<3O:"42"6155"42"E5<21?" E!3E8!/"272/1B2:"21 3F12"/<"464O1."4.?"?!238;/"/0!2"F137";3
" ## I II My Work & The oretical Context The body of work I have produced during the execution of this thesis was initially inspired by my own fascination with video as a unique medium, ripe with potential for perceptual investigations of the self and representation in general Over the course of a year, the process has evolved from being primarily concerned with videos ability to other its subject to a complex interrogation of video arts ability to toy with subject/ object relations, participation and viewership, and interi or/ exterior perception. Avatars I and II (fig. 2) begin the chronology. Excited by the uncannily subjective potential of video, a medium I was very new to, I wanted to push the life like effect to its limits. Giving my videos a physical body and granti ng these bodies motion around a physical space such as a room, I was able to create a highly confrontational and autonomous art object in which I could project my own subjectivity towards gallery visitors. $%&'! )
" #$ In retrospect, I am not certain that the avatars as art objects possess any more autonomy than a painting on a wall. However, the cheeky, humorous nature of the avatars (a combination of their tenacio us seemingly random movement, antagonistic and pathetic speech, proximi ty to the ground and wiggly pink bodies) tends to undermine weighty readings and instead they function as playful cohabitants of the gallery space, which at the very least allow for an idiosyncratic interaction between viewer and artwork. The creation o f the Avatars was followed by some experimenting the next complete work in the chronological sequence is as yet untitled, but for the purposes of clarity I will refer to it as Doubl e (fig. 3) Double is the result of my grappling with a way to connect my proclivity towards video beings to established sculptural practices, in this particular case, welding. Embracing a sort of work as you go process, Double evolved from being a static sculptural object composed of a steel frame and cast plaster to a v ideo sculpture and later to part of a performative installation. In its final form, Double becomes a meditation/ confrontation between myself and my other self, myself as a life like work of art capable of staring me back in the face. A s I sit across fr om and stare into the face of my video double which is, to say, a video of my face projected onto a cast of my head, disembodied and suspended in a steel frame I hope to ac tivate the subject object trade off present in works like V ito A cconcis Centers an early video work which brings context to my own in this tradeoff, and which I will discuss in another section. When I face my sculpture, I myself sit on a welded steel podium. By pairing my real self with its double in the composition of the installation, I hope to call attention to the artists (my) own quality of existence as object in the world, and with the help of the podium, art object. A t the same time the sculpture a c quires an uncanny subjectivity.
" #% Though a relatively uneventful, meditative perform ance, Double opens up a series of power relations: artist versus artwork, maker versus made, looker versus looked at, subject versus object. $%&'! Like Double, Parts is the outcome of a series of experiments. It began as an expe riment in layering levels of video tapings, levels of representation, within a single video composition. In the initial stage, I filmed my own mouth in close up as I read a list of melodramatic confessional statements, some quite practical, some quite dark and some absurd. Most of these referred to alienation, anxiety, and the burdens of self reflection or of being a being I then taped myself holding a screen over the bottom half of my face. This screen played the video of my mouth and the lower half of my face confessing in front of the lower half of my real face, roughly lining up with the rest of my fea tur es. The result is a sort of fragmentation of the face between levels of
" #' representation, a sort of electronic masking The first execution of Par ts (fig. 4 ) was somewhat unsuccessful voice manipulation combined with some of the spoken statements (unintentionally) connoted gender identity issues. Furthermore, it occurred to me at this point in my work that as whole, my pieces were becoming too self centric. With the Avatars as with Double I, myself, featured as the subject of exploration. I wanted to show the universal quality of the experience; yes, it was about my self but it was also about your self and everyones self in general. In order to ma ke this clear and avoid the suggestion of some pathological dilem m a specific to me, I needed to rewrite the monologue and use other people. In its sophomore form, Parts was an installation featuring video of four actors and audio of their monolo gues played on four cassette tape players one below each video face. Each face was split between one layer of taping and two. Mirroring the levels of visual manipulation, the speech playing on the tapes was doubled: the actors spoke in unison with digit al voices. The original script was thrown away, replaced by a sort of fragmented poetry composed of I and you statements echoing points made by Sartre and Lacan as well as alluding to the ghostlike interaction between ones self and the double in the s creen. Ironically enough, as this installment of Parts gained focus in terms of my intention, the cacophony of four monologues playing on top of one another left the viewer struggling to make out any intelligible statements. Too much information at once c anceled out the clarity of what was being said, and the use of four faces instead of one detracted from the striking visuals of the split face of the original The final installation $%&'!
" #* of Parts ( fig. 5 ) is a compromise between the two early versions. Two of the actors split faced videos are projected in different spaces within the room; the audio of each accompanies the video by spatial proximity. $%&'! + The fragmentation that is so central to Parts operates on three levels; the s ingle and double taping of the face, the sound of natural voice in unison with the digital voice, and the I/you statements of the speech. In each split, there are subtle overlaps, moments of alignment and misalignment. As the actors arms tire from holding the screen to their face during the second taping, the video mouth slowly moves around in front of the persons face. The movement creates moments in which the bottom face misaligns with the top face, and the fragmentation already apparent in the color di stortion of the video screen and a slight difference in scale is heightened. The same is true for the audio; the computerized speech possesses an unnatural inflection that contrasts with the natural speech of the actor. This alignment scheme is also presen t in pieces such as Double where video of my face is projected onto a cast of my face. For the majority of the
" #+ videos duration, the features of my face in the video align with the features of my face on the head cast. But there are moments when the vide o features misalign. My videotaped face slides down my sculptural face, in the same way the videotaped features of my actors horizontally slide across their actual faces. The reason for this intentional aligning/misaligning is an attempt to establish and t hen collapse the dichotomies of subject and object within each work of art. By doing so, I aim to create a visual metaphor for the way that we, as subjects, attempt to reconcile the void that exists at the center of subjectivity. That is to say, the probl em of understanding or accessing oneself objectively when one only has access to that objective version through that which is outside it, through external representation. Jacques Lacan brings context to this particular concern in my work. Lacans 1936 lec ture turned publication The Mirror Stage describes a developmental state in which an infant' s recognition of its image in an exterior source (mirror, parent) begins a lifelong suspension in its identity; the image remains exter nal to the subject, the I For Lacan, a subject needs this image, this representation of itself as part o f the physical, exterior world, in order to form an identity for his or her self, and later to form s ocial relationships. Meanwhile, this image will always be outside the sub ject, part of the outer world of objects. While the phase is developmental, it sets in place a conflict in identity and subjectivity that spans the subject' s lifetime. It is a void or a dehiscence at the core of subjectivity; a split in the self, a lack o f direct access to what is wholly represented to everyone but the self. Keep in mind the split self cannot be understood as two equal, reflective parts. Lacan explains that the "total form of the body" (external, represented self) "is given to
" #) [the subjec t] only as Gestalt, that is to say, in an exterioritythis Gestaltsymbolizes the mental permanence of the I, at the same time as it prefigures its alienating destination" (Lacan, crits 2). In other words, while our reflected image is accurate in object ive terms, it does not align with our own, inner idea or impression of ourselves; it possesses a wholeness' we can never access (a mirror grants minimal access). At the same time, it is a stable form, contrasted to fleeting and fragmented idea of oneself understood from within. In another passage, Lacan refers to a statement by Arthur Rimbaud; "I is an other" (Lacan, crits 23) an other which we will always strive towards. It is this Lacanian distancing between internal and external perception of the s elf that motivates my own experiments with video and its perceptual capabilities. Lacans I is an other, an object in the world appearing in full view to everyone and everything except itself. I would like to argue that video technology is able to chall enge this gap. Video grants us a privileged access to whole picture of ourselves. Looking at ourselves from our own eyes, we see arms, legs, fragments of our bodies. In a mirror or a photograph, we can meet our own gaze; see what we look like eye to eye. In video, we can see ourselves, in the full, from any angle, in motion. We can see our own eyes, in motion, as they look away. We can see ourselves from behind or as a tiny figure in the distance. We see ourselves as other people see us. This is why video does not function as a mirror but as a super mirror. It grants us a perspective of our own selves previously available only to other people. Audio, videos counterpart, shares a similar privilege. Any one of us can relate to the situation of hearing our own voice sound quite foreign on a recording When we hear
" #( ourselves speak, the sound is distorted as it travels through our body. A mechanical recorder only picks up the sound waves that travel through open air not those that travel through our flesh. Li stening to a recording, we hear the sound of our voices more true to how they sound to others. Audio video systems grant us the most wholly objective image of ourselves, one that has previously only been available to others. I chose to use actors instead of myself for the final versions of Parts I was able to shift the focus away from myself, but the viewer still occupied a relatively passive position in relation to these works. I wanted to manifest the same questions and concerns in an experiential work Utility (fig. 6) is composed of a refrigerator that has been converted into a confessional. The right side door opens to reveal a seat and curtained screen. Once seated inside, the viewer can look through the screen to the other half of the applianc e. Depending on his or her height, the viewer will see live video of his or her own ear, temple, or neck a piece of the head region in profile (fig. 7 ). This is the result of a video camera being placed behind the refrigerator, pointed through a small $%&'!
" #& hol e in the rear wall. The camera feeds this video to a laptop placed in left compartment, the computers body hidden by darkness and fabric so that only the video is visible. The ear or profile is not easy to see; the viewer must move around, stretch his or her neck until in a position in which the camera can capture a recognizable body part. As the viewer leans closer towards the video image of that body part, behind a mesh screen, the part disappears. This is the extent of the viewers knowledge of the s ituation; they are alone in a makeshift confessional, speaking if they chose, to themselves. Meanwhile, another camera, built into the laptop, records the viewers face and voice as they look at screen. This video is then broadcasted over the Internet to a nother distant space within the gallery (fig. 8 ) Utility proves to be one of more interactive and engaging works in this project, and this interactivity grants the piece a variety of perceptual opportunities. The camera systems clearly refer to video s ability to fork its received information into multiple outputs a mirror and a window. The viewer in the confessional becomes both the looker and the subject of the gaze, a voyeur and an exhibitionist. The viewers who are outside the confessional, in th e room of $%&'! !!./%01!$234!567%80!9:%;%:<= $%&'! > !!!./%01!$234!?0@A2A:0!B334!56!CA;;02<=
" $, the gallery where the broadcasted video is displayed, are also put into a voyeuristic role as they watch the viewer performer in the seemingly private space of the confessional. The exhibitionism of the viewer inside the box is made possible thro ugh a video mask, an electronic remove that is extended by the physical distance between the source and the display. The viewer inside is not directly informed of the video that is being broadcast across the gallery space, but as soon as the viewer enters the box and sees fragments of his or her own profile on the video screen, it is apparent that he or she is being captured on camera, and the exhibitionistic possibility is implied. Upon entering the confessional and seeing his or her image on display, th e viewer is unsuspectingly made aware of his or her presence by seeing their own body parts from the viewpoint of an external set of eyes. And in the specific setting of a gallery, the viewer becomes part of the art, an object in the installation and invol untary performer. This situation is reminiscent of the writings of Jean Paul Sartre. The third section of Sartres Being and Nothingness is preoccupied with the transformations that take place within a subject when other subjects enter its space. For Sartr e, the appearance of the Other (or more accurately, appearing to an other subject) radically transforms the subject the process of b eing perceived allows for the subject to reflect on his or her own being. It transforms the subject into object, or perhaps, makes the subject aware of its presence as an object in the outer world The perceptual transformations that occur in Sartres keyhole example is roughly analogous to those that occur in live video installations like Utility In the keyhole passage, Sa rtre describes a man who is peeping through a keyhole, ear to the door absorbed in the events taking place in the locked room. This man is in a
" $# state of what Sartre names a non thetic consciousness, a state of flowing out, completely absorbed by whateve r he is watching or doing. Other practical example s of non thetic states includ e reading a book or watching a film or perhaps, a viewing a work of art. Sartre describes the state of non thetic consciousness as one in which there is no self to inhabit my consciousnessI am my acts (Sartre 234). I n other words, I am completely absorbed, unaware of my being a self in the world T he mere suggestion of the presence of another person or consciousness will draw me out of this flowing mode and force self reflec tion upon me. The minute th e man peering through the keyhole hears footsteps behind him everything changes: his world is up heaved by the "irruption of the self I see my self because someone sees me" (Sartre 236). The subject is now aware of itself as an object in the world. In Utility the camera behaves much like the footsteps, awakening the viewer who is in a process of viewing to the possibility of his or her being a viewed object. The keyhole scenario is recreated In fact, it is everywhere in situa tions of performance based art. In m ulti camera installation s and performance based work, the viewers in the primary audience may be named non thetic until they are aware of a secondary or other audience. Sartre believed, at the time of his writing Be ing and Nothingness in the 1950s, that "we cannot perceive the world and at the same time apprehend a look fastened upon us; it must either be one or the other" (Sartre 234). Perhaps it is a stretch to suggest that this double task has become possible with live video systems, like the one in Utility but certainly the lines have been blurred. It is important when conflating Sartres ideas of reflective/non reflective modes
" $$ with performance based installations to address why video is the most appropriate medium. W e cannot call video and its technology a consciousness per se, but it does have the ability to receive and transmit, and can be conceived of as a stand in or surrogate for an Other (person, consciousness, etc). Sartre suggests that we each experie nce a sort of disorientation in ourselves when an other subject looks at us. Similarly, the camera reorients our bodies in space; it is an other center point of perception. This is true for any sort of camera, from Polaroid to camcorder. However, video is uni que from photography a photographs duration is not comparable to videos duration A Polaroid allows us to refer' to a slice of time, giving us a permanent document of a moment that may have occurred minutes before. Video allows one to re experience a durational activity opening up all sorts of possibilities. With live feedback, we can re experience our actions in real time, or with delay. The speed can be adjusted, as well as the orientation or viewpoint. Compare examining a photograph to watching a video playback or live feedback; photography can be equally as phenomenal and deserves equal respect, but it doesn' t pull us into the no man' s land in between subjectivity and objectivity. It is video' s unique ability to manipulate this that has made video art and installation the tool for this examination historically. No Mans Land is actually the title of the last piece in my body of work. During the later stages of this thesis project, I began to feel as if the aesthetic of my work on the whole was b ecoming cold or sterile. Because I chose to investigate video in terms of self perception, I did not have any sort of bank of imagery on which to rely. It would be quite complicated to introduce anything new at this point. It is true that several images an d materials are repeated within the project videotaped faces, life casts, steel, and rubber.
" $% But I wondered whether the work as whole was engaging enough to catch and hold the average persons attention. This is not say that No Mans Land is merely there t o provide a more aesthetically gripping counterpoint to the rest of work; that would be revoltingly superficial. But a part of its conception was concerned with this problem. No Mans Land (fig. 9) is composed of cast plaster body parts face, knees, and hands arranged on the floor and accompanied by a video projection. The casts are flat on the bottom; they appear to be bisected by the floor they sit on, creating the illusion of their emerging from it, much in the same way ones face, hands, and knees em erge from the waterline in a bathtub. Surrounding the casts is a video, projected from the ceiling onto the floor. The video is composed of translucent layers of static and noise. Horizontal lines move up and down, in black, white, and all the colors of th at familiar electronic palette, creating a sort of electronic wash of movement and color. For most of the videos duration, the video does not project the washy static onto the casts themselves, just the spaces between and around them. But there are quick moments, a matter of frames, when the video noise projects over the whole space, casts and all. And another set of quick moments when video of the body parts themselves is projected in onto the casts, in the same fashion as Double $%&'! #
" $' No Mans Land is an at tempt to visualize the liminal space between our being both subjects and objects, between reality and representation. I name so many of my pieces subject object hybrids, but it is in this last work that I point directly to that in between space, that const ant alternation. The casts emerge from a murky, electronic pool, suspended somewhere between formation and collapse. There is a certain through the looking glass quality to it, where video replaces the looking glass as a mirror and a window, a reflection a nd doorway. Because my work is centered around video as a subject, medium, and mirror, I cannot omit a brief discussion of Rosalind Krausss influential 1976 essay Video: An Aesthetics of Narcissism. Krauss employs a Freudian framework to discuss how video art is not a physical but a psychological medium in which objects or Others are bracketed out creating a condition of narcissism. She cites self encapsulation, the self as its own surround, and relies heavily on a specific reading of one of Vito Acc oncis videos. Centers (fig. 10) created in 1971, is a 20 minute video of the artist pointing directly out, so that the tip of his finger is center screen, with his face and foreshortened arm occupying most of the image. Krauss goes on to differentiate t he processes of reflexiveness and mirror reflection, associating video as medium embodying the latter. However, it is the very nature of video that prevents it from ever being true, face to face mirror reflection. The camera receives the data while the mon itor, occupying a separate point in space, projects it; the input and output can never originate from precisely the same point. Krauss reads Acconcis situation in Centers as one in which the artist is pointing $%&'! (D
" $* into a mirror, at his own reflection. As Acc onci sustains this position for over twenty minutes, he is locked into a constant process of perpetuating his own image; a narcissistic endeavor: Centers was made by Acconci' s using the video monitor as a mirror...what w e see is a sustained tautology: a line of sight that begins at Acconci' s plane of vision and ends at the eyes of his projected double. In that image of self regard is configured a narcissism so endemic to works of video that I find myself wanting to generalize it as the condition of the en tire genre. (Krauss 50) I find this reading to be flawed. From a strictly process oriented standpoint, Acconci could not have seen his own eye to eye reflection as he taped Centers Technically speaking, a mirror reflection would require use of a TV moni tor with hole in its center, through which the camera would could capture the subject. During the making of Centers Acconci pointed and stared into a camera lens, not his own video reflection. Furthermore, in all his oeuvre, Acconci preferred economy to theatricality and processes that were transparent; he did not intend to use the camera or editing as a device for trickery. Acconci himself has commented on the effect of Centers citing confrontation and media critique as key motives: The result [ the TV image ] turns the activity around: a pointing away from myself, at an outside viewer. I end up widening my focus onto passing viewers (Im looking straight out by looking straight in)." (Acconci 6). It is on the basis of pure mirror reflection that Krauss posits a subject to subject relation, and the object is bracketed out. However, in order for this point to work, we must first agree with her statement that video has no object ness, no physicality. In
" $+ relation to other media, video can seem ghostlike and this aids in its subjective capabilities; but we still cannot completely ignore the object ness of any representation, video or other. If Acconci could in fact point to his own video reflection, he would be pointing at a man in a box, electronic and grain y. His double could never be exactly that, it cannot escape its quality of being an art object The video process allows this object to be injected with subjective qualities, so that the result of video art creations is subject object hybrids unique to t he medium.
" $) I V Historical Context Self portraiture is a practice as old as all of art making. Its function throughout history has been to transform the subject (artist) into an object (artwork). What concerns this particular thesis is not a self p ortraiture in terms of portraying or documenting myself. Rather, I aim to examine self representation through various lenses and levels of framing; the boundaries between interior and exterior perceptions of the self. This exploration can be manifested in all artistic media, but I find video in particular to have some distinct potential. Dorothea Tannings 1952 The Mirror ( fig. 11 ) is a sort of pictorial representation of the multi leveled framing, a vanitas with a significant twist. The Mirror depicts an anthropomorphic sunflower gazing into a reflective sunflower vanity mirror that it holds at a short distance from its face. Whether or not the figure can see its reflection is unknown, for the viewer of the work can only see a glare that suggests the ref lective quality of the held object. Along the perimeter of the painting is an oblong ring of petals that creates an internal frame around the composition. The petal frame immediately recalls early cinema with its darkened corners. Similar to the video came ras sometimes voyeuristic frame, the petal frame makes explicit the fact of not only the sunflower figures being looked at, but also its being caught in the act of looking at itself. When creating The Mirror Tanning was very likely influenced by the i nflux of photography and cinema in day to day experience and by the decentering $%&'! ((
" $( perspectival effect of the camera that accompanies those forms of representation. Additionally, this work was painted at a time when philosophical questions of perception were being pursued. One can read The Mirror alongside Sartres understanding that the presence of another subject startles an individual into recognizing its status as object in the world: "by mere appearance of the Other, I am put into the position of passing judgment on myself as an object, for it is as an object I appear to Other" (Sartre 198). If we understand the petaled frame around The Mirror to imply the presence of an other (the viewer and his/her look), we can then read the sunflower figure as being i n an act self recognition, in understanding its being as a bodily object. By mid century, American art had worked itself into somewhat of a corner. The prominence of Abstract Expressionism and its terminal quality in the progression of representation le d a new generation of artist to explore interactivity with unparalleled ambition. The Mirror is significant because it alludes to the beginning of a dialogue with self perception, but it fails to be groundbreaking because it is such a pictorial, dare I sa y illustrated, representation of this dialogue. The 1960s were witness to a broadening in the vocabulary of art making; performance art, video and installation emerged as new modes of expression centered around the experiential. The very bodies and behavi our of both artist and spectators came to be the habitual protagonists of the interactive experience, while the processes of perception themselves were the object of an intense poeticizing (Moure 10). Video and its relatives became tools to activate the dialogue of self perception rather than merely suggesting or depicting it. In 1969 Vito Acconci staged two performances that would prove to be developmental as he moved into video work. During 12 Pictures an audience sat in dark
" $& auditorium facing an empt y stage. Acconci then took 12 side steps from one end of the stage to the other, facing the audience, snapping a photo with each step. The flash of the camera momentarily lit up the dark space 12 times, and the performance resulted in 12 photographs of the audience. While the action of the performance in 12 Pictures is quite a simple one, it embodied a powerful effect in creator viewer relations. The audience members sat in that auditorium, anticipating a performance, something perhaps expressive or narrati ve that they could take in. Instead, they themselves became the subject of the work, captured by the second retina of Acconcis camera. That same year, Acconci performed a similar piece, Performance Test This time, Acconci sat in a chair on stage and star ed at each audience member for 30 seconds, ever so slowly panning across the room. The confrontational motive was exacerbated in this performance by the sheer duration of each stare. In both performances, Acconcis look functioned to awaken and disrupt the established practices of art viewing. He was able to turn the look unto the viewer, who then had to assume various roles as art object and confronted voyeur. Before pursuing art, Acconci was a student of literature. He has remarked on the nature of his early performances: most of the earliest pieces were kinds of reflexive sentences: I acted on me (Mario 66). Acconci was concerned with subject object reflexiveness inherent in embodiment. In Rubbing Piece 1970, Acconci sat at a table in a Manhattan re staurant for one hour, rubbing his left arm with his right hand. Gloria Moure quotes Acconci describing the body as the point of departure and arrival; in it, she explains, is subsumed the solipsistic microcosm and the macrocosm that surround and conta in it (Moure 21). Acconci was interested in bridging subject and object through performances that aimed to express the subject/object reflexiveness of the body.
" %, Speaking in literary terms, Centers brings to min d a certain rhetorical device a type of A p ostrophe named authorial intrusion. A n A postrophe is break in the narrative directly addressed to an absent person, an abstract concept, or an important object; an authorial intrusion directly addresses the reader. One could argue that when the author di rectly addresses the reader, the reader experiences that newfound self awareness brought upon by an other person (or subjectivity or consciousness) looking or pointing to him or her. A cconci is pointing out in the beginning of the video, and he is still do ing so twenty minutes later; there is no other information before, after, or during the pointing. In this way, Centers can be thought of as a sustained a uthorial address stripped of its context a rhetorical device without any content to precede or follow it. So then, what is the function of an apostrophe or authorial intrusion when it is not within a larger body of information, when it is all by itself? I understand Centers to create constant switching of roles between artwork and viewer. A s one watches the video, one is transformed from obvious situation of being a viewer viewing an art object to becoming the object that A cconcis subjectivity points to. The process is a constant switching back and forth, a rotation so quick it becomes a constancy. Accon cis work brings context to my own, in particular Double in this very play between artwork/viewer and subject/object. Bruce Nauman, Acconcis contemporary, similarly moved from performance or body art towards video as a tool for reimagining and readdres sing self perception. Naumans first videos were no frills documentation of the performances he carried out in his studio. In Walk with Contrapposto ( fig. 12 ) Nauman walks down a narrow corridor, mimicking the posture of contrapposto sculpture. His body is forced to twist and conform
" %# to the confining walls of the narrow corridor in order to pass through it. Contrapposto was a tool used by sculptors to suggest movement in the video form of Walk with Contrapposto, the posture becomes redundant and laughable; a convention of representationreferenc[ing] the conventions that inform being, Susan Cross suggests that the corridor frame shapes the body the way outside forces effect identity, and that this and other works [by Nauman] reject the notion of a sin gle, unchanging self (Cross 15). It was the use of the corridor in Walk that inspired the seminal series of corridor installations Nauman created in the early 1970s. In this group of works, Nauman began to use video systems to disorient the viewer, separating the body from its perceivable place in space, defying perceptual expectations. One of the first of the video corridors, simple in design and greatly effective, was Video Corridor for San Francisco (Come Piece) (fig. 13) Two monitors sit an op posite ends of a room below two cameras. The video feed of each camera is shown on the monitor opposite it. Depending on the particular installment, the camera would be sideways or upside, or the lens partially covered. A s the viewer approached the monitor to get a closer look, his or her image on the screen would shrink away as he or she walked further away from the opposite camera. $%&'! ()
" %$ $%&'! (" Or the viewer would move across the room to get a whole picture of the body, only to come to the realization that part of the lens was blocked off, making it impossible. This disorientation not only allows the viewer a critical perspective of its self as an object body in space, but also allows a disintegration in the polarity of spectato r and performer, art maker and art object. Corridor Installation (Nick Wilder Installation ) ( fig. 14 ) is a far more complex installation, consisting of six long corridors of varying widths. Some of them are lit, some are wide enough for people to enter; others are dark and/ or narrow. The monitors and video feed are set up in a way to confuse and frustrate. The elaborate design of Nick Wilder Installation confounds the viewers perceptions of self; the riddle is so complex that the viewer gives up solving and instead plays in this temporary space of self dislocation. Parveen A dams describes the effects of such an anomalous experience; the viewer in the installation sees him or herselfthrough the eyes of another viewer. The
" %% $%&'! (* viewer is in two places at once, which of course is where one never is in everyday life. Thus the experience of watching the monitor yields a sense of being split by the screen (A dams 108). Nick Wilder Installation elicits a ghosting effect; t he viewer s images linger where the bodies are not, as though figures in a looking glass with out the referent for reflection, the actual person. This displacement both grants the viewer with a view of him or herself as object at the same time it wipes i t away. The fleetingness of this view echoes Lacans concept of the lifelong strain towards the whole object self that can never be reached. Tony Oursler is a generation younger than A cconci and Nauman his approach to video shows clear signs of being jad ed by media bombardment. Though my intentions in my own work are of different nature with more in common with A cconci and Nauman, Ourslers video sculptural hybrids share the closest visual likeness with my own pieces. Oursler creates dolls and dummies c lumsily crafted out of domestic materials, and then
" %' projects video of human faces, complete with speech and emotion, unto the heads of these creations. Ourslers work is very involved in the psychodrama of the media invading our cultural psyche. The do lls and dummies of his installations are pathologized emotionally charged embodiments of traumatic states. A potent example is one of Ourslers most well known and theatrical installations, his 1994 Judy. Judy is a collection of dolls, dummies and sculptu ral support onto which are projected the various alter egos of a woman suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. Ourslers commentary connects his use of psychological disorders to cultural trends: MPD is a metaphor for a postmodern persona[Judy] le d me to further explorations of MPD in relation to media structuresthe use of technology to expand the human psyche and body (Weintraub 309). Media pathology in itself is not particularly relative to this thesis, nor do the installations function as em pathy tests (Weintraub 305). Y et there are elements of Ourslers work that make it quite relevant to my own. The Watching is a five story stair well installation created for and exhibited in 1992 for Documenta IX Several surveillance systems were in pl ace, similar to Naumans video corridors. Both looking and being looked at, the spectator walked through the installation and at each stage discovered its disparate elements [and] was confr onted by its talking characters "(Janus 73) The Watching combined video systems as levels of frames that evoked the same perceptual questions discuss earlier, and additionally, it introduced Ourslers first full figure dummy F/x Plotter (fig. 15). F/x Plotter was perhaps the most anthropomorphic video/ sculptural of Ou rslers to date in 1992. The impact it had on the viewer was unparalleled, and marked a pivotal moment in Ourslers
" %* career. The success of F/x Plotter suggested that a more direct, two way relationship between spectator and art object was possible, an effect that Oursler had been working towards throughout the 1980s" (Janus 74). The video sculptural dummy became part of Ourslers work, allowing for a unique physical confrontation between viewer and art object Ourslers hybrids are singular in $%&'! (+ their ability to give video a body. Y et the bodies of Ourslers dolls and dummies are often nothing more than crude supports for the heads and faces. Oursler explains his prizing of t he face; it carries the most information about us for many reasons. The rest of the body seems inconsequential in comparisonthe fact is unmatched in psychological reflective qualities (Weintraub 305). I would like to add that the face is the point of t he body in which subjectivity comes close to the surface; thought, expression, emotion, seeing. The plastic, frumpy nature of Ourslers dummies more than establishes their existence as art objects a moving illuminated face, activated by video, is needed t o grant the dummies their subjective qualities and their personalities. A portion of my own work shares Ourslers use of video embodiments, his confrontational beings. It is speech, the ability of the work to speak to gallery visitors that I find to be the most unifying quality of his work to mine. Oursler uses language without narrative intention or logical sequence. The speech of the dummies is more in the nature of Dada, stream of consciousness, or cut up writing. Repetition and contradiction ab ound, and you becomes the leading pronoun to leave no questions in the viewers
" %+ mind as to whom the object is addressing. Constance DeJong, a longtime collaborator with Oursler, considers speech to be the humanizing element to the video sculptures that a llow them to transcend their material make up: Between the projected and the real person, language is the hingean Oursler figure is a fluid entity, exceeding its materials cloth and electricity through speech (DeJong 260 61).
" %) V. Conclusion In the e nd, I believe that the body of work is successful in a general poeticizing of self perception. Whether or not those who view and interact with my work are aware of each of the collapsing dichotomies I have outlined in this paper is debatable, but certainly the general impression is made. Each piece has potential for change and improvement. With more time and funding, I would like to change the Avatars to feature the viewer instead of myself; the viewer could enter a private booth where a camera would capt ure their expression and speech and feed it to the Avatar in the gallery. The viewer could also control the movement of the avatar by remote control from the booth. On the other hand, I would like to keep Double and No Mans Land as they are, expanding e ach into a larger series of video on body casts. Much of the strength of these works is due to their uncanny visual pairings, the video projection on to its sculptural correlative, and though they are not as experiential as the works that include surveilla nce of the viewer, they are quite striking and engaging in themselves. The tape cassette piece, Parts is still in many ways in progress. Upon reflection, I find the spoken content to be too dark and heavy handed. If I am manipulating and fragmenting the video, I do not need the overt statements that reference Sartre and Lacan (i.e. To be is to be perceived). Instead, I would like to create a much more mundane spoken content, perhaps a dialogue between the two videos/ cassette players, and let the visuals do the talking.
" %( For me, the strength of this thesis lies in the evolutions that took place within my intentions and processes, and the potentiality for future development. It started so simply as fascination with video as an art medium, and arrived a t a more mature interrogation of self perception and power relations between art making and art viewing. Though I have borrowed the use of video as a language of subjectivity from established artists, I hope my work brings new relevancy to the vocabulary; the electronic exhibitionism of contemporary culture, the narcissistic desire for the object version of the self, and a pointing to that liminality between reality and representation, the in between space in being a reflexive being.
" %& WORKS CITED Acconci Vito. "Body as Place Moving in on Myself, Performing Myself," Avalanche 6 ( Fall 1972) Adams, Parveen. Bruce Nauman and the Object of Anxiety. October, Vol. 83, (Winter, 1998), pp. 96 113 Cross, Susan. Bruce Nauman: Theatres of Experience. Bruce Na uman: Theatres of Experience The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. New York. 2003 pp. 13 24 DeJong, Constance. You Not You: Language in the Work of Tony Oursler. Tony Oursler Janus, E., Moure, G. Ediciones Poligrafa. Barcelona. 2001. pp. 256 265 Janu s, Elizabeth. To Paint in Moving Images. Tony Oursler Janus, E., Moure, G. Ediciones Poligrafa. Barcelona. 2001. pp. 46 90 Krauss, Rosalind. Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism October Vol. 1, (Spring, 1976), pp. 50 64 Mario, Melanie. Body as Pl ace: Vito Acconcis Gaze PAJ: Journal of Performance and A rt Vol. 21, No. 1. (Jan. 1999) Moure, Gloria. Vito Acconci: Writings, Works, Projects Ed. Gloria Moure. Ediciones Poligrafia. Barcelona. 2001. Lacan, Jacques. crits : a S election Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York, NY: Norton, 1977. Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York, NY: Norton, 1978. Sartre, Jean Paul. Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology Trans. Hazel E. Barn es. New York, NY: Philosophical Library, 1957. Weintraub, Linda, ed. In the Making: Creative Options for Contemporary Art N ew York, N.Y. : D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, 2003.