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Nova - Lia Gangitano

Nova - Lia Gangitano

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Published by lightindustry
Lia Gangitano on Leah Gilliam
Lia Gangitano on Leah Gilliam

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Published by: lightindustry on Jul 05, 2013
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 Apeshit v3
 NOVA by Lia GangitanoThere's only one reality left. This is here. This is now.(Taylor (Charlton Heston) Planet of the Apes)The futurism of the past has caught up. Computers that date no further than 1989confront the eyes with the dim light of their prompt outdatedness. The earlyMacintosh computers that comprise Leah Gilliam's installation Apeshit v3illuminate Taylor's prospect: time becomes abbreviated. The images, they're familiar,nostalgic. But 1973 isn't that long ago either. Encountering a not so distant past--forced to recede by the velocity of technology--evokes the subject of time travel, acentral lie of science fiction. The Planet of the Apes begins. It's 3978. All the guyshave beards. Going forward in time has made them obsolete.Originally derived from paintings of scenes, Charlton Heston considered The Planetof the Apes a "new genre: the space opera." Its status as "racial allegory" has beendocumented. The grand intentions and aesthetic genealogy that constitute this sci-fiepic seem to thwart the revision of its position as a political statement on racerelations. This matter goes unaddressed by the various websites devoted to the films.Perhaps such anachronistic revision must occur on similar terms, that is, formal aswell as ideological.Taylor's imminent realization that human reign on earth is over is signaled by hisdiscovery of iconic ruins, weighty representations of a destroyed planet. Like theimagined painted vistas of barren topography and the operatic scope of its tragicscenery, the landscape of Apeshit v3 insinuates "a dark, noisy, polyphonic space: alow-tech graveyard, where tools, technologies and ideals might go to die."1 Amonolithic flatness characterizes the cowering early model Macs, rising fromscorched grass and reflecting weakly on patina-ed walls. Their beige plasticobsolescence, reminiscent of the talking doll found in the wreckage of the forbiddenzone, speaks as lost proof of a limitless future.1. motion of activity. (capture them)In reference to Gilliam's 1996 video Sapphire and the SlaveGirl, a work that integrates original and archivalfootage, she comments "I thr ow these decades up against each other to compare them, because I think very little has changed...."2 In her recent works utilizing an obscure 8mm trailer for Battle for the Planet of the Apes, such asSplit, a CD-ROMderived from research into primatology and science fiction, the temporal collision of outmoded and advanced technologies drawsattention to the failed progressiveness that the film represents. Apeshit, a videotape by Gilliam, exploits this footage "to highlight the unstable relationship between thereal, historical past and the distant, imaginary future. (Briefly released to the amateur film market in the mid 1970s, the 'reduction print' is a cheap 8mm duplication soldto encourage the sale of 8mm film projectors and to promote new releases.)"3Like many of Gilliam's accumulated works, the third installment of the trilogy inquestion, Apeshit v3, implies prior and subsequent volumes that change names,compose partial histories, remain encyclopedic. Consistent practices, such as the use
 
 
of video technology to equalize footage from disparate time periods, yield "a feelingof an extended historical present"4 that is central to her address of topics rangingfrom the naming process to the power of speech. Apeshit v3 exacerbates thishistorical leveling with the introduction of archaic computers that run movies withvarying degrees of aptitude. The images were processed using Paik Raster ControlUnits, Jones Channel Colorizers and Frame Buffers. Images were compiled and processed digitally, programmed using Macromedia Director and set-up to run on68030-based Macintosh Computers. An uncanny ability to divulge and mask familiar images, modified and modulating, seems to belie the unsophisticatedcharacter of these early Macs.Gaps between imagined technological futures and present material conditions arecustomary. William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer first introduced the termcyberspace, which the author defined as "a graphic representation of data abstractedfrom the banks of every computer in the human system," but the novel wascomposed on a manual typewriter; and "a large part of the inspiration for 'cyberspace' resulted from his first experience wearing a Sony Walkman in thesummer of 1981."5 That a virtual reality was once conceived from a subtle shift in perception caused by walking around the city with a Walkman inspires a return tothe streamlined elements and simplified tools that form the evocative content of Apeshit v3.3. I against I (behold the talking ape)Battle for the Planet of the Apes, like the four volumes that precede it, involves a battle over speech. In Taylor's first utterance ("get your stinking paws off me youdamn dirty ape"), the conflict is foreshadowed. Battle ends where Planet of the Apes begins. Gilliam comments: "But in spite of its attempts at reversal, Battle remains a partial, colored text. ...This dystopian allegory presents a troubling economy of  binary oppositions and entrenched racial hierarchies. Futuristic in scope butretrogressive in worldview, the film's contradictions are technical as well asideological. Reduced from 35mm, reprinted in black and white and then subtitled,the cinematic and semiotic codes of the reduction print read as both primitive and prescient."6 This disparity of languages, formats, is increased exponentially byGilliam's treatment and presentation of this piece of contentious evidence. "Is there arelationship between these forgotten formats and the discontinued politicalideologies that they depict? Serving up Battle for the Planet of the Apes as proof,Apeshit v3 puts forth tolerance as an outmoded technology."7I want to be combed out now.Reducing what has been referred to here as ideological significance (the politicalcontents of The Planet of the Apes films) to the subtitles that appear intermittentlyon the computer screens, Gilliam excavates certain phrases to level out the fictionalterrain. "Clever ape," "Are you ready to die, ape?" "Now fight like apes." function asdistillations of an oppositional proposition without a predetermined effect. Byrecontextualizing their meaning, an inevitable outcome is vaguely rewritten amidstthe pathos of destruction. The words "pull back," appear on an "image intentionallydistorted and raster scanned to highlight the ape's flight to safety."8"Virtual reality, cyberspace, digital imaging, and other abstract methods of configuring space, the latest products of a constantly mutating technologicalenvironment, have reconfigured our traditional physical experience of the visual."9Yet when viewing motion pictures on computers with outmoded speed capacities,the digital image simulates a hand-cranked film, conflating the disparate histories of the filmic and the electronic image. Despite the fact that supposedly high-techdevices generate the images, they recall early cinematic precursors, much like the

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