You are on page 1of 47

2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

HOME SELECTED WORKS RESEARCH NEWS CO-LAB ABOUT

ESSAY I - THE SCREEN / VIEWER


INTERFACE

The Screen-viewer interface

Lina Laraki

January 2014

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 1/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

For the page is a space

For the word is manifest

A happening of you and I.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 2/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

______________________________

Content

Foreword.

Introduction.

Screen as Interface.

Locational Film.

Doubleness Through Screen.

Architecture of Spectatorship.

Spatial Dynamics of Spectatorship / Embodiment at the Interface.

Conclusion.

Afterword.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 3/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Bibliography.

Figure Index.

How does the interdependent screen-viewer relationship places


screen-based installation art spectatorship as progressively
critical and generative of the work’s meaning?

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 4/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Foreword

“Writing has nothing to do with signifying. It has to do with surveying,


mapping, even realms that are yet to come.”(Deleuze, Guattari 1988: 5)

From right to left, I have come to attempt a crossing of readings, analytical


processes, thoughts and implications. From there, I am shifting to writing, and
crossing the space of a page, as much as your space, you, as my reader.

In order to cross you, I am creating an interface, and intersubjective space


happening between our formulations through language.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 5/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Right now for this undertaking, there seems to be a limitation in making my


experiences and desire tangible through words on a paper. Language seems to
me as being an alien tool, especially that english is not my first, nor second
language. But at the same time, I find it very interesting in its unique way of
occurring as a space itself where things kind of just happen to shape and make
sense.

In this situation it would hardly be anything else other than an itinerary of my


own means of expressing myself via a double screen of estrangement, an
opportunity to invent ways for me to pass (you) through this.

I have always been a fervent claimer that silence is the most eloquent speaker,
but aren’t words born out of silence? I keep wondering how words, that have
been invented millenniums ago, could still be a tool and process for innovative
thought. As much as silence and language are coextensive, I wonder how they
position themselves spatially, in order to allow things to happen. Furthermore,
during a conversation, where do words fall out and in-between silences install
themselves in order to allow things to form and make sense out of each other?
Where is the passage from language to the formulation of the image?

In this piece of writing I would like to counter-use the idea of language being a
limitation but rather emphasize its bouncing tension with that other language,
which is of the image, forming, between my language, and our agreed
consensus, cognition.

This is where I choose to define that ‘space’ as intersubjectivity. Language is a


communal space where the individual stops partaking a private, apart meaning
from any other subjects. Intersubjectivity can also be understood on a
psychological level as the energy that moves between plural subjects, as a
bridge between the self and the Other.

Introduction

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 6/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

“I am Kino-eye. I am builder. I have placed you in an extraordinary room which


did not exist until just now when I also created it. In this room there are twelve
walls, shot by me in various parts of the world. In bringing together shots of
walls and details, I’ve managed to arrange them in an order that is pleasing and
to construct with intervals, correctly, a film-phrase which is the room.”[1]

Dr. Henrik Ehrsson [2], researcher at University College London’s Institute of


Neurology, undertook a media research-based experiment on volunteers.
Implicating the use of head-mounted displays, the participants were situated
watching a real-time video recorded by cameras placed behind them. The two
left and right videos were respectively displaying the two cameras, thus
creating the illusion of watching their own back, from the perspective of
another someone standing in their back. Ehrsson states that from this
experiment, a shift occurs in the participant’s perception of self, from the first
person, to a position outside of the corporeal. The study posits alternative
spaces within which intersubjectivity might exist.

Other than in neurosciences, Artists, especially pioneers of installation art, have


been creating thus exploring spaces for intersubjectivity. Enabled by the play
withtechnology and informed by the cultural context, the majority of this work
requires active, how much ever conscious or not, collaboration with its
audience.

Whether the artist replicates or simulate such situations as metaphorical


references to social relationships, he creates new systems of communication,
leading to new connections in new spaces, through human-to-technology and
interaction, to conceptualize these ideas of new agencies and perception,
whether social, political or cultural.

I would be particularly looking at screen-based installation art during this study.


Installation Art has brought a new dynamic where narration moves to being

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 7/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

spatial and three-dimensional, willing to activate the viewer within it.


Installation has thus answered a psycho-social question : giving the viewer an
active role to play in the piece in which he becomes one of its parameters.

Jean Fischer explains “This form of art, implied a move away from the object
as a self-contained and pre-given reality, towards art as a context in relation to
which the spectator introjects and reconstructs its own reality ; that is, the
work becomes itself a ‘theater’ in which the spectator is ‘co-performer’ … The
work sets up a kind of semipermeable ‘membrane’ and everything that
overflows the frame of the image - its mechanisms of production an
interpretation (the spectator) - contributes as much to its signifying powers as
what appears naturally inherent to it: its content and point of ‘origin’ (the
creator)[3]. After the experimentations of several artists since the 1960’s, it
shows that the outside of the image is to be thought of as a mental-inclined
field that is still to be explored.

It would seemingly resemble to the idea of traveling through a piece of text in


which we could still make choices. Encompassing the viewer as an actor and an
interpret of that field has its limits, and deserves to pursue further research.

Nowadays, the appearance that a work takes is none of matter anymore, it is


rather its movement, its vector that engages us. It is not really the image and
its immediate outfield that are important, but rather its circulation. The objects
are part of a chain, an interdependent ensemble that operates in different
frames and according to different statuses.

Alternative experiences, explosions in the space, or merely cinematic devices,


all explore the different possibilities of the trialectic relation that ties together
the spectator, the screen, and the atypical environment.

I will undertake the study of four different works through this paper in order to
intricately formulate a critical thought through text and image, case studies of
screen-based works and language as being my own screen between you and I.

This is where my interest comes to sharper focus, investigating the notion of


anactive, empowered spectator since the 60’s and 70’s, through screen-reliant
art.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 8/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

By bringing this forward, I would like to question the intentions and


motivations of screen-based installations in relationship to their audience.

How does the interdependent screen-viewer relationship places screen-based


installation art spectatorship as progressively critical and generative of the
work’s meaning?

Screen as Interface

In the mid-1960’s, Art spectators were invited to both construct and be


constructed by their interactions with the screen, as material, emphasizing the
site and the experience of ‘screen spectatorship’. A shift was occurring in a
newly concern of what can be called the ‘screen-viewer interface’: the multiple
physical and conceptual points where the observing subject encounters the

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 9/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

media object. The context and situation here aims to display media objects as
much as their viewing regimes, literally and figuratively, through sculptural and
experiential works of art.

Here the context that reveals the exhibition space as material, along the
possible dynamics of spectatorship, emerges as content.

By viewer-screen interface, what I imply is merely the film apparatus devices


such as film, camera, projector and screen, their architectonics and ideological
effects on the viewer, withdrawing considerably from psychoanalysis
theorization of ‘the screen as both material surface and site for psychic
projection’[4], involving the psychological, phenomenological, and indeed
ideological relationships between viewing subjects and media screens. The
viewer-screen relation is a place for inter-implication: it implies the projection
screen but also integrates sensitive bodies and their psychic dimensions, along
discursive constructs.

Screens themselves are ambivalent objects functioning both as material and


immaterial gateway presenting another space and time dimension, embodied
through it solid structure. Although it is outrunning its physical shape, it creates
an immediate space forming a phenomenal form and relationship to its viewer.
Their capacity to reorganize space and time conceive them as hybrid spatial
and temporal art objects.

I will undergo that study through two film environments that theorize the
critical relevance of these suggestive art objects - Paul Sharit’s
Soudstrip/Filmstrip (1971-72) and Michael Snow’s Two Sides to Every
Story (1974).

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 10/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Locational Film

“Cinema is occurring when one looks at screens, not through them”, Paul
Sharits claimed in 1974. “The space between screens is filled with actuality
without recourse to phony densities”[5]. Sharits qualified his film work as
“locational” pieces incorporating the “real, physical environment” as Rosalind
Krauss argues, taking “the viewer’s actual experience between the parallel
planes of screen and projector” into the work itself. Here, both the context of
cinematic viewing and the materiality of screen itself became core components
to the work’s meaning. Sharit’s work can be described as multi-screened
locational environments installations.

Soundstrip/Filmstrip content includes four film projectors enclosed in four


large boxes positioned side by side in the middle of a half-illuminated gallery
space. The four projectors simultaneously ‘cinemascope-ly’ screen an abstract
color film of parallel lines onto the wall, which could be mistakenly interpreted
as a single film projected sideways. The soundtrack is made up of a male voice
stuttering word fragments that accompanies each film resulting in an overlayed
mix of nonsense sound, all played in loop. The abstract non-narrative aspect of
the film seems to oppose itself to the illusionism structure found in more
traditional cinematic forms, here placing the function and materiality of film
amidst the subjective nature of perception itself, whether visual or auditive. It
seems that Sharits directly questions the film’s space and the elements that
allow or deny us its immediate experience. Viewers ofSoundstrip/Filmstrip are
invited to move physically through the life-scale projection within the exhibition
space, offering an exploratory durational experience through the looping of the
locational installation. The unfolding of the piece here relies on the viewer’s
decision of the time spent within the space, progressing between the
relationship of the moving image and the sound fragments, exploring it from
various spatial points. The viewer is invited to make its own way to the film,
insofar as he is invited to more through the entire spatial environment,
understanding the sound is moving from right to left and that the seemingly

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 11/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

indecipherable word fragment are splits of one single word: “miscellaneous”.


This step generates the meaning of the work along the viewer’s steps, serving
the idea of film viewing through an embodied condition.

Fig 1. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Installation view from “Paul Sharits: Figment”
exhibition at Espace Gantner, France, 2007. Four projectors on black pedestals simultaneously emit
four separate but related films onto a single wall/screen in what the artist refers to as a “locational”
exhibition. Copyright Christopher Sharits

The screen-based work Soundstrip/Filmstrip posits the viewer-screen


relationship in a self-reflexive context, through its locational
environment/installation while exposing its material process: the film is
considered to be aspace, to be crossed, in order to be unfold, and penetrated.
The film is made of an immaterial, intangible projected image, through physical
devices such as the screen, the film and the projectors considered as sculptural
objects structuring and defining that space, that is inhabited by the mobile
viewer. That same viewer who is invited to actively and phenomenologically
engage within that space and time, which situates Sharit’s work within the
critical frame of the 1970’s contemporary art discourse.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 12/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 2. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Artist’s


diagram indicating the artist’s conception of how to install the
work’s sound, image, and object elements in relationship to the
gallery space. Copyright Christopher Sharits

Doubleness through Screen


http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 13/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

The Theorist John Rajchman uses Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 2 as representative


of the thought concerning a larger theory of image installation. “In making
such invention possible, dispositifs like the cinematic are distinguished as
something more than ‘media’ or technical supports, more than means of
transmitting and receiving information”, Rajchman explains. “They are, rather,
ways of disposing of our senses in such a way as to enable thinking, to make
ideas possible”.[6]

Michael Snow’s film installation Two Sides to Every Story(1974) makes a good
illustration in this regard as it offers new means to inhabit screen interfaces
and, in doing so, “makes new ideas possible”.

Fig 3.Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Installation view from “Projected images exhibition
at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1974. This complex 8-minute work consists of two synchronized

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 14/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

16 mm ilms, color and sound, projected continuously on two sides of an aluminum screen. Copyright
Michael Snow.

Two Sides to Every Story is constituted of two 16 mm color films synchronously


projected onto the two sides of an aluminum screen, in loop. The two films
projectors are mounted onto a black plinths and opposite ends of the rest of the
space. The sound consists of ambient sound of the recording and Snow’s voice
directing the action, which, depending on how the viewer is placed in relation
to the screen, may or may not address accordingly what image is depicted. One
side of the screen positions the viewer as a cinematic one, looking at the story
in image into the screen, while the other side offers the position of the
filmmaker, showing the filming process. What is there to know, is that Snow
placed the two projectors in the gallery room, according to the respective
positions of the cameras on the film shoot location. By duplicating the
production set up, Snow transposes the shoot space, into the exhibition space.
Additionally, as the two cameras were placed in opposite corners recording the
action happening at the center of the room, they both recorded the other
tripod and camera situated opposite. Thus, the two films simultaneously
recount each’s production.

The content of the film narrates the movement of a casual woman, walking
between the two cameras, under the direction of Snow’s audible voice,
showing a thin, transparent sheet of paper that she sprays with green paint,
covering its see-through surface. At some point, she comes back with another
board colored in blue on one side, and yellow on the other. The way I
understand it, is that the plastic sheet echoes the dual screen that Snow
installed in the room, linking the symbolic of the immaterial image to the
screen (very thin aluminum) and the spray paint to the projection plane in the
installation. The way the screen is displayed, hanging in mid-air from the
ceiling, also presents it as a hybrid sculptural object. It is placed in the middle of
the gallery as a materialized dual-sided projection surface, emphasizing its
objecthood, and architectural quality as it rifts the room in two, leaving no
other choice to the viewer to position himself in one side or the other. Here
again, the screen embodies this ambivalence of being almost immaterial from
the choice of the very thin aluminum, and in the meantime according to its
position, materializes a depth of image and space within the room. It is

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 15/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

perfectly standing for what Snow calls the ‘radical non materiality of the filmic
image’. Snow writes “Film itself - what one sees when a film is projected - is
almost nonexistent matière on a flat surface. The fact that the image, which
can contain such convincing representations of depth, is truly very, very thin, is
for me a poignant aspect of projected-light work. I believe that the actual thin,
physical manifestation which is the image is as important in artworks as what
the image represents.”[7] The screen also holds a symbolic role in the
structuring of this experience, through pointing at one’s physical point of view
being key in either upholding or dismantling the cinematic illusionism. Similar
to Sharit’s “locational” work, Snow’s installation requires the viewer to
ambulate through time, and observe from different spatial perspectives the two
projections in order to grasp the essence of the work. However it subsists that
despite the viewer’s mobility and willingness to get around, it remains
impossible for him (or her) to see it all at once. It somehow places something of
the work out of reach, perpetually. And in so doing, the situation creates a
juxtaposed space of meanings, that are simultaneously of the artist’s intention,
and the spectator’s interpretation and experience. “Events take time. Events
take place”, Snow inspects in Artforum in 1971. “In relation to events one can
only be a participant or a spectator or, both”.[8] Snow emboldens the film
viewer to consider himself in this double role. By enacting the double screen
situation, he embodies the concept of a dual screen-mediated spectatorship.
From one side, the viewer is mirrored as the film subject, semblant to the film
protagonist’s mouvements through the room, while on the other side he is also
mirrored by the cameras and their status as mediators and translators of the
work’s meaning. The visitor is thus understood to be both passive and active.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 16/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 3.Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Installation view from “Projected images
exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1974. This complex 8-minute work consists of
two synchronized 16 mm films, color and sound, projected continuously on two sides of an
aluminum screen. Copyright Michael Snow.

In 1974, Regina Cornwell acclaimed Snow’s installation according to how the


screen would make the viewer aware of the space of the event, opposedly to its
‘beta’ function as a “‘window to the world’ in order that we may lose
ourselves”[9]. This situation posits the viewer in a phenomenological context

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 17/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

exploring a liberation of the spectator-subject by conceding the media


apparatus, strongly rejecting the “cinematic” and illusionist model of viewing,
as constitutionally passive therefore uncritical. However, Cornwell’s reflexion
intuits that interesting aspect that is not fully articulated, in which Snow
essentially places that “illusionist” space -which in thought is rejected- as in
center to that critical reflexivity of the viewer.

Critic Dominique Païni writes about Two Sides to Every Story “It is the
screen, essentially the screen, more than an abstract filmic material, which is
Snow’s burden”[10]. Snow’s work originates a hybrid form of representation
between painting’s illusionist representation and sculpture dimensional
materiality. He remarks himself “I do think that my work ‘is more radical than
that’, and why I think that is related to my attempt to make the work a ‘now’,
‘materialist’, yes a ‘modernist’ experience as well as to have and to direct the
references elsewhere of representation, ‘away’ and back to you and the
workitself.”[11] The film screen is disclosed as both a non-site for illusionist
content and an object in itself. Through this, Snow’s installation exposes a clear
paradox of media installation spectatorship: this condition of viewing is
simultaneously phenomenologically engaging the viewer materially with
objects in real time and space and immaterially through the viewer’s
metaphorical projection into virtual times and spaces. Snow substantially
reinforce this interpretation in an unpublished interview with Cornwell, in
which he remarks “that he wasn’t so much working against illusory deep space
in film as he was using ‘the belief’ in it along with the ‘fact of flatness’ and
having it both ways”.[12] Two Sides to Every Story inherently represents and
deconstruct filmic conventions through this constant doubleness present in the
work. The tension between subject-object, the flat screen and the deep field it
displays, its material and immateriality all echo the spectator presence in the
gallery space and its relation to film viewing. Confronting the virtual window’s
‘interior’ space while being reminded of its staged constructedness, the viewer
faces that structural doubleness again both in relation to the film screen and
the viewer’s experience around it within the gallery space. Here, Snow
insinuatingly plays with the ideology of a habituated viewer who sees “into”
screen spaces without raising attention to its material aspect and the relation it
has to its site.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 18/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Sharit’s and Snow’s redeployment of screens-based apparatus in the center of


the gallery powerfully interrogates the ideology and phenomenology approach
one could have to screens themselves. It places the viewer-screen interface as a
content itself, inherent to the meaning of the work, reflexively exploring the
complex nascent nature of this relationship, also questioning our everyday
relationship to countless screens surrounding us that we only look into, and not
at them.

Roland Barthes distinguishes an alternative way of experiencing mainstream


cinema in his essay “Leaving the Movie Theater”: “by letting oneself be
fascinated twice over, by the image and its surroundings - as if I had two bodies
at the same time: a narcissistic body which gazes, lost, into the engulfing
mirror, and a perverse body, ready to fetishize not the image but precisely what
exceeds it: the texture of the sound, the hall, the darkness, the obscure mass of
the other bodies.”[13]

Screen-based installations make the viewer as reflexively aware of its own


condition, conclusively reminding him of his embodied screen subject situation
through the material nature of the screen-viewing relationship.

The next point will take us further in that study of screen-directed


spectatorship, through the study of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider work,
where they take us to a more literal screen-subject proposition that is defined
through our everyday interactions interceded by the technological devices
surrounding us.

The Architecture of Screen Spectatorship

Ira Schneider and Frank Gillette’s Wipe Cycle (1969) is of nine tv monitors
stacked as a grid of three by three (columns and rows). The monitors display
continuously flickering black and white images of pre-recordedand live footage,
scattered with recordings of the piece’s viewers. It is amongst the first piece to

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 19/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

include live feedback within the work thanks to a closed-circuit video


technology. The spectator walks in and faces the illuminated sculptural
disposition, and looks within the visual display. The stacked screens are all
interdependent and follow a very precise and scripted chain of displays: the live
feedback showing the viewer’s image is always showing in the middle monitor,
while the other recorded footage and television broadcasting shifts around the
other screens. (see fig). While we first focus on trying to understand the scripts
displayed on the stacked surfaces, we forget to question how does the viewer
look at screen-based sculptures? And how would that differ from looking at
other art objects?

Fig 5.rank Gillette and Ira Schneider, pe Cycle, 1969. Installation view from “TV as a Creative Medium”
exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, 1969.

This side view emphasizes the objecthood of the screens that compose the closed-circuit video
environment. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 20/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

The moving images that we encounter in screen-based art works call for a
different kind of absorption from any other art object, psychologically as much
as physiologically. The first basic impact it has on the viewer is the discipline of
her or his body as the glowing imagery calls insistently for the viewer’s gaze.
Art historian Jonathan Crary states in hisSuspensions of Perception that
attention is the characteristic of perception that allows subjects to focus on
parts of their surroundings and setback or inconsiderate the rest. The spectator
changes his attentive behavior in relation to screen-based devices, and thus
affects media art spectatorship.

Fig 6.rank Gillette and Ira Schneider, pe Cycle,969. Artist’s diagram of the installation’s
complex video-programming cycles. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 21/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Scientist Christof Koch, explains in a neurobiological study of consciousness,


how the viewer’s attention on particular object is inherently involuntary. “Some
things don’t need focal attention to be noticed. They are conspicuous by virtue
of intrinsic attributes relative to their surroundings,”(...)”These salient objects
rapidly, transiently and automatically attract attention.”[14] He specifies that
screens in particular, brutally and necessarily call for a precise amount of focus.
“It takes willful effort to avoid glancing at the moving images on the TV placed
above the bar in a saloon.”[15] Koch’s contribution here helps us understand the
viewer’s submissive position facing flickering images as in Wipe Cycles , even if,
as we pointed in the previous part, certain sculptural installations employing
sculptural screenings can be more complex that just that. This, is a key point in
our reflection on screen-based art spectatorship, as Koch’s points at how
certain prominent objects inescapably alter our viewing mode as subjects, and
therefore constitutes an important note for theorizing the function settings of
screen-reliant art spectatorship.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 22/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 7.rank Gillette and Ira Schneider, pe Cycle,969. Installation view from “TV as a Creative
Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, 1969. This view demonstrates
how images of the viewers observing the work are captured by closed-circuit cameras and
represented in the center and bottom screens. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira
Schneider.

Art criticism that looks into media installation and more precisely into the role
of the viewer can be separated into two principal groups. The first one acclaims
the idea of an empowered and liberated spectatorship in regards to audience
participation, also described as “interactivity”. The second one opposes itself in
pointing the passiveness and uncritical experience encountered through mass
media screens and its featuring technological structure and controlling
characteristics brought by recent capitalism. [16]

Gillette and Schneider’s installation Wipe Cycle ‘make you look’, and even
closer, as you are literally in the image. Schneider states “The most important
function of Wipe Cycle was to integrate the audience into the
information.”[17] Schneider considers the work as interrupting the operative
television viewing by putting the image of the viewer within what is usually
considered to be a one-way flow of information. The work Wipe Cyclesuggest
an essential interpretation of the discipline and attention found in screen-
reliant art spectatorship. By studying these illustrative works where the
viewer’s imagery is straightforwardly implicated within the work thanks to
feedback, one can stretch the thought in which media art environments
dictates precise physical arrangements upon their spectators in some less
apparent cases. The pioneering video installations of the late 1960’s and early
1070’s propose accurate examples to illustrate this thought, the type of
spectatorship they advance endures in more recent media art production as
well.

Through Wipe Cycle study we can scrutinize not only how the illuminated
sculptural object defines and its viewing mode defines the relation between
bodies and screens, but also how a closed-circuit video purposely underlines the
forceful nature of screen viewing, that can also be symbolized in Wipe Cycle

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 23/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

through the placing of the live feedback in the center monitor of the sculptural
disposition.

And this is executed through a complete composition of different techniques


such as multiplying the alignment of cameras and monitors, joining live and
pre-recorded feedback, inverting images, separating camera footages from
their monitors, incorporating time delays, etc. All these technological
apparatuses induce specific kinesthetic and psychic consequences upon their
viewers.

While this piece implicates a critical rupture from conventional forms and
techniques of screen control, these same screens that requires the viewer’s
body’s discipline and focused attention, induce notably unfixed subjective
effects. Same as in the first part, we here again observe another paradox
occurring in between the very disciplinary aspect of screen-based
spectatorship, and the way installations such as Wipe Cycle bend around these
rules while using them and incorporating them within the work itself, affect the
way the audience is implicated in innovative and disturbing ways. Wipe Cycle
tricks the viewer by emphasizing the way mass media viewing operates
through the way they interact with the screen-based object in the art gallery
context, while insistingly placing the viewer’s body and experience as central to
generate the meaning of the work.

Spatial Dynamics of Spectatorship / The Embodiment at the Interface

Campus closed-circuit video installation Interface (1972),


Following with Peter Campus’
stages another kind of experience for its audience. (fig) When entering the
room, the viewer finds himself in a nearly empty room integrating a video
projector and a camera placed at opposite sides in the gallery. The space is
traversed by a large transparent glass screen that separate the light source
placed on the ground and the projector, from the camera posited opposite.
When the viewer walks into the space and faces the screen, he observes a
simultaneous double image of himself appearing on the screen: their live image

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 24/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

feedback recorded by the camera and their mirror reflection. Campus


Campus’
proclaims the viewer as entirely able to influence the content reflected over the
glass screen, could it be this peculiar dissimilar double
representation. Interface works with a troubled representation of its viewer as
in real-time experience retransmission, and thoroughly places forward the
materiality of the body-screen interface. Centric, the screen’s role is made
aware to the viewer in its mediator role, as in both conceptually and physically,
operating the relationship between itself, the projection, the viewer, and the
site. Interface directly address the spatial presence of the material screen
object, but here in a manner that emphasizes its performative feature: any
object can work as a screen under specific conditions. Campus uses the screen
to underscore its function as a window onto another space, by using the sheet
of glass. “We see that from the start there is a sense in which the screen was
less an illusionist window or ersatz classical stage than a moving frame with an
‘out-of-frame’ that allows movement and time to be rendered in new ways that
would move beyond the conceptions of space in classical painting or theatre,
suggesting alternatives to them”[18]. Similarly to Two Sides to Every Story,
Interface focuses on that double feature of the screen as being flat and deep at
the same time. But here precisely, that doubleness is operated through the
transparency of the glass and the opacity of the images reflected onto it, light
being revealed as matter. It is like Campus conceived a nearly disappearing
screen in order to re-materialize the interface of screen-based viewing itself, as
being here centric meaning to the work. The screen’s translucent glass clearly
operates both metaphorically and materially as window. It is questioning the
screen conventional role as interface between the real and the represented,
highlighting its usual operation as literal and conceptual boundary,
demonstrating a facade to the spectator of independent disengagement from
“the other side”. However, Campus decided to show both sides of the screen
existing in real space, allowing the viewer to explore and navigate around it.
Continuingly, Interfaceextends the spatial perception of the viewer by actually
taking the ‘barrier role’ of the screen down and disabling its characteristically
discontinuous representation that divorces from the viewer’s own space. This
work profoundly challenges our conventional experiences simultaneously
touching the screen space and the real space in an art context. While viewers
are usually accustomed to fist their eyes to the represented space within the
screen media, they are invited here to interrogate their representational

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 25/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

integrity. Interface offers the contemplation of the material gallery space, as


related to the representational screen space. Campus compelled to reveal the
coterminous relation that bounds real space and illusionist space, echoed by
the material / immaterial aspect of the screen itself. It importantly suggests a
self-consciously dual spectatorship, one that is simultaneously held in the
illusionist representation, while made aware of the material mode of the
viewing experience. There appears to be the constant tension of allowance in
partial immersion in the illusionist representation, they must be aware of their
real, embodied presence in the time and space of the gallery
space. Interface’sreflected and projected images underscore this dual aspect of
embodied media viewing. Here, the viewer’s image, like all mirror reflections,
appears in reverse, while the accompanying black and white video projected
image shows the accurate position and orientation of the viewer. Confusingly,
the video projected image thus implies a “more real” image than the occurring
reflection, confusing the viewer into what may seem to show how he is seen
from outside, others or ‘without the self’.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 26/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 8.Peter Campus


Campus, Interface,972. Installation view of projector,
glass screen, and camera, showing a spectator’s dual reflected
and projected images. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania.

in Interface Campus asks to reconcile the labyrinth of screen-based spaces


through both the self-images, the consideration of the space in front of the
screen and its coexistence to the representational space inside the screen,
placing them at the center role of the work as embodied observers, unfolding
the relationship between their images, their body placement, the camera, the
projector, the light and the screen.

Fig 9.Peter Campus


Campus, Interface,972. Artist’s diagram depicting the spatialized arrangement
between camera, monitor, observer, glass screen, and the related feedback imagery.
Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 27/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

In clear contradiction, Interface brings out an embodied spectatorship by


inviting the viewers to engage with virtual and actual space, material and
immaterial screening. This dual spectatorship that we observed in the three
works studied, questions our conventional relationship to screen spaces
(Campus
Campus seems to discern three screen spaces, the space behind the screen,
the space before the screen, and the spatial presence of the screen itself.)
[19] Interfacecontinues to illustrate and provide a destabilizing model for
analyzing our contemporary screen-reliant subjectivity. The closed-circuit loop
of the work renders an embodied present viewing experience through the
viewer’s physical engagement and implicitation within the work.

Fig 10.Drawing of Peter Campus


Campus’s Interface, 72. Designer Antonio Trimani’s sketch of the
glass frame constructed for terface the exhibition “Zero Visibility”, Genezzano, Italy, 2001.

Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

By bringing forward the active relationship that ties the spectator, screen
spaces, media objects, exhibition space, these screen-based art installations

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 28/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

imply a complexified spectatorship: a clearly self-conscious and incidental in


relation to the articulated tension between the actuality and virtuality of the
times and spaces. The viewer is simultaneously here and there, now and then.

Taking the spectator’s relationship to screen space as their core subject matter,
Sharit’s Soudstrip/Filmstrip, Snow’s Two Sides to Every Story, Gillette and
Schneider’s Wipe Cycleand Campus
Campus’ Interface all work to concede media’s
spectators approach featured by their focus on the information contained
“inside” the screen, and doing so, drastically divorce the image space from their
own. These sculptural situations invite their audience to acknowledge the
association and implication of their physically embodied and subjectively
disembodied relation to these media’s interfaces: in all the situations the viewer
is constantly reminded of the embodied condition of all media viewing in this
context.

Conclusion

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world” Wittgenstein once


wrote.

Anne Friedberg extends the life of this quote by layering it to the visual
register: “The limits and multiplicities of our frames of vision determine the
boundaries and multiplicities of our world.”[20] This to me sums up the
theorization and construct of the interactions with screens we’ve gone through
in this paper. At present, as viewers, we are subjects to screen, as much in art
as in our routines outside gallery contexts. The question of our relationship to
screens is key and our understanding of the interactions constructed between
our bodies and screen medias serves our existence. Visual language nowadays
is overly exposed by screens - from our cell phones to electronic billboards,
screen-based viewing won’t go unnoticed. The works which we’ve studied in
this paper also what seems to be a disequilibrium between the apparatus and

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 29/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

how it functions on underscoring the viewer’s self-reflexivity: by inviting us to


“think through” our thinking through media screens, these works of art grandly
enriched our position as viewers, thinkers but also extended our sphere of
current cultural activity orchestrated by screens.

The technological apparatus used within these installations showed how the
artists distorted what first seem to be a brake to the reflexivity of the
spectatorship, as the conventional relationship we observe to it depicts a
passivity from us. But by using it to dismantle its own function, takes the
spectatorship ideology one step further, and posits the viewer in a newly
context, giving him therefore a newly status.

“What we need is respite from an entire system of seeing and space that is
bound up with mastery and identity. To see differently, albeit for a moment,
allows us to see anew.” quote from Parveen Adams.

Afterword

After writing this piece in a language that I have only been familiarizing for the
past four years, it was interesting to me to push the boundaries of the meaning
I could imply through the words and vocabulary that I could reach. But going
through this particular study of screen-based art installations, I’ve also come to
realize that, literal language so to speak can limit us in our thoughts, as
opposition to visual language, which remains indefinitely open-ended. Tension
is only a tool for interplay, but always in a subtle disequilibrium.

The way the artists undergone in the analyze also contorne objects, their
functionalities into new situations and contexts to generate new meanings was
greatly inspiring into the layout of this paper, that I have chosen transparent
sheets as also being illustrative of a second screen, joining others, through
which the reader can weave its own meanings, using the blank white pages to
either opacify the screen paper and undergo my dictated narration, or use it at
material for the projection of his own interpretation. I have also chosen to show

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 30/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

the apparent structures of the page, its movement, the crossing and printing of
the word, and the relationship it might create between you the reader, and me
the writer, through this mediate ‘second screen’, where I would eventually
position you anew, and would therefore generate anew thinking.

______________________________

Bibliography

Books

Barthes Roland, 1989. The Rustle of Language. Edition. University of California


Press

Bishop Claire, 2012. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of
Spectatorship. 0 Edition. Verso.

Bishop Claire, 2010. Installation Art. Edition. Tate.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 31/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Buchloh Benjamin H. D., 2003. Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays


on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975 (October Books). 0 Edition.
The MIT Press.

Coleman James, 1996. James Coleman (French Edition). Edition. Yves Gevaert.

Deleuze Gilles, 1989. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. 1 Edition. Univ Of Minnesota


Press.

Friedberg Anne, 2009. The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. Edition.
The MIT Press.

Horkheimer Max, 2007. Dialectic of Enlightenment (Cultural Memory in the


Present). 1 Edition. Stanford University Press.

Huyghe Pierre, 2000. The Third Memory & La lecon de Stains (French
Edition). Edition. Centre Georges Pompidou Service Commercial.

Koch Christof, 2004. The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological


Approach. 1 Edition. Roberts & Company Publishers.

Lacan Jacques, 2007. Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English. 1 Edition.
W. W. Norton & Company.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 32/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Le Grice Malcolm, 1996. White Cube/Black Box. Edition. Verlag der


Buchhandlung Walther Konig.

Leighton Tanya, 2008. Art and the Moving Image: A Critical Reader. Edition.
Tate Publishing in association with Afterall. London

Marks Laura U., 2000. The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema,
Embodiment, and the Senses. 0 Edition. Duke University Press Books.

Merleau-Ponty Maurice, 2011. Phenomenology of perception. Edition. Nabu


Press.

Mondloch Kate, 2010. Screens: Viewing Media Installation Art (Electronic


Mediations). Edition. Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Païni Dominique, 1997. Le cinéma, un art moderne (French Edition). 0 Edition.


Cahiers du Cinema Livres

Petrić Vlada, 2011. Constructivism in Film - A Cinematic Analysis: The Man with
the Movie Camera (Cambridge Studies in Film). Updated edition Edition.
Cambridge University Press.

Rajchman John, 2000. The Deleuze Connections. Edition. The MIT Press

Ranciere Jacques, 2011. The Emancipated Spectator. Reprint Edition. Verso.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 33/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Sharits Paul, 1978. Film Culture : No 65-66--1978. Edition. Capital City Press.

Vertov Dziga, 1985. Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov. Edition. University
of California Press.

Vidler Anthony, 2000. Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern
Culture. 0 Edition. The MIT Press.

Youngblood Gene, 1970. Expanded Cinema.. 0 Edition. E P Dutton.

Articles

Artforum X, no. 1, September 1971.

Nicole Gingras, “Michael Snow: Transparency and Light,” trans. Frank


Straschitz, Art Press, 1980.

Catalogues

Friedman, Martin/Felshin, Nina (others). Projected Images: Campus,


Campus Krebs,
Sharits, Snow, Victoria, Whitman, Minneapolis Walker Art Center, 1974.
http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 34/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Weblinks

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0708/07082305

http://www.horschamp.qc.ca/article.php3?id_article=99

http://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/public/article/viewFile/31969/29230

http://blogs.walkerart.org/filmvideo/2011/04/21/artists-cinema-projected-images/

______________________________

Figure index

Fig 1. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Installation view from “Paul


Sharits: Figment” exhibition at Espace Gantner, France, 2007. Four projectors

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 35/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

on black pedestals simultaneously emit four separate but related films onto a
single wall/screen in what the artist refers to as a “locational” exhibition.

Copyright Christopher Sharits

Fig 2. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Artist’s diagram indicating


the artist’s conception of how to install the work’s sound, image, and object
elements in relationship to the gallery space. Copyright Christopher Sharits.

Fig 3. Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Installation view from
“Projected images exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1974. This
complex 8-minute work consists of two synchronized 16 mm films, color and
sound, projected continuously on two sides of an aluminum screen.

Copyright Michael Snow.

Fig 4. Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Recto and verso views of
the moving imagery projected simultaneously onto both sides of the
installation’s two-sided screen.

Copyright Michael Snow.

Fig 5. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, Wipe Cycle, 1969. Installation view from
“TV as a Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York,
1969. This side view emphasizes the objecthood of the screens that compose
the closed-circuit video environment. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira
Schneider.

Fig 6. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, Wipe Cycle, 1969. Artist’s diagram of
the installation’s complex video-programming cycles. Courtesy of Frank Gillette
and Ira Schneider.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 36/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 7. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, Wipe Cycle, 1969. Installation view from
“TV as a Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York,
1969. This view demonstrates how images of the viewers observing the work
are captured by closed-circuit cameras and represented in the center and
bottom screens. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

Fig 8. Peter Campus,


Campus Interface, 1972. Installation view of projector, glass
screen, and camera, showing a spectator’s dual reflected and projected images.
Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Fig 9. Peter Campus,


Campus Interface, 1972. Artist’s diagram depicting the spatialized
arrangement between camera, monitor, observer, glass screen, and the related
feedback imagery. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Fig 10. Drawing of Peter Campus’s


Campus Interface, 1972. Designer Antonio Trimani’s
sketch of the glass frame constructed forInterface in the exhibition “Zero
Visibility”, Genezzano, Italy, 2001.

Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 37/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 1. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Installation view from “Paul Sharits:
Figment” exhibition at Espace Gantner, France, 2007. Four projectors on black pedestals

simultaneously emit four separate but related films onto a single wall/screen in what the artist

refers to as a “locational” exhibition. Copyright Christopher Sharits

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 38/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 2. Paul Sharits, Soundstrip/Filmstrip, 1971-72. Artist’s diagram indicating


the artist’s conception of how to install the work’s sound, image, and object

elements in relationship to the gallery space. Copyright Christopher Sharits.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 39/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 3. Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Installation view from “Projected
images exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1974. This complex 8-minute

work consists of two synchronized 16 mm films, color and sound, projected continuously

on two sides of an aluminum screen. Copyright Michael Snow.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 40/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 4. Michael Snow, Two Sides to Every Story, 1974. Recto


and verso views of the moving imagery projected onto both

sides of the installation’s two-sided screen. Copyright

Michael Snow

Fig 5. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, Wipe Cycle,1969. Installation


view from “TV as a Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise

Gallery, New York, 1969. This side view emphasizes the objecthood of

the screens that compose the closed-circuit video environment. Courtesy

of Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 41/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 6. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider,Wipe Cycle, 1969.


Artist’s diagram of the installation’s complex video-

programming cycles. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira

Schneider.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 42/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 7. Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, Wipe Cycle, 1969. Installation view from “TV as a
Creative Medium” exhibition at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York, 1969. This view

demonstrates how images of the viewers observing the work are captured by closed-circuit

cameras and represented in the center and bottom screens. Courtesy of Frank Gillette and Ira

Schneider

Fig 8. Peter Campus


Campus, Interface, 1972. Installation view of projector,

glass screen, and camera, showing a spectator’s dual reflected and

projected images. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia,

Pennsylvania

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 43/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 9. Peter Campus


Campus, Interface, 1972. Artist’s diagram depicting the spatialized arrangement

between camera, monitor, observer, glass screen, and the related feedback imagery. Courtesy of

Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 44/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Fig 10. Drawing of Peter Campus’s


Campus Interface, 1972. Designer Antonio Trimani’s sketch of

the glass frame constructed for Interface in the exhibition “Zero Visibility”, Genezzano,

Italy, 2001.. Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

[1] Dziga Vertov, Kino-Eye:The Writings of Dziga Vertov, ed. Annette Michelson, trans. Kevin O’Brien
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 17.

[2] http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0708/07082305

[3] Jean Fischer, James Coleman Paris: Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1996.

[4] Psychoanalytic theory, especially Lacan’s theorization of the mirror stage, was at the forefront of
these debates. Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 45/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

Psychoanalytic Experience”, inÉcrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (London:Tavistock, and New

York: Norton, 1975)

[5] Paul Sharits, “Statement Regarding Multiple Screen/Sound ‘Locational’ Film Environments -
Installations” Film Culture 65-66 (1978): 79-80.

[6] John Rajchman, “Deleuze’s Time, or How the Cinematic Image Changes Our Idea of Art”, in Art
and the Moving Image, ed.Leighton, 326.

[7] Nicole Gingras, “Michael Snow: Transparency and Light”, trans. Frank Straschitz, Art Press 234
(April 1998):23

[8] Artforum X, no.1 (September 1971): 63

[9] Regina Cornwell, “Michael Snow” in Martin Friedman et al., Projected Images: Peter Campus
Campus,
Rockne Krebs, Paul Sharits, Michael Snow, Ted Victoria, Robert Whitman (Minneapolis: Walker Art
Center, 1974), 26, 31.

[10] Païni, “Should We Put an End to Projection?” 44.

[11] Michael Snow, “A Letter to Thierry de Duve,” Parachute 78 (1995): 63.

[12] Cited in Cornwell, “Michael Snow”, in Friedman et al., Projected Images, 30.

[13] Roland Barthes, “Leaving the Movie Theater”, in The Rustle of Language(Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), 348.

[14] Christoph Koch, The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach(Englewood, Colo.:
Roberts and Company Publishers, 2004), 161.

[15] Ibid.

[16] The critical thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School were the first to theorize the
relationship between advanced technologies and the “culture industry”. See Max Horkheimer and

Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York: Seabury, 1972)

Benjamin Buchloh, Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from

1955 to 1975 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000).

[17] Quoted in Youngblood, Expanded Cinema.

[18] (John Rajchman, “Deleuze’s Time, or How the Cinematic Image Changes Our Idea of Art”, in Art
and the Moving Image, ed.Leighton, 320.)

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 46/47
2/7/2019 ESSAY I — Lina Laraki

[19] Le Grice, “Mapping in Multispace: Expanded Cinema to Virtuality,” in White Cube/Black Box:
Video, Installation, Film (exh. cat.), ed Sabine Breitweiser (Vienna: Generali Foundation, 1996), 267.

[20] Friedberg, The Virtual Window, 7.

© Lina Laraki 2049

http://linalaraki.com/texts/ 47/47