art projects
(re)collector exhibited at 911 Media Arts Center
Categories: News

Don’t You F#{%ING Look At Me!
Surveillance in the 21st Century

Gary Hill, Manu Luksch, and James Coupe

September 12 – October 31, 2008
911 Media Arts Center
402 9th Ave N. Seattle, WA 98109

James Coupe

“It’ll never be known how this has to be told…”

In Julio Cortazar’s short story ‘Las Babas del Diablo’, a photographer sees a woman talking to a boy in a park and decides to take their picture. On returning to his studio to develop the image, he notices additional elements in the scene: in particular a man in a parked car, who seems to know the woman. Cortazar’s story explores the blurred distinction between reality and its image, showing us that both are always simply a perception of events.

In the first version of (re)collector, commissioned as a public art work in Cambridge, England, ten cameras were installed throughout the city center, programmed to recognize and record public behaviors that corresponded to scenes from ‘Blow Up!’, Michelangelo Antonioni’s classic 1966 interpretation of Cortazar’s story. At the end of each of the four days that the project was exhibited, the footage captured by the cameras was automatically reorganized into a narrative based upon corresponding lines from ‘Las Babas del Diablo’, and projected into the city center. As with Antonioni’s movie, each of the films generated by the (re)collector system is a version of Cortazar’s story: not simply an adaptation, rather an infinite re-staging that attempts to piece together the fragmented experience of everyday life in the city.

The gallery version of (re)collector, shown for the first time at 911 Media Arts Center, presents each of the four days in a four channel video installation. With each loop, a new version of the day’s events is generated: some scenes remain, some are replaced. An underlying story persists, yet its precise interpretation remains elusive. In (re)collector, the authorial relationship between subject and object constantly shifts, implicating us as interpreters of what we see, asking who is really driving the narrative.

Gary Hill, recognized internationally as one of the most important artists of his generation, has been working with sculpture and electronic media since the early 1970’s. His video piece Blind Spot is a short encounter between the artist and a North African man on a street in Marseilles that is slowed down, forcing the viewer into an intimate relationship with the subject and the shifting emotion seen in his face. The piece was originally commissioned for Point of View: An Anthology of the Moving Image, produced by Bick Productions and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 2003.

Manu Luksch is co-founder of ambientTV.NET, a UK-based art collective with a history of conceiving works that integrate curatorial and collaborative aspects, research, community involvement, and hybrid media installations. Her film project Faceless is a science fiction fairy tale compiled from surveillance video footage recovered under the UK’s Data Protection Act.

James Coupe is an artist and Assistant Professor at the University of Washington’s Center for Digital Art and Experimental Media (DXARTS). His 4-channel video piece (re)collector is an adaptation of his project in Cambridge, England in April 2007, involving a city-wide network of surveillance cameras programmed to extract cinematic moments from everyday life matching the Antonioni film Blow Up, and a computer algorithm that recombines the footage into a narrative. Each channel shows a unique ‘possible’ film generated from a specific day: over time the story mutates, becoming retold each day, and altering the context of people’s actions.

This exhibition is curated by Misha Neininger.

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