Slip (2001)

slip 630 532Slip, an interactive video installation made in collaboration with Sha Xin Wei, was shot at Peachtree Pine Homeless Shelter in Atlanta, Georgia.

Individual studies of homeless people, even with the best intentions, all too often flatten their subjects into iconic figures of misfortune and pathology, ignoring — or damping, for strategic reasons — the social context in which they are defined and confined.  By taking portraiture to its logical conclusion, we highlight the problems of the form.

The installation consists of a video projector mounted on a pole extending down from the ceiling, in front of a constructed wall.  Within the wall’s center a wooden frame is installed, in which a large revolving glass is placed.  The image is projected onto a dark background attached to the glass window, thus acquiring a three dimensionality continuous with the installation space itself.  The user’s rotation of the glass, within the frame, at a constrained angle of approximately 60 degrees in either direction, triggers changes in the images projected upon it.  A rotation left rotates the image of the projected space to the left, and vice versa.

The projected space, an abandoned warehouse, seems vacant, except for a chair, its back to us, placed at its center.  With a fast turn of the glass screen/frame/camera on its center axis, a brief glimpse at people seated on the chair, yet hidden in seams fracturing the empty space, is hinted at and frustrated.  The videotaped figures projected on the glass screen are trapped in a view that cannot be transcended or expanded — the limited rotation of the glass confines the viewer, at the best of times, to the back or profile of the glimpsed-at figures.  And though the scene’s resolution expands upon a slowing down of the screen’s rotation, with the focusing of the quest for signs of human presence, this latter attempt itself exposes only faint figures turned and turning away from the viewer, and quickly receding into the background.

Our goal in conceiving this project was to investigate concepts such as on- and off-limits (on- and off-screen) or private/public territory, by challenging the depth of the installation space itself, as well as that of the recorded space –challenging, therefore, these spaces’ implicit promise of access to a multiplicity of points of view, to additional information, to the desired freedom of vision, movement and touch.

While keeping within a prescribed, conventional, static and uninterrupted (i.e. un-interacted with) view, the scene seems to be intact, coherent and vacant of any disturbing signs.  It is the viewer’s sideways gaze (matched by the motion of screen/frame/image), that exposes and enhances distortion and pre-existing gaps in the perception of the depicted scene.  Thus, it is interaction itself — the desire to see — that reveals one’s ultimate confinement to a single, blind and imprisoned perspective, in which what is off-screen is also off-limits, and what is marginalized (i.e. the homeless) remains un-grasped.

Technical Support :  Glenn Picher,  Dirigo Multimedia. gpicher@maine.com  (207)761-6535