Moshe Ladanga

Artist’s Statement and Reflection

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Counterculture: Digital Intervention in the Moving Image

The moving image and its many incarnations present many issues regarding its production, consumption, perception and ultimately significance as a cultural artifact. In a Baudrillard age, where moving images shift seamlessly through different channels of media, one can argue that the territory has shifted as well; these simulations play and exploit the very nature of perception, the locus of meaning-making for the moving image.

As an artist, what consistently informs my struggle is a personal sense of polemic; what I am addressing is the apparent lack of critical engagement with the digital flux underpinning the changes in culture today. I am interested in how it is shaping the experience of information, and possibly intervene in its market-driven ideology. There is an overwhelming sense of power, a drive to fetishize information, and what I investigate are the possible subversions of these cultural artifacts.

That is why I looked back in time, picked up books about the artists who, at that particular point in history, stood their ground and created strategies of analysis through the use of the moving image itself. Ernie Gehr’s formalist experiments in cinema explore and deconstruct the gaze, revealing the mental apparatus of perception. The installations of Peter Campus, recently exhibited at the Albion Gallery, reveal perception’s paradoxical nature by subverting the ultimate act of fetishization, which is self-reflection.

These influences have shaped my art practice and inform its context in New Media. In light of the recent articles published by Lev Manovich (Info-Aesthetics: Information and Form), my practice is set against these trends, as they are characterized by what he terms as hypermodernism, a trend that is marked by a totalitarian crafting of experiences, whether it is GUIs, technological products, motion graphics, architecture, even art installations. Almost all are wholly motivated by a sense of conquest of the last frontier of individuality; the body.

Within my practice, I have chosen to craft my intervention in the form of code. Using the open source software Processing, I experimented with the different video capture programs to create a digital filter which transforms real-time visual data into algorithms that I designed to subvert the video image. The act of programming liberates my own processes from mere representation, and allows real-time possibilities of digital intervention.

What I seek to accomplish in my work is to walk the same tightrope that Peter Campus traversed, which is a minimalist approach to art-making, a restitution to the oft-neglected fact that the human condition is dynamic yet vulnerable. Instead of the prevalent hypermodernism that effaces the individual, what I propose in my practice is a countercultural stance; a serious meditation of the body as a moving image.

Reflection

My original intention for the MA project was to create a collaborative film with Katrin Escay. I was at first hesitant to change this initial plan, one reason being my own preconceptions of what my skills are, and my version of the common idiosyncrasy that artists often indulge in.

What I was particularly keen about was developing my own practice as an artist, cultivating an independent sense of inquiry and investigation of the contemporary manifestations of the moving image. I saw this at first as a prerequisite to collaboration, as I had my own ideas of what collaboration is. But it has evolved into a personal creative ethic, rather than a reaction to a collaborative process.

The personal aims that I set out to accomplish have evolved into a more engaged approach to the conceptual dimension of art-making. It developed not out of the theories and books; rather, it was the collaboration with Katrin that opened up my creative process to new possibilities.

What the books did though was inform my critical understanding of the current art practices here in London. The writings of Zygmunt Bauman, Lev Manovich, Mark Hansen, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze formed a historical and theoretical context for many of the questions I had at the beginning of the MA. In retrospect, I am not as keen as before on finding the answers to these questions, but I am interested now in asking more questions.

It is a great gift to be in London; there is nothing like standing in front of work that inspired you years before in the mere faded pages of a schoolbook. The one greater thing than this is discovering other artists who break these old ideas of seeing art, or in the case of Cezanne, invigorate what has long passed into cliché, but all the more relevant now than ever before.

The pivotal point in the development of our collaborative project was the occasion of seeing the Anthony McCall exhibition at the Serpentine. What I’ve realized is that it is these kinds of instances that illuminate those conceptual leaps and connections, and it happens only when the creative mind is in a receptive and open state. This is what I learned to be conscious of, and it has become part of my process as well.

The overall progress of our work was not shaped by the schedules we set, but it was formed by the evolution of the idea. This was hard for me, as I am a creature of habit; but what I realized that in collaborative work, it becomes even more important to pursue the idea, because it is what you toss back and forth, it is primarily the work that you feed into.

Programming in Processing was the major development that enabled us to realize this project, and yet I think it still bears the form of our initial idea for the collaboration, which was a moving image ‘remix’. The main difference is that the images are not anymore self-generated. Through the intervention of algorithms in code, the conversation of images is seen in real-time, and is posited in an open structure of meaning-making with the viewer.

Learning how to program using Processing has provided me a new way of thinking about art, and what I am looking forward to do is developing the code I have written for the collaborative work into something more responsive to other variables and inputs such as time (with the functions millis(), second(), hour(),…) and sound (using Amit Pitaru’s library). Right now, the program I’ve written is able to respond to color values in the pixel sums, and these functions can be rewritten to incorporate other algorithms that will be shaped by these other types of inputs.

With such a program, the computer can be used to process video via remote feed, with the factors of time and sound altering the image in real-time. I remember watching Ernie Gehr’s Shift (1972-1974) on UBU, and I had an idea for an installation where different viewpoints of a particular place can be seen in one room, like those CCTV recording rooms. The twist is that nothing will be recorded, the video feeds will just be broadcasted in real-time and the resulting moving images will be like dynamic data being altered by the presence (or the absence) of the viewer.

With these possibilities, I see my practice tackling larger issues, but I must admit that it will take a bit more time, since Processing as a language is both expressive yet exact, and my skills need to be further developed in order to flesh out these ideas.

Bibliography

Bauman, Z. (1997), Postmodernity and its Discontents, Cambridge: Polity Press
Brown, L. and Strega, S. eds. (2005), Research as Resistance: Critical, Indigenous, and Anti-oppressive Approaches, Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
Buchloh, B. ed. (2000), Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955-1975, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press
Butler, J. (1987), Subjects of desire, Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France, New York: Columbia University Press
Danino, N. and Maziere, M. eds. (2003) The Undercut Reader: Critical Writings on Artists’ Film and Video, London: Wallflower Press
Deleuze, G. (1986) Cinema 1, London: Continuum
Foucault, M. (1990), The Care of the Self: The History of Sexuality Volume 3, London: Penguin Books
Foucault, M. (2002), Archaeology of Knowledge, rev. ed. London: Routledge
Fry, B. and Reas, C. (2007) Processing: A Processing Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists, London: M.I.T. Press
Gidal, P. (1989) Materialist Film, London: Routledge Press
Gordon, C. ed. (1980), Michel Foucault: Power/Knowledge Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, Essex: Pearson Education Limited
Grau, O. ed. (2007), Media Art Histories, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press
Greenberg, I. (2007), Processing: Creative Coding and Computational Art, New York: Springer-Verlag New York Inc.
Hamlyn, N. (2003) Film Art Phenomena, London: British Film Institute
Manovich, L. (2001) The Language of New Media, Massachusetts: M.I.T. Press
O’Pray, M. (2003) AVANT-GARDE FILM: Forms, Themes and Passions, London: Wallflower Press
Reese, A.L. (!999) A History of Experimental Film and Video, London: British Film Institute

Carroll, N. (2006) Philosophizing Through the Moving Image: The Case of “Serene Velocity”, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (Internet Winter 2006), Vol 64 no. 1, p173-185. Available from: http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/results/getResults.jhtml?_DARGS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.7
Diaz, E. (2007) Peter Campus: Leslie Tonkonow Artworks+Projects, Modern Painters (Internet July/August 2007), Vol 19 no.6, p 80. Available from: http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/results/getResults.jhtml?_DARGS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.7 – record_2
Lageira, J; Pomerance, S. tr. (2006) Peter Campus: Le corps en point de vue / Peter Campus: The Body in View Parachute (Internet January/February/March 2006), no. 12, p16-39. Available from: http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/results/getResults.jhtml?_DARGS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.7 – record_3
Manovich, L. (2007) Info-Aesthetics: Information and Form. Available from: http://www.manovich.net/
Manovich, L. (2007) Info-Aesthetics: Interaction as an Aesthetic Event. Available from: http://www.manovich.net/
Manovich, L. (2005) Remixability and Modularity|Remixability and Web 2.0. Available from: http://www.manovich.net/
Rush, M. Peter Campus at Leslie Tonkonow Art in America (Internet May 2005), Vol 93 no. 5, p168. Available from: http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/results/getResults.jhtml?_DARGS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.7 – record_4

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Written by mosheladanga

June 23, 2008 at 7:39 AM

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