Moshe Ladanga

Posts Tagged ‘Collaboration

Imagination and Language Part 01: Solitude

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copyright Moshe Ladanga 2007

copyright Moshe Ladanga 2007

I have long been an admirer of Rilke, first introduced to me by Katrin before she went on a seven-day trip to Sagada. The now-classic pocket-size Shambhala Press Edition of Letters was my first Rilke, and it was a gentle and subtly persuasive introduction to solitude, the core of my artistic practice.

To relish one’s ability to detach and contemplate things is not just a natural state, but a skill that needs to be nurtured and developed; it is a space that expands, no matter where you are in the world, no matter how you are in this life. I have treasured this gift and have even fought it.

So what does Rilke’s notion of the artistic practice have anything to do with the theoretical issues of imagination and language in art? I dare say it is the key issue, the unturned stone. The omnipresence of globalism and collaborative experiments in contemporary practices indirectly reinforce the need to slow down, to reflect, because the collective rush in my opinion is a quite human reaction to the tightening circle of information, of knowledge, not, as many are saying now, to the enthusiasm that “interconnected-ness” brings.

Yes, revolutions in art owe largely to the influx of difference, diversity, but institutionalizing a social phenomena will not only engender it, but kill it. Sometimes we forget that most theories come from observation, and this precious human facility is the one that takes time, and like a path in the woods, the riches of insight can only be gleaned after traversing the pattern of shadows.

It is an effort to be alone. Unlike the days before the internet, before cellphones, I find myself fighting constantly to be aware of my voice, to hear without prejudice the thoughts I have as I walk. Does anyone remember that fleeting subconscious moment that we have when we encounter a realisation- it felt like stepping into a light-struck place in a dense wood. Today, we often pick through our thoughts as one would pick through clothes; I must think this way, must not think like this.

Imagination and language cannot be deconstructed as Derrida would have brilliantly put it (by putting it to the page, inscribing it to form). Yes, there is an  inextractable, even inscrutable connection, but once we look, one goes into gear. Arthur Koestler, one of my heroes, once described human consciousness as an essentially metaphorical one. As we try to make sense of what is outside of us, we already create- every moment is one of invention.

As an artist, this is important to me. No matter how many pedagogical branches grow from the current trend of specialised art theories, there will always be that moment of consideration, a beginning of a circle. It is the daily choice of stepping into it that I am keen on, and to keep it I have to know what is happening. To speak of what things are, one must see as one is.

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May 28, 2009 at 1:35 AM

MADA 02 Assessment Presentation

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Moshe Ladanga
MA Digital Arts
Camberwell College of Arts
University of the Arts London
March 19, 2008
*please click on the drawings

(Video Documentation of Experiments)
Interim Report
Test Site Shows

Of Phenomena and Art: The Nature of Collaboration

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We had the pleasure of having a tutorial session with Dr. Barbara Rauch, the acting director of Sciria. Just at the onset, it felt like it was going to be great, I mean if I could transcribe everything she said, I will. She confirmed a lot of our ideas and encouraged us with our investigation of perception and consciousness.

The first thing she said was that consciousness was a unique phenomena, because unlike other events studied by science, we can never observe it because we are at the center of it. But maybe through Art, we could express its intimations, its dimensions (if it even subscribes to measurement). It got me thinking about the research we have done on collaboration, and, with all the different artists, at times it seemed impossible to prove that collaboration was really happening. But the experience we have of working together on this project bears so much proof of the collaborative dynamic. We exchange words, we finish each other thoughts before one speaks it, we work towards the same idea but manifest it in different ways. The best instance I can cite is when we came up with the idea of the twin video loops, we were talking so fast that we got confused who said what and what was the idea again and what-the-fuck! (or maybe it was the continuous cups of coffee and never-ending swirls of nicotine clouds, haha)

For me, collaboration is also a phenomenon, especially between artists, because the currency of collaboration is ideas. As thoughts are spoken, eureka moments erupt, then the concepts you have running in your head changes immediately, imperceptibly. I try to imagine the process as a wheel, where once it is affected, it is altered permanently; it turns and we can only see (with our consciousness) what we think the idea is (that’s a strange loop right there).


Turning form 01

digital drawing

Moshe Ladanga


This idea led me to thinking what the Theory of Relativity means; not that I’m going to do mathematical equations here, but the implications of Eisenstein’s insight, and how relevant and actually accurate Relativity describes this phenomena of thinking, of awareness. There is even a beauty in this, in where whatever attempts are made to study something, it must be made with a knowing that one pair of eyes and a brain is just that; as much as we want to believe we can sum up the world into a definitive system of forms, our idea of it will always be informed by how far or near we are to the thing we are trying describe.

This relativity also brings into relief the fallibility of our minds, but it does not mean it is a weakness; I think it is part of what it means to be alive, to be awake, to be curious. Things that we seek to discover will reveal themselves in the multiplicity of perspectives, and at the core of it that is what collaboration is all about.

Video Feedback: Projections

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When we reviewed the experiments that utilized the 2 imacs in the studio, we realized that what was limiting the interactive experience of the piece was the size of the monitors. It was important for us to actually visualize the reflection of a more or less whole “Body”- by which I mean a reflected image that viewers can identify as their own.

We borrowed projectors and set up in the studio, waiting for the MA seminar room to be free. The effect of the projection is different, as you can see in the video below:

The weird thing though is that it looks better in the video than actually being there. In a darkened space, the interaction with the reflection is very limited; the eye is in a constant state of adjustment, and the saturation that is seen on the video documentation is less visible in the actual space.

It also felt like I was trying to induce a reaction with the shadow on the wall rather than being confronted with a self-reflection. The projected image just looked like pale imitations, and the image patterns that you see on the video was not that clear in the space.

But the thing that caught my eye was the repeating wave of light. In the part where the camera is centered on the projection, an interesting thing happens. The silver box (the electric outlet) near the bottom of the screen cast a ‘video shadow’ on the feed, causing a looping wave of light. In the space, it looked like an anomalous signal, and the frame of the screen disappears. Your eyes, because of the darkness, focus on the rhythmic pulse, and it hypnotizes you.

We still have to review this, and even though the projection setup can be beautiful, what we want for the work is the intimacy and the immediacy of seeing an image of yourself. Technical issues aside, what I learned from this setup is the pivotal role of the space; it does alter the experience of the work fundamentally.

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March 14, 2008 at 9:49 PM

Video Feedback: Part 01

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This first test was taken with a handheld cam, but recorded on the Imac. The slight shifts of movement by my hand reveals the fluid geometry and delay of the feedback loop. The loop creates a strange virtual space, where the repetition of the frames suggest a corridor, but when our image intrudes, we are reminded of its illusion. This gets more clear in the second experiment below:

The effect on how we perceive is different when we are in front of a mirror, inspecting an image of ourselves. The effect is more like seeing your shadow, an objectification of the self-image. But watching the replications makes you aware of your body, as you try to match your movement (or more specifically, your awareness) of your image to the reflections on the screen.

The video below is different; found it in on youtube and it shows the video feedback that is native to TV. The cathode ray tube has different parameters, and if you observe the details of the image, these become apparent. The rate of delay, the timing of the transformation of colors is endemic to the technology of the tube- the millisecond firings of light to create a picture.

For our project, our focus is on the nature of self-conception through the image. Perhaps the flat screen offers a less complicated, and hopefully more direct way of revealing the dimensions of the experiential work.

Experiments in Strange Loops

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TV Buddha- Nam June Paik

My collaborative project with Katrin churned out a strange creature, this video feedback loop that harks back to the funky video experiments of the 60’s by Nam June Paik and the other pioneers of Video Art. We spent quite a while jamming our thoughts together and just throwing ideas on the table. The best thing about it was when our thoughts started to have its own thoughts, mutating into its own monster (haha- please read Hofstader’s I am a Strange Loop). Both of our research led to this realization that the collaboration must be a tangible thing, a digital thing; quite fun to finally hit the concept and ruminate on the possibilities over endless cups of coffee and thick puffs of tobacco.

I’ve been reading about Peter Campus and Ernie Gehr, experimental filmmakers who are still making provocative moving images. Even after their groundbreaking work in the 60’s and 70’s, they still developed their work, and they still challenge and reveal new things with their sheer ingenuity and imagination.



What struck me was how they went the opposite way; most filmmakers went straight to the narrative and pursued the thematic evolution of their visions, but Gehr, Campus and a few other filmmakers walked the long trapeze line between the act of perception and the moving image. The thing that gives me hope is that their recent work is imbued by their personal visions. They still investigate the mystery of meaning-making and are never afraid to come to their own conclusions on what the act of seeing means.

In Cinema 1 , Deleuze makes a persuasive argument for a new definition of the moving image:


The analogous statement above basically reorients the understanding of the moving image as a constitution of movement, rather than an illusion of movement. Deleuze also concludes that the moving image in this context becomes a reality , rather than a representation of it.

This follows the theories of Manovich surrounding the nature of the moving image in New Media; the Macluhan ‘medium is the message’ dimension kicked up to the level of the waking dream.

So how do we see the world now? More importantly, how do we see ourselves?

Yes, it is increasing difficult to create something in this era of the screen, especially if you are fueled by all of this philosophical polemic. But again, knowing how powerful the moving image is (proof? Just look around at how many things you buy and believe because of things you see on screen), artists do bear a responsibility. This ethical stance actually bears more possibilities for innovation, because I feel that the other paths are slippery and well-exploited already by TV and the advertising industry. Why make moving images that merely re-imagine the technical capabilities of the machine? Why not turn the technology on itself, transform its function, re-imagine how it makes images?

Working title: Reproduction Prohibited 2008
(after the Magritte painting done in 1937)



The Moving Image and Its Malcontents

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Light and Shadow:
The Moving Image and its Malcontents

A Discussion Paper
by Moshe Ladanga
Camberwell College of Arts
University of the Arts London
February 26, 2008


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. This paper will focus on the art practices of the cinematic avant-garde who still question and challenge these issues. I place my practice within this context, and with the examination of the works of Ernie Gehr and Peter Campus, the intentions and processes evident in my practice will bear a shared philosophy (or strategy, or even both) with the aforementioned artists.


New Media and its Malcontents

Lev Manovich in his essay Abstraction and Complexity describes the nature of the current manifestations of the moving images as simulations; the power of the computer’s processes to reproduce not only the nature, but also the techniques.

The cumulative result of all these developments – 3D computer graphics, compositing, simulation of all media properties and interfaces in software – is that the images which surround us today are usually very beautiful and often very stylelized(sic). The perfect image is no longer something which is expected in particular areas of consumer culture – instead it is an entry requirement… the mixing of different representational styles which until a few decades ago was only found in modern art (think of Moholy-Nagy photograms or Rauschenberg’s prints from 1960) has become a norm in all areas of visual culture.

As outlined and discussed by Lev Manovich in The Language of New Media, the very medium that I use to make moving images has come about in an interesting way. Unlike the other traditions of art where the medium evolved from artisanal and craft-based practices, the technologies I create with come from the rapid industrial developments of the 20th Century. From the acquisition of footage to the composition of media elements, the nature of the machine is ever-present.


*frame grabs from Final Cut Pro project of Progress,
video loop with sound, 2008

Inherent to the computer are both the artistic possibility and problematic nature of its power. Through its capability to simulate all old media and even remix its techniques, this power cannot be ignored as merely an aspect of a digital art practice; rather, in my practice, it is its consequences that I confront.


Ernie Gehr: The Deconstruction of the Gaze

The seminal work Serene Velocity (pictured above) by Ernie Gehr is a critique of the apparatus of cinema and spectatorship, the center of the problematics of the moving image. The film at the start may seem just a play on the dynamics of perception, but as it progresses, the moving image reveals a different, even subversive nature.

Instead of using the representational power of film, he focused on a singular image and pulsed it by rhythmically by moving the focus plane of the lens. But the film is not in the least static.

The filmmaker positioned his tripod within the corridor and then proceeded to alter his zoom lens every four frames. At first the shifts are not dramatic. He alternates four frames at 50mm with four frames at 55mm. After a considerable period the differential increases: 45mm to 60mm. Thus, the film proceeds with increasing optical shocks. In this system, the zoom never “moves.” The illusion of movement comes about from the adjustment of the eye from one sixth of a second of a distant image to one sixth of a second of a nearer one. Although the absolute rhythm never changes, the film reaches a crescendo because of the extreme illusion of distance by the end. (P. Adams Sitney, as cited in Caroll.2006:p178)

The work’s minimalist aesthetic is not only to serve the construction of an image, but a meditation on the act of perception itself.

In representational films sometimes the image affirms its own presence as image, graphic entity, but most often it serves as vehicle to a photo-recorded event. Traditional and established avant garde film teaches film to be an image, a representing. But film is a real thing and as a real thing it is not imitation. It does not reflect on life, it embodies the life of the mind. It is not a vehicle for ideas or portrayals of emotion outside of its own existence as emoted idea. Film is a variable intensity of light, an internal balance of time, a movement within a given space. (Ernie Gehr, January 1971)

As described by Gehr, the moving image can be something of its own, and in the case of Serene Velocity, the image becomes the gaze itself; the corridor becomes the shape of the gaze, the moving image an active work of confrontation.


Peter Campus: Concepts of Self

Unlike Ernie Gehr, Peter Campus’ work started with video. He was one of the pioneers of video art, exploring the unique properties of the medium (such as the double-channel, chroma-keying image above). His focus though was the self, a rigorous and diverse set of approaches to the concept of self expressed in the moving image.

In the video Three Transitions (frame grab above) and other works made in the 1970’s, he explores different acts of self-cognition (Laguiera.2006). For example in the installation Interface (1972) he turned the camera on the viewer, providing instances where one would see the self as both reflection (on a glass) and moving image (video projection).


In these explorations, Peter Campus reveals the paradoxical nature of the image, even when it comes to the one we are most familiar with: the self. Having a background in psychology and the cognitive sciences, he criticizes the ever-growing postmodern concept of the self as merely a cognitive function, an essentially materialistic and dehumanizing view. Campus’ tool of analysis, his way in so to speak, is perception. A review by J. Laguiera of his work, specifically of his installations, puts it thus:

Perception is one of the routes explored in trying to answer this question, which philosophers and psychologists ponder continually, among others. Certain artists have also explored it by developing a dimension often deliberately dismissed by cognitive science theoreticians, which is none other than lived experience. Such experience is understood here as a unitary perception, a human experience that does not validate, even on a purely theoretical level, the duality of body and mind. Such a position has been criticized by a number of authors, such as proponents of psychophysical identity (the identity between mental states and neuronal states), eliminativism (psychological experience is eliminated for the benefit of a neurological explanation), or cognitivism (which notably separates cognition and consciousness).

As Laguiera explains in the quote above, this duality, and this conceptual separation of the body from the mind, can be critically examined by the act of perception. This paradoxical approach, shared by Ernie Gehr, reveals not only the qualities of the medium of the moving image, but also an insight into the postmodern condition. Manovich’s theories on simulation already illuminate its consequences: the image without meaning, the gaze bereft of understanding, the making of art without meaning-making.

So where are the possibilities?


The Avant-Garde: Locating the Core

The avant-garde filmmakers of the 60’s and 70’s were working mostly on 8mm and 16mm. Stan Brakhage, Ernie Gehr, The London Film Co-operative and numerous other experimental filmmakers were making films that sought to criticise, examine and deconstruct filmmaking itself. In the various historical and critical books and essays on these practices, the films were diverse; the sexual polemic of Andy Warhol, the materialist/structuralist experiments of the London Film Co-op, and even the Lacanian leaning of the Surrealists found itself in the films of Malcolm LeGrice (Hamlyn.2003). What united the avant-garde was its mode of creation.

The avant-garde is an ‘artisanal’ or ‘personal’ mode. Avant-garde films tend to be made by individuals or very small groups of collaborators, financed either by the filmmakers alone or in combination with private patronage and grants from arts institutions. (Murray Smith as cited in O’Pray.2003:p2.)

This independence is marked by a critical approach to the status quo, and thus creates a space to innovate outside the concerns of mainstream culture (Rees.1999).

This historical antecedent is actually quite similar to the emergence of video art, whereas the introduction of inexpensive technology created opportunities for artists like Nam Jun Paik, Peter Campus and Bill Viola to investigate issues outside the concerns of the status quo.

In this diversity of intentions, philosophies and agendas (political, artistic, etc) where can an avant-garde practice locate its engagement? Lev Manovich’s interesting theory is that new media’s precursor is film, and therefore the promise of film to be the Gesamtkunstwerk of all the arts can be found in even greater potentiality in New Media (Manovich.2001). But upon examining the precursor, Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, it is the language of the machine that dominates, the endless transformations and permutations of the image, very much like a formula multiplying its algorithms so that it gains value, but not meaning.

Perhaps one can argue that the kino-eye is much like the apparatus of cinema, endlessly replicating representations of reality. New Media’s simulative capabilities, with its hybrids of representation and technique, will not offer any restitution or even an avenue for critical engagement in New Media.

Within my practice, I have chosen to locate my critical concerns in the space of perception. In Luis Bunuel’s Andalusian Dog, (image part of composite above) the eye is sliced open, inter-cut with the moon being obscured. This piece of surrealism is instructive in the sense that it is the literal cutting the eye open that becomes the act of engagement; to release the pre-conceived notions of the moving image, one has to slice into the process of perception itself.

The simulations offered by New Media in a digital art practice must be viewed critically, and even confronted by revealing the nature of the image itself.



In this context, the collaboration work with Katrin Maria Escay evolved, reflecting the research we have done.
The current setup will now include video cameras placed atop each screen and captures the images from the other screen, creating a video feedback loop.


The rationale behind using feedback loops instead of self-generated imagery as the main aspect of our work stem from our discussions about the things we’ve found on our individual research. Katrin’s focus is on the experiential quality of the work, while I wanted to incorporate the dimensions of the gaze, of perception.

The resulting image on each screen will be dependent on the presence of a viewer. Because of the video feedback loop, a seemingly endless corridor will be seen by the viewer, with the image of his/her back, similar to Magritte’s Reproduction Prohibited (1937).


There will be infrared sensors mounted on each screen, providing the possibility of adding subtle details (through real time compositing and video feed manipulation- Puredata) to the virtual corridor and the image of viewer when gazed at for a certain amount of time.

The collaborative piece will be at times opaque, and at times ambiguous- these parameters will be triggered by the variation of viewer interactions.

The two monitors will also have distinct characteristics in terms of the digital reflections- the project is open to the mixing of elements from the two screens, and also techniques of video feed manipulation.

The proposed interactive work will turn the gaze of the viewer upon itself, like the experiments of Gehr and the installations of Campus, and yet also reflect a negated image of viewer, which can change over time. The corridors also simulate a sense of space, where meaning-making can be triggered by certain elements. But we will let the investigation and the experiment determine if there will be elements at all- it might be just the slight manipulations of the reflection that will form the more interesting parameters of the interaction.



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