Here’s some somewhat hasty, blown out footage of the big installation that was the centerpiece of my recent solo exhibition at True Color Museum in Suzhou, China, which is running from November 6-December 5, 2010. It’s called “Self-Portrait, Dusk, at the Point of Departure,” and it involves 18 channels of video and 4 channels of audio, all algorithmically deployed in real-time from a networked bank of 9 computers.

It’s my largest installation to date, and to a greater extent than any previous piece, it relies on a large space for its full effect, so the experience of watching a small, single channel video doesn’t really describe the impact of the piece on-site. When you’re there in the very reverberant room, you’re enveloped by resonant sound. The screens are spaced out such that you can’t take them all in at once as easily as you can on a computer screen; you have to kind of unhinge your eyes a bit, so that you’re not looking at the image on any particular screen so much as the relationships and changes across screens. In addition to the technical breakthroughs (at least for me), which included a real-time color correction system, this piece marks a milestone in my use of video as a sculptural element in a larger composition, rather than serving as the totality of the canvas itself.

Most of my pieces are of an experimental nature (“What is the nature of an experimental action? It is simply an action the outcome of which is not foreseen.” –John Cage), which means they necessarily evolve quite a bit from original conception to final outcome. What’s striking to me about this piece is how close it is to my original conception: vimeo.com/10640152 .

In the process of escorting the concept from concept to final installation, some additional ideas and associations emerged. One is the format of the piece, originally intended to evoke the banks of departure monitors at an airport, but which of course also evokes a bank of security monitors, all somewhat unsettlingly pointed at the same subject. Feeling the piece in its final form, I was really struck at how much it really creates a portal to another space, like there’s a magical portal or wormhole connecting southern Suzhou and suburban St. Paul. A visiting artist friend also pointed out that the tree branches standing in stark silhouette cannot help but evoke traditional Chinese ink painting in a city with a history like Suzhou’s, where the many gardens are full of literati in training, sketching away.

See more pictures from the show here: flickr.com/photos/7286111@N07/sets/72157625287865949/

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