Filmed at a racetrack in Northern California during testing for what turned out to be the final season of CART/Champ Car racing series, Dry Runner examines the space of the track and reflects the conditions that surrounded the test. Held in March 2007 as the specters of both the end of the series and the economic collapse were coming into view, the session served a preseason kickoff to the end of an era in motorsports. The title refers to this context and to the name of the track where it took place, Laguna Seca ("dry lagoon"), and the piece functions as an extended meditation on the process of speeding towards oblivion.
The piece is built in several sections, each focusing on one aspect of the test session for an extended period of time. One shows a driver sitting in his racing car following an accident and waiting for help to arrive. In the instant of the crash the driver becomes just a passenger; the moment after the crash is one of suspended animation as the driver awaits assistance and viewers look for any indication of the driver’s physical state. That long moment is what is shown here.
Another section depicts a flagman monitoring one of corners on the course with varying levels of attention. Though flagmen are the closest people to the racetrack and have the best view of the action, they are required to pay close attention to only a portion of what they can see so as to be able to respond quickly if required. The tension between focus, distraction, and boredom are clearly on view in the movements of the white-clad figure.
The material in Dry Runner evolves slowly and deliberately to reveal gradual transformations of the sound and image. Some of it incorporates antiquated techniques of analog video signal processing that produce images that resemble and refer to a recent but fading past. As the piece unfolds the passage of cars through the track slowly changes from tangible to ghostly, presaging their disappearance from the public arena less than a year later.
Produced in part with support of the Experimental Television Center, Owego, NY.
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