Retrospectroscope, 16mm, 5 minutes, silent- 1997
The Retrospectroscope apparatus has gone through many incarnations; its presence belies the processes that have created it. As a paracinematic device, it traces an evolutionary trajectory, encircling the viewer in a procession of flickering fantasies of fragmented lyricism. Retrospectroscope is a reinvention that simulates the illusion of the analysis of motion to recall early mysteries of the quest for this very discovery, now taken for granted. The Muses of Cinema, represented by the female figures on the huge spinning wheel, have emerged from a dark Neoclassical past. Streams of images revolve, in an attempt to harness notions of a cinematic prehistory tracing past motions and gestures to burn their dance on the surface of the retinas. The five-minute film, also known as Retrospectroscope, is testament to the apparatus, and was described in the San Francisco Bay Guardian as “A spinning flashing UFO/roulette wheel of Athenian proportions.”
This film was derived from a kinetic sculpture made using a single sheet of Plexiglas 5 ft. in diameter, and was mounted directly on a stand and illuminated from behind. As an optical device, its function was to create the illusion of moving images utilizing large format still images. A variation of the phenakistoscope, and many other such devices, my apparatus represents the need to re-explore the synthesis of years of scientific discoveries that culminated in the cinema, as we know it today. As the phenakistoscope established the "stroboscopic effect", this concept inspired me to use actual strobes, the intermittent element of which acted as a shutter. The basic phenomena of the combined physics of kinetics frequency of light, velocity and flicker fusion constitute the piece on a material level. These elements converge to animate still images originally shot on film. The series of images are photographic transparencies either shot using the still camera to animate as the originator of the images, or used to re-photograph images originally shot on motion picture film using the analyst projector as a tool to
harness the ephemeral image. Currently, a shift in our perception has already been dissembled and fragmented through computer-based technology in the ways in which spatial temporal realms are challenging our views about how space is constructed. The installation as a whole provides a link to this evolving, perceptual trajectory.
The film was financed in part by a grant from the Princess Grace Foundation- 1997
The film was derived from an installation that was part of the 125th Anniversary celebration of the San Francisco Art Institute and inspired by Edweard Muybridge and other early chronophotographers. Muybridge might possibly be the first to have projected motion pictures when he used his zoopraxiscope to demonstrate images of a trotting hose at the San Francisco Art Association in 1878.