First experiments

The first video-performance where I’m applying the ideas of open-in-betwenness and dialogical relation between the digital and the analog is called “Latent state”. The primary concept of this piece is the confrontation between the sense of childhood wonder, and the idea of death. The element that creates this confrontation is space (as in space travel): a common children fantasy is to become an astronaut, and have adventures in space, while at the same time space conjures images of death and terror: the space ship exploding, running out of oxygen, falling into the vacuum. Space is at the same time a source of wonder and terror. Ultimately, my goal is to describe children’s realization of death, and coming to terms with it.

An historic event that I personally relate to these feelings of wonder and death is the disaster of the space shuttle Challenger in January 28, 1986. In fact, the launch of the challenger and the subsequent explosion were widely shown in TV at that time, and I clearly remember watching the replay of the 73 seconds flight of the Challenger back at home in Argentina, when I was 10 years old.

There is plenty of information about the Challenger disaster: the transcript of the communication between the crew and the ground control, the report of the presidential commission on the Challenger accident, detailed videos of the explosion itself, analysis of the technical flaws that lead to the accident, etc.

However, this is not a piece about the Challenger disaster itself but, ultimately, about coming of age. In this sense, the Challenger disaster is my personal take on the perception and realization of death from the children point of view. Realization that strangely connected with feelings of play and wonder (the space where we play and realize our fantasies is the same space of death).

In relation to the children’s perception of death and tragedy, I found three research articles published on the American Journal of Psychiatry between 1996 and 1999 dealing precisely with the memories, thinking and symptoms of children who witnessed the Challenger accident. The material I found most compelling from these articles were the actual quotes from the interviews to the children:

“I’ve been worrying a lot—what it feels like not to exist.”

“I didn’t cry.” (1986) “I cried.” (1987)

“I’m a little aware now of what it feels like to die. I thought about it, maybe five times. I used to not think about it at all.”

“I had a dream the other night of a fire in my barn. One horse of mine and eight other horses were killed.”

“When the sky is that certain blue of the day of the launch, I always think of Challenger. But you always recover. You move on.”

I decided to incorporate these quotes into the physical component of the piece, by building a small device, some kind of conveyor belt, that carries them across the screen space when they are captured by the camera. I’m also using the text from the transcript between the astronauts and the ground control, which is carried along by another contraption. These devices are fragile and imperfect, made of basswood and tape.

latentstate-contraption1

latentstate-contraption2

The first performance using these materials happened a few days ago at the EDA, and the videos are are available below:

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