This is reprinted from my older blog at this link, dated November 10, 2008, with minor edits.
About 2 years ago, I received a phone call about doing an art installation that would coincide with a music festival in NY called the Highline Festival. I’m always excited when an opportunity finds me in which I get to flex. Imagine my excitement level when I learned it was to be curated by none other than David Bowie. Mr. Bowie chose to pay homage to the surrealist photographer Claude Cahun. I was not familiar with her work but quickly understood it’s context as I delved into her commentary on sexuality, gender, role reversal, and notions of beauty – all topics that deserve her commentary today. I found it interesting that her message is still very much relevant almost 100 years later. I invite you to do your own research on Claude Cahun, some of her work is obvious in its representation, some hard to touch with descriptions or labels.
The installation was to occur at an outdoor space I had unknowingly walked by a hundred times. In Chelsea exists the General Theological Seminary, it is somewhat of an fortress of solitude in an otherwise busy neighborhood dense with art galleries and nightlife. An interesting note, the trees within the walls of the seminary survived a disease that killed off just about the entire breed of tree on the rest of Manhattan. The cluster at the seminary still stands tall today in its quiet quarantine.
Claude Cahun did some photomontage in the 1920’s and I thought I might do the same with my modern tools of computers and video. One of the rules set before me was that I could not alter any of the provided assets in any way. I scanned many of Claude Cahun’s photos at a high resolution and “choreographed” a subtly animated photomontage spanning eight thin vertical screens which acted as satellites to a main center screen. The center screen displayed Cahun’s imagery in full while the satellite screens presented zooms and crops associated with the same image, showing details otherwise lost to a viewer who might be watching from a distance in the large outdoor garden. Magnified portions of the next image in a list of about 50 would start to appear on some of the satellite screens before taking over the entire space. I executed all of the programming using a multimedia development tool known as Isadora (similar to VVVV or Max/Msp in its nodal interface, but with a specialty in live performance and staging) and built a specialized computer with enough VGA outputs to drive all the projectors at once. The screens were constructed of Lucite which was media-blasted for a “frosted look”, this resulted in a projection that seemed to float in space while casting a soft glow on the grass underneath, and could be viewed from both sides.
above are some screentshots of my Isadora project.