Cutting Room

A short tour of my piece at the Landslide/Possible Futures Exhibition at Markham Historical Museum in the Autumn of 2013. As you enter the space through the northern door, diagonally across the sawmill there is the ghostly screen presence of…

Cutting Room



A short tour of my piece at the Landslide/Possible Futures Exhibition at Markham Historical Museum in the Autumn of 2013.
As you enter the space through the northern door, diagonally across the sawmill there is the ghostly screen presence of a man woodworking in a cyclical movement, much in the same way as the forms of primitive cinema produced cycles to analyse and present human and animal motion. This is projected onto the sawdust sprayed up onto the safety screen of the circular saw. In front of you is a sort of beard or curtain, hung from the cross beam, carrying a movable moving image. On the bench toward the end of the space is a mirrored model of the bandsaw, used this time to produce a projector, still being worked on.
The work is all produced in a sprit of invention and made using elements appropriated from other uses, just as the first colonists did. The curtain uses a domestic LED light source, timing belts for car motors, a handcrank, 120 film stock, and some aluminium foil, to propose new projection system using fibre optics with an aspect of frontier bricolage.
Lit by small lamps and table candles just beyond the separating fence are some of the pieces used or invented in order to make the inventions here, you can also see the first drawings (plan, then elevation) of the basic idea for the projector, 3D printing, the raw materials of fibre optic glow lamps from the 60s and misused 16mm film equipment.
Outside on the platform is a self portrait of the inventor, pieced together in fragments of 16mm film in the form of a rustic stained glass window.
The idea for LandSlide Possible futures at Markham is one that involves inventing new machines to project images, very largely inspired by the use of the technology of the frontier, making up a new piece of useful equipment from bits and pieces that are already available and adding a key part or two.
In the sawmill itself, dating from the middle of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century, all the technology needed to make an intermittent projection, the kind that analogue cinema uses, is available in the different saws, . What is important is not the capacity to be an engineer, but to add a conceptual layer to the things that are already there. The key elements to be added are a lateral movement for a film gate, the gate and a secondary gate for the fibre optics to be attached to. These pieces were made using a 3D printer and then moulded to be reproduced on the projector here. The measurements for the cutting of the fibre optics were done on traditional analogue film equipment, adapted to this new use, invention begets invention in many ways, on of the key ideas exploited here.
Invention, though, is a method of writing history, national histories differ according to belief and local celebrity, the Americans have Edison inventing the cinema, whereas the French know it is the Frères Lumière and the English Louis Le Prince. Edison gets the incandescent bulb for America, but England has an earlier candidate in Swann, the list goes on, but the beliefs are fixed. The inventor here, though is a blurred, fragmentary figure, even if consecrated.
The “invention” of prehistoric caves refers to the inventory made of the place by the archaeologists who study it first. In much the same way, the “inventions” in the world of technology, especially the technologies of the image, are dependent on the inventory of all the other objects in the field, with the addition of a new key that makes the “invention” possible. Clearly, all advances don’t depend on ground up conception and production of entirely new objects, the genius doesn’t produce out of thin air; the paradigm shifts in science would have to be far more frequent for that to be the case. As it is, the adaptation from one object to another may be very slight, but it can be very important, financially, socially, politically or otherwise, for those who make and use it. So, the invention that is at the heart of this piece comes out of the missing links of the late 19th and late 20th Centuries, that passing a strip of celluloid in front of a light to project an image in a beam and that fibre optic filaments bend the trajectory of light beams became possible, allowing a change in the structure of the screen, making shapes that enables us to redirect the image, perhaps align it to the point of view of the spectator. This should permit a kind of three dimensional view, literally, as the screen is now in three dimensions, giving an extra depth to the formation of the image for the spectator. The image is a phantom, though, as the hand made construction of the image through the fibres is imprecise. This is not a phantom of the past, though, but one of the future.

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