by Beauchamp Art
Exploring the illusion of non-place; [Auge, 1995] the demo-digital landscape, an environment that appears nowhere; a mirage on an unfixed horizon.
Filmed with a reversed camera lens, focusing on two transparent plastic blocks in position in conjunction with an black white computer screen, creating the illusion of a placeless landscape, juxtaposing the subjectivity of the digital and objectivity of the physical; both as real as one another – real as they are perceived to be, but questionable one is more reliant on the physical, looking to what is deemed the ‘virtual’ as both an extension and supplementation for the bodily aspects of life.
This composition involves numerous clips of varied length the plastic surface from a range of angles through a plethora of movements, congealed together in order to progress smoothly; transitioning through blurred frames, beginning in the same darkness it ends with; going nowhere but around in circles; abstract and without narrative, a visual drone. A great deal of image stabilisation was necessary to make the film remotely watchable, as the instability of the camera handling made the clips almost unwatchable nauseous, as one wanders through the transparency of plastic reality. Nevertheless, though this piece features only objective imagery appearing artificial, it is worth noting that “synthetic computer-generated imagery is not an inferior representation of our reality, but a realistic representation of a different reality” [Manovich, 2002: 202] a digital extension of the physical world.
The ‘plasticity’ of the title connects to both the concept of the plastic; malleable and subject being, as well as the objective ‘plastic’, the transparent Perspex material which is the focus of the visual exploration. Somewhat amusingly (and oxymoronically), one could say that in this film the plastic is concrete; and consequently the malleability of the concrete, the physical, is questioned.
Though the digital is often seen as a total synthesis, this could be seen as an over-exaggeration; as behind all aspects of technologies there is some intrinsically human, as people design them. To a certain extend, therefore, all computers, all machines are ‘Mechanical Turks’ as they all have been constructed and programmed by people, and their hand is still present in its function after the human element is physically removed (thus one could reason that the Ghost in the Machine is in fact man’s own lingering essence, rather than some alien or self generated function [this is explored in Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell: II: Innocence [Oshii, 2004] [based the manga series by Masamune Shirow], in which androids are embed with a human consciousness, but are fully automated; not controlled by the mind within them, but rather a series of algorithms – the difference, and whether there is one, between the mind and a computer is discussed extensively]) – what I intended to explore in this piece was the ambivalent boundary between perception of the physical and digital landscape; how one can easily transgress between the electronic environment and the physical one given the capabilities of everyday computers.
With visually ambiguous material such as this micro-exploration of surface and mirage, there should be an awareness that it has the potentially to become a spectacle of banality, the second fall of man, according to Heidegger, in “which nothing takes place and which [one is] nonetheless saturated.” [Baudrillard, 1987: 33]
Moreover, the use of the shifting perspective over the transparent plastic and macro scale is intended to deliberately disrupt the viewing, creating the illusion of space then shattering it; exposing the pixels on the screen, the imperfect surface of the materials; creating a sense of slippage – a mental glitch – through the uncanny confusion of objective place and abstract (electronic, but not artificial) space. With regards to ambiguity; “when one has been visually deceived one takes pleasure in guessing, and even if there is no intent to device, to fool, the aesthetic and tactile pleasure produces certain forms involves a kind of divination.” [Ibid: 31]
The reversed lens and intimacy of the viewer to the subject may create a sense of uneasiness as one sympathises with the camera, and simulates the feeling of immediate proximity to the subject, becoming jarring and confusing as the plastic landscape shifts; creating a uncanny mirage. To a certain extent, this use of illusion may force the viewer to question what they are seeing, not only in this piece but also more broadly, to suggest reality dissolving before their very eyes, “not into nothingness, but into the more real than real (triumph of the simulacra),” [Ibid: 103]
Images on a screen act as a means of overriding the physical boundaries of the viewer, they have the potential to ‘transport one anywhere’, much as all figurative photographs or films do, but the image itself appears not to be physical; it cannot be held like a Polaroid, or touch like that which is depicted, they serve as a representation of reality, but exist within that reality, and should not be dismissed as simple facsimiles, but it may be worth acknowledging the image; whether printed or as pixels on a screen; a picture as much part of existence as that which it may illustrate – they may mislead and not show the whole truth, be a mediation of perception, much as the mass press may mediate; or the individual may mediate their own thoughts and memories, being selective; subjective in their psychological reality.
[More details on this section of the soundtrack here: Plasticity [Interference] ]
Atmospheric Soundtrack: Plasticity [Interference]
Musical Accompaniment: Deaf Vacuum
The soundtrack reconnects the images with the environment they were filmed in, featuring various atmospheric sounds from around the computer and other electronic devices, fading in and out creating a varied drone.
This droning environment soundscape was then combined with a piece of ambient music that embraces distortion, static, and unresolve; as it came through a work-in-progress musical project created independently of this work, in which I put together the various components of the song in a relatively straight-forward composition, which I then repeatedly distorted, adding reverb and reverse it to effectively ‘blur’ the sound into a vague, warm haze; lacking definite rhythm or structure, so that only the chord progression faintly defined.
The combination of droning audio and placid visuals serve as a meditation on placelessness in a this ‘Age of Supermodernity’ [Auge], a calm contemplation of the confusion between physical and technological being; both equally valid, here blurred together.
- Auge, Marc, (1995). Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity. Verso.
- Baudrillard, Jean. (1987) The Ecstasy of Communication. (Foreign Agents). Semiotext(e). USA.
- Manovich, Lev. (2002) The Language of New Media (Leonardo Books). First Edition The MIT Press.
- Oshii, Mamoru (2004). Ghost in the Shell II: Innocence. [DVD], Japan: Manga Entertainment.