A Thousand Words: Roman Signer; Talks about Observation Box, 2000

By Kushner, Rachel | Artforum International, April 2002 | Go to article overview

A Thousand Words: Roman Signer; Talks about Observation Box, 2000


Kushner, Rachel, Artforum International


Once, I spread a load of dynamite over the ground and positioned a Super-8 camera very close to it. The film shows the fuse burning down, and then everything turns black. But Super-8 cameras are much tougher than video cameras, whose electronic mechanisms are distorted by the waves from the blast. The picture loses color; it becomes "pale from fear." After a few seconds of black-and-white images, the color slowly returns. I am interested in camera positions that record what the eye can't see-the "suffering" camera that participates, not just the viewpoint of the bystander.

Observation Box is a kind of laboratory situation designed so that the participant (me) can witness a huge fireball up close; the human eye thus becomes a substitute for the camera. To conduct my experiment, I transported the box out to Weissbad, a remote area in the canton of Appenzell, where I often execute ideas that can't be performed in the studio. I didn't intend a juxtaposition of peaceful nature and violence; the countryside was merely a practical testing ground. More important to me is the contrast between the apparent security the object represents and the actual danger it's intended to protect against. The box is a deceptive refuge, like the fragile windowpanes of our homes-what makes us feel so safe is in reality a thin membrane separating man from nature.

I sat inside Observation Box wearing a flameproof hood and special visor meant for looking directly into a fire. For a brief instant, the box was like the cockpit of a plane, or the driver's seat in a race car, with an external combustion "engine," if you will, which I sat behind, as if piloting into the explosion. I suppose Observation Box has a certain malevolent emanation. The hood and visor remind me of military gear designed for protection from a nuclear blast. Perhaps these types of actions are an elaborate way of working through certain fears. Physical risk, however, is not an element of the work, and I protect myself as well as I can. Injuries are simply the result of miscalculation. Other artists, like the Vienna Actionists, often invited the presence of blood, but to me that would be a mistake. For each piece, I choose specific safety measures, like flameproof suits or helmets, which also have an aesthetic appeal.

It has been mentioned, in terms of my developing interest in the properties of combustion, that I used to work in a pressure-cooker factory. Indeed I did once; it was my job to assemble release valves and pack the cookers. My experience at the factory didn't influence me so much as my mother's cooking with a pressure cooker, and pressure-cooker mishaps and explosions-as happened to my aunt, resulting in barley soup on the ceiling. Perhaps I even caused such accidents by incorrectly assembling the valves.

Explosions can be highly aesthetic. I understand them as a complex form of sculpture because an infinite number of forms are produced within extremely short periods of time; every moment looks different. The perfect sculpture is a transformation, a process. An explosion in water produces a transformation. A column of water is merely transient. But at the same time it is a sculpture that progresses and then collapses back into itself.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Thousand Words: Roman Signer; Talks about Observation Box, 2000
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.