Academic journal article Afterimage

New Media at VSW

Academic journal article Afterimage

New Media at VSW

Article excerpt

The Visual Studies Workshop Gallery (Rochester NY) simultaneously hosted the work of two prominent upstate NY artists: DeProfundis and CAGE: A Filmic Circus on Metaphors on Vision by Lawrence Brose, director of CEPA in Buffalo, NY, and Messages to Extinct Places in the Present Tense, by Christopher Burnett, director of Visual Studies Workshop.

In this exhibit, Burnett and Brose addressed issues of translation: theconstruction of images, the interpretation of meaning, and the complex process linking these practices. The two artists entered this investigation through visually contrasting media, Brose offering richly manipulated prints of color film strips while Burnett showcased detailed word-images of subtle shape and hue.

In DeProfundis Lawrence Brose presented a collection of large-format Iris prints exhibiting film-based images that had been solarized, chemically treated and digitized. The result of these processes is striking: a wash of colors as lucid and bold as sun on spilled motor oil. The images that Brose used for these prints were taken from his personal collection of home movies, movie reels, and his personal collection of photographs spanning from the 1930s into the 1970s. As Brose writes, these images serve to "foreground a critique of the social framing of sexuality and masculinity." Brose's work counters a current conservative movement in gay culture, confronting the viewer with radical images. These images, however, have been disrupted and redirected by Brose's physical intervention on the surface of the film. Such interventions and manipulations not only demand a re-casting of social framing, but engage the viewers and ask for their participation in this process.

In one grouping, each original image appears to be repeated in a three-frame series still bordered by the telltale edging of the 8mm filmstrip. Within each frame, however, the original image has not been manipulated or developed in exactly the same way. If one frame accentuates the bright line of a cheekbone, or the curve of a swimmer's thigh, the next frame might obscure that aspect of the image in the richness of cobalt and an over-spilling depth of purple shadows. Brose describes the effect of this discrepancy between frame images as a "shift in the logic of the image, a transformative staging that highlights the material nature of the film itself." Despite this shift, the observers may attempt to carry their conceptions of the 'original' image--a face, a car, an extended hand--throughout the three-frame series. It is the attention to the material nature of the film, however, that forces the observers to become aware of their own roles in the image-construction process.

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A similar hermeneutic process is invoked by Brose's other exhibited work, CAGE: A Filmic Circus on Metaphors on Vision, a mixed media 'portrait' of the composer, John Cage. Originally commissioned by the Triskel Arts Center in Cork, Ireland, this is the United States premiere of this gallery installation. This exhibit, set in a smaller room on the same level as the main gallery, comprises five large television screens, arranged in a semi-circle, confronting the viewer with individually looping, hour-long videos. These videos are accompanied by independently looping soundscapes that create surprising convergences and discordances through their fragmentation, distortion and repetition.

Back to the main gallery, there, Chris Burnett exhibits hybrid forms of media and the issues raised by translation between media. His Messages to Extinct Places in the Present Tense includes a collec-tion of word-image prints whose subtle tones and shifting borders contrast the vivid colors of Brose's work. Burnett's prints are intriguingly pale from afar, soft at arm's distance, and dizzying as you lean in. There is an optimum distance at which the observer can stand in order to see these prints both as images of various subjects--the eye of a frog, a fossilized footprint--or as text. …

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