compliant (2003)

From the Screen Series

Compliant creates a projected screen of “soft light”. As visitors walk into its projected field, the shadows of their bodies distort the screen and push it away, as if it were a rubber sheet. The physical bodies of the viewers become the dominant force in the relationship with the screen: distorting it, pushing it out of alignment, or completely chasing it from view. Multiple viewers can impose on the screen from all angles to hasten its disappearance. This give-and-take relationship with the screen also evokes cinema more directly, by recalling the slapstick comedy of Charlie Chaplin endlessly chasing his hat in The Tramp.

Exhibition History

Bealle Center for Art and Technology (solo show), 2003
Art Interactive (solo show), Boston, Massachusetts, 2005
La Villette. Paris, France, 2005
Institute of Modern Art. Brisbane, Australia. October, 2004
Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth. Fremantle, Australia, 2004
Nabi Art Center. Seoul, South Korea, 2004
Tarble Arts Center (solo show), Arizona State University, 2005

About the Screen Series

Each work in the Screen Series starts with a pure rectangle of white light projected onto a wall. Through computer mediation, the projections react to viewers as soon as they step between screen and projector, putting their bodies and the projection on equal footing, or even making the body dominant to the projected image. In so doing, they allow viewers to create cinema with their bodies, either through reactive projections that respond to viewers, or through porous projections that record viewers' movements.

Though based in the contemporary technologies of computer vision, simulation, and digital projection, these works primarily refer back to the history of cinema and light projection, when silhouettes, rather than exact representations, graced animations, shadow theatre performances, and magic lantern productions. Like these precursors, the Screen Series emphasizes viewers’ shadows, rather than their photographic image. This emphasis on shadows paradoxically creates a stronger integration of viewers' bodies with the projections, since a picture of a viewer’s shadow is almost identical to the shadow itself, while a picture of a viewer’s body is less similar to their actual three-dimensional form. With such an approach, these works have a similar agenda as structuralist film: the removal of layers of cinematic illusion to reveal the nature of the image itself.

The Screen Series refers to the early years of cinema in a another way, remembering a time when cameras functioned as all-in-one photographic, developing, and projection devices. These early cameras first captured images onto film through a lens, then served as developing tanks when chemicals were poured into their bodies. Finally, the camera was emptied, dried, and turned into a projector by placing a light behind the lens. This contemporary combination of camera, projector, and computer echo those early cinema cameras, with computer “processing” replacing chemical processing.

Works in the Screen Series were produced with the support of The Beall Center for Art and Technology, Art Interactive, The San Francisco Media Arts Coalition, and GenArt San Francisco.

photographs by Kyle Knobel, Tavo Olmos and Scott Snibbe