depletion (2003)

From the Screen Series

Depletion allows viewers to create "motion paintings" through full-body gestures on its subtractive canvas in a manner similar to the techniques of abstract expressionist. Depletioncan also be seen as a virtual screen with a fixed quantity of energy. As bodies enter its bright projected field, their shadows eat away at the projected light itself. Wherever people move, they consume the projected light. The work means to highlight the frailty of immaterial projection: film fades, videotape warps and decays, bulbs burn out, and electronics short circuit. Cinema is not the most durable, but the most fragile of media.

Exhibition History

Beall Center for Art & Technology. Irvine, California, 2003
Nabi Art Center. Seoul, South Korea, 2004


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