Projection/Expulsion: Strategies of Beholding

CCW Graduate School presents Projection/Expulsion: Strategies of Beholding, a one-day symposium at Chelsea College of Arts, organised by Ken Wilder, Course Director for MA Interior Spatial Design at Chelsea.

Speaking about the event, Wilder said, ‘The intention behind the event is not to achieve a consensus, but to open up a debate as to the dynamic at play between these two terms. The terms, respectively, have psychological and bodily implications: the former suggesting (i) an unconscious transfer of desires or emotions onto someone else (or something else), or (ii) an intentional imaginative projection onto the world; the latter, contrarily, suggesting something being forced out of or discharged from the body (or thing). Both therefore, intrinsically describe an action with spatial consequences, a transferal, a ‘throwing forth’, yet they imply opposed trajectories.

These trajectories seem to capture something vital of our encounter with certain artworks: works that either invite imaginative or empathic projection, or alternately maintain a certain, necessary, distance (perhaps even provoking disgust or repulsion). The contention is that this is a dynamic that can be operative within works of a single artist and even (crucially) a single work of art. My own concern is with artworks where such complex processes of projection and expulsion are held in a dialectical tension. More particularly, my research investigates moving image artworks that reveal this structuring mechanism at play – what I have called elsewhere the configurational encounter. The configurational properties of a film are intrinsic properties of a work’s production and situated reception. Narrative absorption in conventional cinema is predicated upon the disregard of such properties, a temporary forgetting that we are watching actors on an artificially lit set: by contrast, experimental or expanded film consistently draws our attention to the film’s materiality, the screen as object, and to the apparatus of display.

My contribution to the exhibition is a video installation entitled Pondskater. A pondskater is an insect of the family Gerridae, which uses surface tension to walk, or more accurately, skate over ponds and other bodies of still water. In the three screen video installation, these creatures periodically skate across one or other of the  camera lenses. But the term also refers to the improvised filming device used to generate the films, which itself skates over the water. This device, a kind of adjusted readymade, is made using found materials. There are a series of rules to the filming. The three cameras, mounted at the ends of aluminium tubes, are fixed at 120 degree angles to each other, facing outwards and thus providing a full 360 degree panorama (each lens having a 120 degree field of vision). However, the distance between the cameras opens up small slots or gaps between the images. The camera position is itself subject to an element of chance, a matter of millimetres determining whether the centreline of the lens is slightly above or below the water level. The divergent angles of the horizon lines become part of the work’s idiosyncratic and imperfect nature.

The device is entirely dependent upon its own propulsion, provided by the impromptu sail. Like a child’s toy sailing boat, the device is launched with a little push, then left to the whims of the wind, slowly drifting across the pond until it finally gets entangled within the reeds that line the perimeter of the pond. The device is “launched” at three different times of the day – dawn, midday and dusk. The length of each take is dependent upon the time it takes the device to float across the pond, to become marooned in the reeds, and subsequently retrieved. This process is revealed in sound and image in the films. The mechanism itself is never seen, but is intimated, intermittently, by the drumming sound of string on the “mast” when the wind blows, and the dragging of the floats as the structure hits land.

If these configurational features partly determine the film’s content, then they also replicated by the means by which the films are displayed. This comprises three wide-screen 1:3 ratio rear-projection screens, set at 120 degree angles to each other so that they form an equilateral triangle with truncated ends at which the projector housings are placed. The steel structure replicates, but inverts, the fragmented panorama, forcing the beholder to circumnavigate the metal structure to experience something of its 360 degree view. This arrangement means that only one of the time-aligned films can be experienced in its entirety, so that one is always effectively excluded from the theoretical ideal viewing position within the structure, our experience necessarily fragmentary. Even peering into the structure frustrates our desire for a truly immersive experience, as the angles prevent simultaneous viewing of the screens. The disembodied viewing position of the films, literally an undisturbed fish-eyed view of the world we can never truly experience in reality, is replicated by the frustrations the structure imposes as we try, and fail, to experience the work as a panoptic whole. This unity can only ever be experienced through our imaginative projection onto an object that continually repels our desire for a truly immersive spectacle.’

The private view of the exhibition will be on Friday 13 March from 6-8:30pm in the Triangle Space gallery at Chelsea.

The symposium will take place on Saturday 14 March. The full programme and booking form can be found here.

Image by Ken Wilder

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