... for one of your smiles

1999

2- projector installation.


- click image for Quick Time Movie (3.9Mb)

Technical Description

A large space is required which enables the images to be at least 3 metres by 4 metres in scale. For the installation at DJCAD walls were built exactly the width of the projection so as to enclose the viewer but while preferable, this is not essential

Format Betacam SP

Equipment Requirements
2 x U-matic VCRs
2 x high quality projectors
2 x hi-fi sound systems including 4 speakers
necessary cables

 

The installation consists of two large video projected images on opposite end walls of the space. One image is a close-up of a woman's mouth the other a man's mouth. Over a 58 minute period each mouth occasionally breaks into a smile. All the information relating to the video image's clour, brightness, movement etc was stored in a computer as pixel maps and manipulated by After Effects. The information was manipulated by redistributing the pixels into new maps, thus producing altered images. The slow transformation of te images is the result of the re-mapping of the pixels which, because they do not 'belong' to any particular moment of the image can be shifted from time to time frame. Each frame becomes past, present, and future. The relationship and timing of the smiles on/between the man and the woman adds another dimension to the work during its duration, suggesting direct interaction and reaction between the two protagonists. As the work is front-projected the audience also cast shadows on the projections, interrupting the light beams.

The soundtrack by David Cunningham is specially modified to enhance the apparent 'normal-ness' of the passage of time whilst suggesting some sort of modification/intervention in the process.

"Ironically, the best of all that Dundee currently has to offer is here, in Partridge's video installation: ...for one of your smiles, with sound by David Cunningham. Electroni scanning and those magic pixels make his/hers slow motion smiles continuously....."

CLARE HENRY's Review, The Herald,
March 22nd 1999

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...for one of your smiles - click image for Quick Time Movie (6.9Mb)

- click image for Quick Time Movie (8.1Mb)

Below
Extracts from the Catalogue "Stephen Partridge", John Calcutt's Essay
"Ghost in the Machine", accompanying the exhibition at the Cooper Gallery DJCAD and CentreSpace DCA 1999

"We are desiring machines whose every gesture is wired-in to those integrated circuits of language, vision and desire. Thus a smile is both a statement in body language and a remote control interface with another desiring machine. But smiles, like gifts, often conceal a darker intent - they imply a subtle aggression, an unspoken demand that they be returned. They put the recipient in a position of obligation. There is desire in the language of a smile: there is also power. With this in mind it is apparent how ...for one of your smiles is aligned with Partridge's recurrent concerns. Two images, each projected onto facing walls, two images of mouths (one male, the other female) slowly breaking into smiles against David Cunningham's droning soundtrack. The resonance of the mouth as an erotic site needs no explanation (a primary inlet for the desiring machine), but its ambiguous, ambivalent relation to the interiority and exteriority of the body should not be overlooked (both inlet and outlet for the desiring machine, it refuses the finality of either/or distinctions), nor its fundamental relation to speech - often thought of as so material that profane or obscene speech could actually contaminate the mouth ("now wash your mouth out ...").

The seductive smiling images of ...for one of your smiles share these ambiguities. Analyse them in enough detail and, like Smithson's rocks and words, they disintegrate into atomic complexity. The technology which allows these images to be slowed down is based upon pixellation, the mapping and re-mapping of those bits of electronic information concerning the abstract values of hue and illumination. And the pixels themselves are promiscuous; they carry no commitment or responsibility to the image they are called on to produce. By reorganising the bit-map, pixels can be made to shift willingly and effortlessly from one frame base to another, from one moment in the image-generation process to another. Beneath the smooth flow of the mounting smiles lie the pixels' own busy micro-systems of repetition and combination, of multi-directional time, "a terrain of particles each containing its own void."

 

 

Interpretation by John Calcutt

One of the fascinating aspects of video is that it is hard to categorise. It shares many technical features with television, but it refuses to fit in to television's rigid formats and styles (the chat show, the sit-com, the soap, the documentary, etc.). It is related to film, but it involves different materials (magnetic tape rather than celluloid film), different image-capturing processes (electronic scanning, rather than exposure to light), different editing techniques (electronic on-screen manipulation of information, rather than 'hands on', physical cutting of the film), and different viewing conditions (electronic scanning of a screen with the viewer facing the television, rather than the projection of light in a darkened auditorium with the viewer's back to the projector). It is connected to art, but it isn't an object - like a painting or a sculpture - which can easily be bought and permanently displayed. It is also often noisy and, unlike conventional works of art, it usually has a specific duration; its 'running time'. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that artists like Partridge should want to explore as many of video's many paths as possible. ... for one of your smiles offers a prime example of a response to such an open field: the video installation.

In paying particular attention to the physical components of Easy Piece (1974/1996) - its plinth, its monitor, its precise placement within the gallery space - Partridge demonstrates the importance of the relationship between the sculptural aspect of the work, its exact location, and the physical presence of the viewer. In later works, such as 8x8x8 (1976) and Display-Displaced (1981), he develops the complexities of these relationships by his use of several monitors. ... for one of your smiles takes this even further.

The first thing we might notice is that Partridge has dispensed with monitors altogether, taking advantage of more recent technical innovations to project his images directly on to two facing gallery walls. Whilst this may remind us of film, video, as we have seen, differs significantly from film (more on this in a moment). Our relationship to this work is also very different from our relationship to works screened on a monitor. Here, we can walk between the two projected images, and we have to involve our bodies more directly in the experience of the work, turning our heads from one image to the other, or even turning our whole bodies 180 degrees. The space between the images (the space which we occupy) now becomes part of the work, and this space is also 'filled' in a different way by David Cunningham's soundtrack. Rather than simply looking at something, ... for one of your smiles invites us to locate ourselves at the centre of an experience which involves space, images and sound.

As for the images themselves, these lips which slowly break into smiles are not simply mesmerising; they also provide yet another demonstration of Partridge's investigation of video's special language. The techniques which video uses to produce slow-motion effects are very different from those of film. Whereas film captures a single fragment of motion on each of its separate frames, video's process of electronic scanning is flowing and continuous. This means that the 'units' of information which film and video work with when they want to manipulate the illusion of speed and movement are different (video does not have film's discrete frames). Because the 'units' are different, the techniques of manipulation and the resulting optical effects are also different.

To achieve the slow-motion effect in ... for one of your smiles Partridge exploits recent computer technology. All the information relating to the video image's colour, brightness, movement, etc. is stored digitally by the computer in the form of pixels which are organised as maps. In this form, the information can be manipulated by redistributing the pixels into new maps, thus producing altered images. The slow transformation of the images in ... for one of your smiles is the result of Partridge's re-mapping of the pixels which, because they do not 'belong' to any particular moment of the image can be shifted from time frame to time frame, (a pixel is simply an anonymous bit of digitalised information about luminosity and hue). Thus we see yet another manifestation of Partridge's recurrent interest in the play of time.

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above original sketch for the installation

© 1999 Stephen Partridge

© 1999 John Calcutt

 


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