Mark Ashbery on 30 Mar 2001 01:03:02 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Jordan Crandall/Larry Rinder/Part1

Jordan Crandall and Lawrence Rinder:
Transcript of presentation at The Kitchen, New York
20 January 2001

Part 1

LR:  We're going to divide the program this evening into two parts.  During 
the first segment, we're going to show a tape that is a compilation of all 
of the tracks from Jordan's serial work Drive.  Jordan will tell you some of 
the technical facts and some of the themes that he was engaging.  After a 
break for dinner, we'll view his newest work Heatseeking, which will be 
shown in its entirety in "BitStreams" at the Whitney Museum, opening on 
March 22.

JC:  I'll just begin with a brief overview on Drive.  Drive is a project 
that I've worked on from 1998-2000.  It's a seven-part series of videos 
(each part is referred to as a "track") that combines cinematic technology 
-- mostly 16mm film -- with military-derived tracking, targeting, and 
identifying systems.  It combines formats of old and new, network and 
analogue, military and civilian, in order to move toward a post-cinematic 
language -- and one that has very particular historical and political 
resonances.  All of the footage that you see in Drive is original footage, 
with the exception of some parts of Track 6, which contains 
military-commercial footage, some derived from smart bombs.  I approach the 
making of these works much like a filmmaker.
[Tape begins.]  Track 1 deals with movement -- with individual, isolated 
bodily movements and urban movements.  It is structured according to 
coordinations -- coordinations between various kinds of rates, speeds, 
formats.  It relays between the rhythms of the body and the rhythms of the 
city.  It has many historical references, such as early experiments in 
sequential photography -- the idea of breaking down movement into its 
constituent parts in order to analyze those movements, very often as part of 
technologies of accounting. Thinking about, for example, Marey, who was a 
physiologist -- behind much of that sequential photography was measuring 
devices.  Behind all of that photography is the fact of measurement of 
different rates of movement -- of looking at ways of harnessing that 
movement to production demands.  This kind of research was funded in part by 
the military.
The green overlays that you see are the result of running the footage 
through a motion tracking system.  I worked with the developer of this 
software to gear it for this purpose.  It was originally developed for the 
military for use in tracking such things as missiles.   I instead used it 
for this filmmaking purpose.  It is very seamlessly integrated into the film 
-- it just sort of intertwines itself, often in very subtle ways. Sometimes 
you don't even notice that it's there.  But it marks an enormous change in 
how the image is constituted.  There is a mechanism of analysis behind it.  
It is sweeping through, in a sense, absorbing information.  You can see the 
processing rhythms, in conjunction with the film rhythms.  The information 
is sorted in a database, so there is a database structure behind it.  The 
machine is registering movement, compiling information about movement.  We 
will see in Track 2 how this database becomes a kind of speech, the speech 
of the machine.

LR:  You mentioned in an article recently that one of the implications of 
this kind of tracking technology was to be predictive.  How does that 
function here?  Are we seeing that happening [in this sequence]?

JC:  I'm glad you mentioned that because tracking is a type of seeing that 
is very much oriented toward predicting.  In the case of military 
technology, it is wanting to see what is happening in order to predict what 
will happen -- what is moving, how it is moving, and how that movement can 
be controlled or intercepted.  It is interesting to think about what 
tracking is because it is a process and also part of a new form of 
signification.  It is a process of seeing, quantifying, and articulating. 
You could see it as part of a new semiotics.   I'm interested in this in 
conjunction with film semiotics.
        So tracking is scanning, absorbing information, trying to develop 
some kind of prediction, in order to intercept or control or modify the 
object.  It is oriented toward the proactive.  You see it as work in new 
policing strategies, which are very much oriented toward intercepting things 
before they occur -- in other words to predict a crime before it will 
happen.  It often involves the redlining of areas or the locating of 
dangerous circumstances or dangerous individuals who, under certain 
circumstances, may be inclined toward criminal behavior.  A politics of 
profiling is very important right now, and to see that developing is very 
        I want to probe into these qualities of tracking and the peculiar 
warpage of time that results from it.  It is evoking something that will 
happen, or could happen, or should happen, and almost carrying that future 
with it as part of its own body.  That involves a kind of shrinkage or 
mutation.  It is one important factor that "causes" material change.

LR:  We're looking at Track 2 now, which is very close to Track 1, but here 
the database is made overt.  You said it was an invented database -- are you 
symbolizing the idea of a database?  Is there a relationship between those 
numbers and what is actually happening?

JC:  There is a relationship, but it's not scientific.  It is quantifying 
processing speeds, movement rates -- different temporal streams that run 
through the film.  But it's done in a poetic way.  It functions in terms of 
illustrating those streams, referring to a kind of statistical inclination 
-- a statisticalization that is about absorbing data and predicting a 
certain orientation.  It's also about the different formats of identity that 
may arise.  It's also about trying to bring out the idea of the database as 
an organizing principle.  It does influence how this track is organized.  
What is really interesting to think about in all this is how the database 
operates as a new organizational paradigm for us.  In the context of 
cinematic history,  what interests me is how the database paradigm is 
displacing or augmenting the narrative paradigm.  Lev Manovich has written 
extensively on this.   The database is very much part of the way we see 
things.  Its logics are everywhere.  It has becoming a way in which the 
public is seen, heard, and made visible.  It's where buying habits and all 
kinds of behaviors, down to the tiniest flickers of desire, are becoming 
measurable.  It is a format through which we are "seen" almost as a calculus 
of manageable functions.

LR:  Now we're viewing Track 3 --

JC:  Those green images are made with a night vision camera made by ITT, the 
company that was the largest supplier of night vision technology to the US 
military since the Vietnam War.  It allows you to film in complete darkness. 
It's interesting because night vision has now become a feature on 
consumer-grade video cameras.  It's not as good as the military stuff of 
course, but it's an interesting example of the flow from military systems to 
consumer systems.  The military way of seeing starts to filter into the way 
we're seeing.  It's very much about an organization of a perceptual field, a 
particular kind of perspectivization.

LR:  I wanted to ask you about the gesture that the actress is making [in 
Track 3] -- this repeated tapping of her breastbone as she is trying to get 
someone on the phone.

JC:  She's tapping a number or sequence, tapping a rhythm on and of the 
body, caught in a kind of circuit, a loop, and very much oriented within a 
technological system.  There is a particular interest I have in the fitting 
of the body inside technology, which I talk about in terms of a "vehicle." 
It's the fitting of the body within an apparatus of travel, of orientation, 
of mobilization, of  rhythmicization.  Is that a word?

LR:  Rhythmicity.

JC:   Yes.  Rhythmicity.  The images I use are all technological metaphors, 
in order to speak about technology in ways that we are familiar with.  The 
phone, car, a door knob -- simple things.  When you see a telephone system 
or a car, you can see the fitting or orienting of the body, a holding of the 
body, in order to institute a linkup or a transport from one place to 
another.  This holding of the body, this orienting of the body and its 
senses, has an attendant dimension of pleasure.  A pleasure of fitting into, 
a pleasure of being held by.  Of being controlled by.  It's a particular 
kind of molding.  And so at the same time that it is a very invasive and 
control-oriented contouring, it's also a very seductive one.  From our point 
of view we can take a certain pleasure of the fit.  In this particular 
track, the actress has very specific repetitive obsessions, as we see with 
the phone.  There is a compulsion to encode, to internalize, a certain 
pattern.  To in/habit it a particular way.   I'm interested in that because 
it is a way of thinking about how technological systems, visual systems, are 
about the instillation of certain habits, routinizations, formats of 
behavior -- things in which we "fit in."  Again, often in terms of a kind of 
vehicle, a vehicular device.
        In this track, I evoke early Hollywood cinematic tropes, shooting 
with black and white 16mm film.  I mix that with night vision videography, 
with satellite-derived imagery, and footage derived from wireless, hidden 
pinhole cameras that the actors wear on their bodies.  In those scenes, the 
camera crew completely disappears.  I also use this invented targeting 
system -- through computer animations -- which starts to become part of the 
way the actress sees.  It becomes imposed on her vision.  You see it here 
with the knob on the drawer and the door handle, where that kind of 
militarization seeps into how and what she sees, as well as behaves.

LR:  You also speak about how particular angles, specifically the angle from 
above, evokes the military view, a kind of vertical gaze.

JC:  Yes.  We are at a point now when we have so many possibilities of 
filmic languages, because we have so many different visual systems.  It is 
interesting to experiment with new orientations, orientations that can be 
politicized.  There is the axis of the aerial view, which can be generally 
identified as a military axis, but not necessarily specifically so any more. 
  But it is a filmic orientation that can be seen in contrast to the 
cinematic terrestrial orientation.  I've done some writing on the 
development of these two orientations -- of how cinematic languages 
developed alongside military languages.  It is interesting to see how the 
different orientations derived and how they sort of intercept each other.  
They intertwine.  There is also the surveillance angle, a lateral angle 
coming down, which we recognize from surveillance camera monitors.  There 
are angles that are about how a computer might see us.  Not just as a 
webcam, although a webcam has its own particular angles as well, but in 
terms of how are seen by a technological system, through the ports of our 
own desktops.  On the network, the image-system sees us back.  There are 
also new angles derived from these little cameras, these little pinhole 
cameras, which transmit images wirelessly to a base station.  They allow you 
to place them in many secret locations.  You have the possibility of these 
very intimate and highly mobile views.  These are all a part of emerging 
film languages.

LR:  If you look at Drive and at Heatseeking, there are such an incredible 
variety of film styles it is seems to be a kind of encyclopedic rehearsal of 
various modes of both avant-garde and full-on Hollywood cinema moments.  I 
wonder if you could talk about some of the specific references that you are 
drawing from.  When I look at these, I see everything from Stan Brackhage to 
Carl Dreyer to Maya Deren, and so forth.

JC:  Yes -- there's also live-action TV like "Cops," and MTV aesthetics, 
along with surrealist work like Cocteau.  The little girl in Track 4 comes 
right out of "Blood of a Poet."  There's quite a bit in Drive.  But with 
Heatseeking, I'm actually not doing so much referencing.  I think I've 
started to internalize it more.

LR:  Something that is really important to these works, which is not 
immediately apparent from looking at them [on this single screen], are the 
disruptions of the standard cinematic form, as evidenced here at The 
Kitchen, with the two projections of Track 4 running on two screens opposite 
each other.  Can you talk about other instances of this in the works that we 
have seen in Drive so far?

JC:  When I first showed Track 1 of Drive at Sandra Gering Gallery in 1998, 
I experimented with video headsets.  You wear them and the project the image 
out about 10-20 feet in front of you.  The image hovers in front of you and 
moves with you.  The image is semi-transparent so you can see through it. 
It's superimposed on the space in front of you.  It was very interesting for
me to think of Drive shown that way because, particularly Tracks 1 and 2, it 
is so much about relationships between physical and representational 
movements, and technological movements.  It enabled me to draw an 
investigation of a space of representation that specifically involved 
viewer's movements.  That was just after I had renounced ever using a 
computer mouse in an exhibition again.  I found that work could be more 
"interactive" without it.  This use of the video headset was the part of my 
ongoing interest in looking at mobile imaging systems.
        When I first presented Heatseeking at inSITE in San Diego, I used a 
handheld device, a PDA.  The videos were streamed to it wirelessly, using a 
software developed by Packet Video.  During the time I was working on this 
project, I was talking with Qualcomm about developing a new kind of mobile 
device.  I was interested in developing the shape of the device, thinking 
about how it would fit in the hand.  I did not end up working with them on 
this (and our relationship to the corporate world is another discussion).   
It is interesting to think about how these new kinds of images are coming 
off from the mainframe and snuggling up to us, become personalized and 
moving with us, helping to change the way we see and behave, and how they 
are contoured against the body in form.  It is interesting to see these 
devices as part of a way of augmenting vision, of augmenting perception and 
our sense of place, as well as the contours of the body.  We know that this 
is happening a lot today with mobile communications -- you can see it with 
cell phones, for example, in the context of the history of the telephone and 
how that has changed our sense of space.  How it has helped to generate new 
kinds of social worlds, new ways of seeing, of placing ourselves, of holding 
Working with the miniature, portable device is really a challenge.  It is a 
different way of thinking about images and how we relate to them.  It is a 
different dynamic of attention.  You're multitasking, flipping between 
scales and formats.  It's difficult to hold attention when you're engaged in 
so many different types of tasks.  It is difficult to compete in this space. 
  The logic is more that of advertising, of techniques fractured into small 
frames of time.  As artists, can we compete with the world of advertising?  
Should we?  We can choose not to compete at all.  We can make a demand on 
the viewer.  In any case, it is a time now when this large-scale cinematic 
projection format has, in a certain way, run its course, in a culture moving 
toward miniaturization, mobility, and dispersals of access.

LR:  Can you address specifically your use of the dual projection screens in 
Track 4, as installed here at The Kitchen, and some of the themes of that 

JC:  That piece was shot with an old hand-cranked camera, a surveillance 
camera, and a wireless pinhole camera worn on the actor's body.  It is based 
on a famous case of Freud's called "A Child is Being Beaten," especially as 
used by Jean-Francois Lyotard in developing his concept of the "matrix." 
Rosalind Krauss has beautifully described this matrix figure as Lyotard saw 
Track 4 of Drive is a way for me to think about this matrix figure.  The 
matrix is a formalization of a repetition pattern. It is the cycling of a 
beat-system that underlies how we behave, how we hold ourselves, how we see. 
  In extreme cases, it can form the basis of a psychic or psychosexual 
compulsion.  For Lyotard, the matrix is a form that cements together an 
occurrence that holds a fascination for us -- a situation in which we become 
"caught," a situation into which we "fit" with a certain level of comfort.  
It is a network where roles are continually exchanged -- where, for example, 
observation flips into participation, seeing flips into being seen, beating 
turns into being beaten.  Opposites are exchanged.   With the rise of new 
visual systems, I wanted to think about that in relationship to the beat of 
changing visual modes, and the various ways in which one is drawn into or 
placed within them.  The beat of the spank -- which is also very much a 
technological beat, mixed together with it -- marks the contact of hand 
against skin but also the flipping of roles and visual systems.  There are 
pulses that start to become apparent, such as the pulse of the flickering 
light, which is caused by the hand that cranks the camera, the rhythm of the 
cranking hand within that (now antiquated) technical system.  The use of the 
dual synchronized projections is to allow the precise flipping of roles and 
positions across the screens, and to draw the viewer into the space of the 
scene, with a certain level of discomfort perhaps.
As I develop further in Heatseeking, the actors start to become conscious of 
the visual systems -- they start to become conscious of the cameras.  The 
actress in Track 4 looks up at the surveillance camera directly at several 
points, the actor looks at the film camera, the little girl has a certain 
awareness of being observed. There are all these degrees of 
self-consciousness.  There are all these degrees of awareness of the devices 
and their orientations.  And there are all these levels of comfort and 
displeasure.  It is visible in the details such as the rhythm of the shift 
of the eyes.  This is something that I am sure we will want to talk more 
about tonight.  With the rise of these systems, which are often seen as very 
invasive, we see also new corresponding pleasures, new vectors of ... 

LR:  That's a good place to break, because now we have the vector of ... 

[break for dinner]

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