Transduction: Refilming in the SAT Dome
Hannah Buck and Charlotte Farrell
It’s as if you’re opening your eyes for the first time. A watery smudge of blue quickly becomes sky. Out of the blue-black-blur, trees come into focus against a horizon. There is a peripheral shiver of red-pink threads that suddenly swoop, dipping into the foreground of the image to overlay the sky. The string is thick, textured, and almost umbilical in appearance.
Wind seems to be blowing the string, making it reverberate up-and-down, up-and-down, up and down. This motion extends beyond the border of the frame, disappearing, only to swiftly reoccupy the foreground. Then it disappears again, luring you over the image’s edges. You feel as though you’re on a bumpy car ride. The jittering horizontality of this boldly coloured yarn contrasts with the still verticality of the dark tree branches behind it.
As the video loops, you realise that the background is moving, too. Not only is the wind blowing the trees’ leaves on the left of the screen, but also, the background moves as an independent field of vision. How is this possible? You sense that there are two layers of video in the one image: a dynamic palimpsest. It is as if you are peering into a reflection of the sky in a rippling body of water, whereas the string is actually moving right in front of your eyes. The string is so close and so textured that you could almost touch it, whereas the water-sky seems a distant mirage.
During a weeklong residency with the Sense Lab in October 2012, we filmed participants dyeing and crocheting yarn in the park next to the Society of Art and Technology (SAT), Montreal. This video footage was projected onto the interior walls of the SAT Dome, a large spherical projection space primarily used for immersive 3D technology. We then re-filmed this projection. From sickness to satiation, described above, is the result of our refilming experimentation. Here we will briefly consider how the resulting palimpsestic effect occurred by focussing on two main aspects of the video and the process of making it: 1) the layering of multiple camera movements and 2) the Dome architecture.
In order to view images that aren’t distorted in the Dome, a spherical digital camera system is used. The ‘‘ladybug’’ camera, which has multiple inbuilt cameras, shoots at 360 degrees. It films in a way that, when shown in the Dome, the screened material translates accurately in terms of space and scale. However, we filmed the dyeing and crocheting using a standard single lens video camera. The image subsequently became stretched and distorted when shown in the Dome.
The effect of viewing this initial projection of the footage was nauseating. Gusts of wind moving the string suddenly became harsh on the eyes compared to when we viewed the footage on our monitor. At such a large scale, hard and soft focus points created a lot of work for one’s gaze to jump between.
Our interest in refilming stems from our own art practice and the subsequent shift in colour, grain and texture that have occurred through our experiments. Despite our experiences of refilming, what we didn’t or couldn’t anticipate was how the Dome architecture would contribute to this process. What you find in the resulting footage, as described above, is a perspectival sandwich. The contrast between foreground and background become exaggerated. There is a shift in the mise en scene - a proximal chasm yawns between string and sky.
Within this contrast of foreground and background, curious qualities of motion, depth, colour and space emerge. Subtleties once latent become nuanced and active. For us, this suggests that from sickness to satiation is a transduction. In philosopher Gilbert Simondon’s terms, “transduction conserves and integrates the opposed aspects” (1992, 315). In other words, transduction is a creative force of difference, rather than a safeguard for dialectical oppositions. Transduction “conserves”; it “integrates”. Media theorist Adrian Mackenzie writes, “Transduction is a process whereby a disparity or a difference is topologically and temporally restructured across some interface” (2002, 25). This architectural-video spatio-temporally transduced the terrain of the preliminary footage; conserving, integrating, enlivening, and attending to its contrasts. This occurred via the intersection of projection, architecture and refilming. Transduction.
There are two key aspects that facilitated this transduction, the first being the layering of camera movements. By ‘‘camera movements’’ we are referring to the way in which filmed footage contains the camera’s motion in the process of shooting. This could include a moving shot, zoom, a shift in angle, and/or the shaking hand of the person filming. In this sense, the refilmed footage contains the presence of multiple cameras. Movement as captured through their individual lenses coalesce and contrast in the one scene. The movement of the second camera coupled with the movements of the first create different layers of perspective in the single image, complexifying the notion of a fixed point of view camera position. This diversification of perspective was exacerbated by the Dome’s curvaceousness.
The Dome Architecture
As noted above, the movement of the background (trees) feels like a separate layer of video to the foreground (string). Contributing to this effect was the Dome architecture. This is because of the variation of the camera’s proximity to the Dome surface when refilming. Because of its curved surface, parts of the projected video were closer to the lens than others. The curved walls created a new sense of space and depth. A ‘‘middle’’ was activated, taking our gaze into the midst of the video’s milieu. When watching, it appears as if you are looking through a strange magnifying glass that simultaneously magnifies the foreground, distances the background and picks up on scenic qualities latent in the field, enhancing its textures.
It is the coupling of these two aspects - camera movement and architecture - that brings from sickness to satiation’s transductive potential to life.
Crucially, this sort of filming process doesn’t put the Dome technology at the centre. Rather, it allows the architecture and its technologies to be activated in new ways, which was of key concern to participants throughout the SenseLab residency at the SAT. Experimentation in the Dome allowed us to explore the transductive intersection between architecture and layers of camera movement through the process of refilming. from sickness to satiation, as an artefact of these explorations, opens up possibilities for rethinking the dynamic relationship between video and space.
Simondon, Gilbert, (1992), Incorporations, New York, Zone Books.
Mackenzie, Adrian, (2002) Transductions: Bodies and Machines at Speed, London, Continuum.
Charlotte Farrell is currently completing her Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies through the University of New South Wales, Sydney. She has been a participant in Montreal practice-based research group, The SenseLab since 2011. Charlotte is a published poet, academic writer and artist currently residing in New York City. Her research interests span critical theory, philosophy, art and performance.
Hannah Buck is a New York based artist and film editor from Sydney, Australia where she studied Fine Arts and Media Arts at the University of Technology. Hannah has worked as an editor on award winning films, including An Oversimplification of Her Beauty and The Triptych. Her research interests span critical theory, philosophy and film theory that foreground themes of memory, nostalgia and weather.
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