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Proposal: Memory's Hand


When Henry Fox Talbot presented his first paper on photography to the British Academy in 1839, he stressed the point that his invention eliminated the necessity of an artist's hand in the making of images. Nature itself, he argued, would author the image by virtue of the camera's optics and chemistry. Since then, over the past

150 years, photography has exponentially evolved from its rudimentary stages through cinema, television, video, computer digitalization to virtual reality systems. The artist's hand, however, never really exited the scene; and its relationship to the photograph's surface has persistently altered the function as well as meaning of photographs in a high variety of ways and means.


Memory's Hand intends to extend this inter-relationship between photographic and electronically derived images with the intervention of the artist's hand.


STRUCTURE: The installation consists of five inter-related stages.


#1) Video Format:


A matrix of three horizontally arranged video screens, 21" square each, 3" apart, fed by 3 overhead projectors conveying 3 different video cassettes. Each Video composition is 7 minutes Iong in color, on repeating loops. Each of the 3 compositions is accompanied by its own separate sound track. The 3 video screens are located on the gallery's north wall, 7" from the gallery floor to mid screen.


#2) Off-screen Photographic Set:


A grid of 30 photographs, 7" x 7" each, arranged 3 vertically and 10 horizontally on the gallery's east wall. With a 70mm still camera, the photographs are taken directly off-screen from the three video cassettes,10 photographs from each video composition. The "extracted" atemporal images culled from the temporal flow of the video images are selected to reflect the rhythmic structure of the three compositions.


#3) Hand Altered Photographic Set:


Employing a second identical set of the above (#2) grid of 30 7" x 7" off screen photographs as ground, or surface, 30 templatic drawings are overlaid. The drawing materials are oil and acrylic pigments, ink, and emulsions. The templatic sources of the overlaid images are taken from those portions of the video compositions not included in the off screen photographs. This hand altered grid is positioned adjacent to the unaltered (#2) grid on the gallery's east wall.


#4) Digitalized Alteration of Hand Altered Photographic set:


Employing the grid (#3) of the 30 hand-altered photographs as raw material, or model, digitally processed (via a scanning system) photographs will be made of each, arranged in an identical grid structure positioned on the gallery's west wall.


#5) Hand Altered Version of Digitally Altered Photographic Set:


Employing the grid (#4) of 30 digitally processed photographs of the hand altered photographs extracted from the 3 video compositions as ground, or surface, a second round of templatic drawings (hand-altered signatory marks with oil and acrylic pigments, ink, and emulsions) is overlaid and arranged in an identical grid adjacent to the above grid (*4) on the gallery's west wall.


The Five parts of Memory's Hand are intended to exist and unfold within both relational tension and inseparable harmony. Its rationale is embedded in a dialectical progression, or circuit, that commences with a real-time medium and concludes with a hand-altered computer generated image-set of the setting initially conveyed in real time. The three interim parts represent mutations wherein repeated alterations of the unfolding system of grids implies the whole by way of providing dissimilar variations functioning as respective layers.


Each of the three 7 min. video compositions consist of 10 movements, or passages. The length of each movement is 42 seconds. The internal transitions within each movement vary in length and are characterized by overlapping shifts. Transitions separating the 10 movements are sharp jump-cuts, proceeded by a white flash, one-second in length.


The 3 independent sound tracks consist of voice-over excerpted quotes from Bergson, Joyce, Descartes, Vico and others on memory, duration, cyclicity, space, chaos and dreams. At any given juncture in the 7 minute repeating cycle, one of the sound tracks will dominate, while the other two will be subdued. Such that, in the first cycle the sound track of the left screen will dominate, in the second cycle the middle screen will dominate, in the third cycle the right screen will dominate. This cycle will repeat itself every 21 min.


The 4 grid panels have identical overall dimensions: 21" high by 70" long. They are mounted on 1/4" aluminum sheets, and, supported by a rectangular armature float 1" from the wall.


CONTENT: Memory's Hand utilizes a diverse spectrum of images drawn from various and devious sources--commercial & cable TV, classic films, cartoons, computer graphics, as well as directly taped passages of landscape, cityscape, still-life, tableaux portraits, and interior views of my studio and living quarters. Its intention is to compose a blend of image sequences which, a fortiori, invoke the experience of dreaming--or of the undercurrent recall of dream fragments. Memory's Hand is emphatically not about reconstructing the plot and details of any specific dream, instead it elucidates that class of phenomena common to all and everyone's dreams; i.e., the peculiar misalliance between the mutant intricacies of private or personal significance and the governing templates of the collective unconscious.


More specifically, Memory's Hand endeavors to recreate those sensations typical of the hypnagogic state, that intermediate passage between either wakefulness and dropping off to sleep, or between sleep and wakefulness prior to rising. These passages are generally characterized by an admixture of scattershot memories, recent and anticipated events, and vivid hallucinations. More often than not, hypnagogic states are associated within a curious, eerily pleasant idyll related to the incipient onset of sleep or partial awakening. However, though less often, they can also induce harrowing apprehensions, anxious recoil and pandemonium. Unlike fully fledged dreams, hypnagogic states are to a considerable extent under the apparent direction of one's will, possess an overwhelming sense of reality, and appear coherent within their own terms. The objective of Memory's Hand is to convey the preconscious mosaic of images emergent under such conditions.


PREMISES & INTENTIONS  The basic premise underpinning the installation's format is that the fluency of time, the urgency and poignancy of duration, can be embodied (however fleetingly) in a multi-axial structure, combining real-time unfolding with "frozen" atemporal extractions. By interpolating each proceeding stage, or part, with alterations that dialectically oscillate between the electronic, the emulsion based, the hand-altered, the computer-digitalized, and the hand-altered redux--Memory's Hand implies that memory per se entails distortions, reinterpretations, ideological revisioning and mercurial palimpsests.


A quasi-narrative stream of imagery characterizes each of the 3 video compositions. The intent is to merge explicitly external ("objective") view's with interior ("subjective") ones. By alternating passages of clear, distinctly contoured, vivid observations with contrasting ambiguous phantom-like interjections, the 3 video compositions are so devised as to address and entreat the fluid distinction between consensually validated memories and the private domain of dreams. The manifold, yet complimentary, relational patterns among collectively affirmed memories juxtaposed to images drawn from the jumbled, uncanny, unpredictable kleptocracy of dream states is the fecund terrain of intertextual montage; out of which practically infinite combinatorial sets become the sum and substance of MEMORY'S HAND.




Frank Gillette


1975 / NYC

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