At Neutral Ground artist run gallery in Regina, SK, Montreal artist Pascal Dufaux’s live video sculpture THE COSMOS IN WHICH WE ARE has been on display since early february. Just before his exhibition opened Pascal visited the monthly improvised electroacoustic jam by the local dorkbot chapter. As a group dorkbot (core members Ernie Dulanowsky, Ryan Hill and ian Campbell) get together and play with a variety of digital and analog electronic instruments, creating hours long soundscapes; communing with the technology of creation. This inspired Pascal to commision Ernie Dulanowsky (also know as Pulsewidth) to create an improvised soundscape to accompany his video sculpture.

The sculpture  consists of a video camera mounted on a long arm which is in turn mounted on a rotating chrome disc. As the disc turns, the camera swings in a regular pattern past a second curved mirror and then out at the viewer and back toward a wall with twin video projections. Using a simple series of switching and delay, what is shown on the wall changes from simple images of the surrounding room and the people in it, to large fields of repeating imagery thanks to the feedback made by the camera recording the projections in near endless fields of view. The whole cycle takes roughly 20 minutes.

Ernie Dulanowsky

Ernie’s soundscapes were generated primarily through a contemporary modular synthesizer. This device, consisting of discrete sound generation and texturing modules in connected by a series of wires and manipulated by a series of knobs and switches. The system is self contained, intricate and analog (in the sense of electronics where signals are either generated by a series of electrical circuits with infinite variability) as opposed to digital (where computers mimic these signals with a very finite series of steps that is audible and noticable). The conflict between analog generation or reproduction of sound information and digital is of course a question that artists consistently find themselves questioning in the early 21st century. Whether it’s the differences between vinyl and CD or  3d digital cinema and 35mm film, we are always wondering what is the effect of one or the other technology on our experience of a piece.

With this concert (part of Neutral Ground’s New Music Concert Series) I found myself looking at the work from a standpoint I had not expected. Putting all the pieces together as I have just done, the work became a statement harkening back to previous era. I see new media (the application of high technology in a gallery setting such as this work) as a product of the 1970’s. The collision of conceptual art practices and more readily available high tech (the Sony Portapak, the home computer, the embryonic networks of telephone, teletype, videotex, arpanet) created a space for experimentation in new music, expanded cinema, video installation for contemporary artists. Artists like Canadian Norman White were pushing what could be done in a gallery with simple electronic tools and a reimagining of the galllery as a laboratory for understanding the impact of technology on people.

Pascal Dufaux’s THE COSMOS IN WHICH WE ARE has that same inquisitiveness bundled with a very simple procedural construction. The piece technically avoids the computer at all, the work is in essence a giant clock and provides the viewer with an instantaneous (virtually analog) interface between themselves and the piece. The foregrounding of time is a wonderfully present as we watch images that flicker with their own life (the delay is momentary and none repeating) and then die. The viewer exists in a strangely zen space that the art gallery’s white cube only accentuates.

Ernie Dulanowsky’s music for the piece exists in this space with curious promptings to our recent technological past thanks to a resurgence of interest in a particular application of “the analog”. In the past, the modular synthesizer was a large expensive piece of equipment that like early computers, only dedicated enthusiasts and professionals had access to. In the 1980’s, a flood of newer and cheaper digital devices flooded the market and by the 2000’s the computer had taken away most of the desire for these mythical beasts through software simulations of their internal sound making apparatuses. You could have an app for your ipad that could do (approximately) what that big box of wires and circuits could do. Sometime int he last 5 years or so, saw the emergence of the “eurorack”, and a simpler and cheaper class of modular synth ingredients that have regenerated interest in purely analog sound generation. These are the type of tools that Ernie has been applying in his work.

What I felt about the piece was that both artists were making a callback to this purity of form within the device, an interrogation of the electricity that is coursing through our environment, bringing it out into the open and showing it to us. As an audience we have to decide what it means. For me, it was an experience of pure sounds and a simple sculptural vision. As it became an unwitting “period piece”, I felt an excitement that would have accompanied a viewer of a 1970’s application of technology in the gallery. That this type of work does belong in the space, that it can communicate on deeply organic levels and that it can give all kinds of nuances to our reception of technology in the gallery.

– Ian Campbell

~ by cineflyer on February 25, 2013.

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