THE POWER OF THE IMAGE
A collaboration with Endam Nihan Tasbasi
One Small Step for Man
ART VIDEO INSTALLATION Syracuse, New York
The Power of
When light is emitted into space, it travels indefinitely until it refracts off of a surface. The majority of the light spectrum is invisible, so refraction and emission are not always perceptible - however they always exist. Human sight depends on light refraction, but the human brain can, in the right situation, sense the emission of light without seeing it. In other words, the brain can generate an image without the assistance of the eyes.
Society can often share a complex memory through one image, “providing a frame in which people can collectively appropriate images”. Frozen scenes in memory become repositories for mental association. The system of mental recollection our society employs mirrors that of an internet search engine.
This installation is an exploration of both the potential of non-visual images and collective memory. A collaboration between art video and architecture, a curated projection of Neil Armstrong's Moon Landing was sent into space while its audio accompaniment played out loud. Passerby were encouraged to identify the content of the installation based on their limited sensory perception. At regular intervals, the video projection was supplemented with fog to highlight the spatial qualities of the light beam - however this did not make the video legible. Because of the ubiquitous nature of the content, the image could be conveyed through collective memory rather than vision.
Mark Hansen describes the brain as analogous to a computer. When running code, it is most efficient to harness the computer’s processing power rather than using a program as a middleman. When viewing an image, there are similar methods of harnessing the brain which Hansen defines as “ergonomically constructed inputs” - that is, ways to make an image come to mind more easily and comfortably.
"Video, in short, captures the 'time-matter' from which images are
made. And yet, because video simply is the process of generating
images from electromagnetic fluxes, it frames the dynamic flux in
a static or at least pre-framed form." - Mark Hansen
For this project, we considered specific memories to be those inputs. We used an image which everyone has seen, and because it has already been seen, experienced, and accessed by every viewer, it comes to mind much more easily than a new or less collective image. If we as image-makers were able to similarly access the processing power of the viewer’s brain, we could bypass an entire step in the image communication process - the display and subsequent visual reception of an image in traditional space. In other words, we envision communication through carefully triggered mental imagery.
What is lacking in Hansen’s examples, though, is an ability to surpass the need for surface. Our goal in staging this installation is, through auditory and abstract visual triggers, to generate a very specific image in the mind of every viewer. Moreover, we intended to do this without a traditional surface. This final image is never shown at any point in the installation, but was clearly visible to every visitor during our showing.
While fog was necessary to illustrate the transmission of light to the naked eye, it was constantly moving, translucent, and inconsistent and therefore not a surface. There were long periods of time during the installation where we omitted fog emission - due to the other elements in the project, visitors still understood that projection was constant. And more importantly, our desired final image was still mentally present for all viewers. The benefit of the fog was that if often caught the projection in mid-air, highlighting the fact that the image was actually a constantly moving beam of light that people had to experience frozen in time to understand. The ability of the fog to temporarily catch and then release the image, effectively creating scenes of memory, made our project into an experience rather than a transmission. We only intended that the fog make the light visible.
The resultant image is the perception of an ephemeral cloud of light being released into space. This release is both functional and symbolic: first, by being projected into open space, the light did not bounce. Therefore any perceived image was only of light hitting fog particles. Second, by sending light into space, we acknowledge the absolute lack of surface present. In fact if we had placed a large enough mirror approximately 7800 light minutes away from the point of projection, we would have been able to watch the installation happening as we presented it later that week. The end result transcends location, surface, and boundary to become something truly atmospheric and ephemeral. And because the intended image is never shown but was successfully viewed, we proved that it is possible to communicate in imagery without surface. Every visitor, because of sound and mental stimulation, knew what we showing them without seeing it. A total optimization of Hansen’s “ergonomic” neural networks, the image we produce exists purely in public memory and the minds of every viewer but never on a surface.
Collaboration with Endam Nihan Tasbasi