The namesake of the collaborative

The namesake of the collaborative duo of Willy Le Maitre and Eric Rosenzveig – Screen – implies that which an image is projected upon, as well as that which veils or obscures. This duality was played upon again and again in a series of three, recent site-specific installations. Surveillance, voyeurism and issues surrounding the power of the gaze: all these are exposed as the triviality of what is being watched while concealing where the power lies in the watching. These installations are riddled with blurrings and contradictions which confront viewers’ voyeuristic intentions and their own position as “watched.”

All three of the works began with performative acts: projecting slides onto a snowy landscape, animating common trash into exotic little worlds, and taking cameras into the realm of surveillance – the consumer world. These notions of performance are not lost in the gallery space where the audience interacts with and completes the work. Each installation considered to varying degrees the notions of the inwardness and outwardness of the act of looking. By turning the technologies of looking and recording in on themselves, Screen questioned the value of what was being viewed and who was doing the viewing.

From dusk until dawn the front window of the gallery featured a video projection, Flight (1998). From a moving train images of people watching television were projected onto a snowy landscape and then videotaped. Behind the projection a point of blue light bled through, simulating the omnipresent glow of television sets in residential neighbourhoods. Passersby witnessed transparent, projected TV watchers whizzing past a familiar, anonymous, anywhere landscape. The movement of the images over the landscape and that of the traffic on the street contradicted and exposed the passivity of the act of watching and consuming. The act of viewing Flight was a self-conscious one set in the public realm. As the traffic moved past, the viewer became part of the spectacle, effectively displacing the power of the gaze and disrupting the act of viewing.

Inside, the first floor of the gallery was transformed into an atmosphere which reproduced the site of vision – the eye – in a work entitled The Ecstasy of Small Change (1998). Referencing a camera obscura, the space was at first dark, biomorphic and strange. Trash littered the floor and indefinable but somehow comforting sounds filled the space. A tower of televisions adapted to project video images rested in the middle of the space, shifting between objects of contemplation and creation. Projected onto the walls were acid-coloured images of disposable consumer products that twitched and vibrated into a blurry play of colour and form. These projections transformed everyday items into rarefied, alien objects. The space was a playground of sight and sound. Movement across the foamcovered floor set the stage for an otherwordly experience which positioned viewers directly in the centre of a performative space.

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