The omnipresence of the moving image, would never have been possible without the forced and extensive use of the non human animal through countless millenia, which exploded during the last century, mainly through the main vectors of war and film.
Today, technology has advanced its positions even further, and extended its reach into the animal through genetic alteration. The human animal is in a movement of transforming all life, including itself, into still images set in motion.
An illusion of natural movement. An illusion of life.
The illusion of movement
Why is the moving image, as seen in film, tv and computergames, so mesmerizing? Is it because of the illusion of movement or the light that it often projects more or less directly at the viewer? Or is it the ability of fooling with our perception, making us dwell and almost completely disappear into those other worlds, fabricated or "real"?
Still images and especially moving images and the technology associated whith it, is closely related with war, as Paul Virilio so eloquently points out in his work.(1) To mention just a few examples: The similarity of the camera and the firearm and their common terminology. The need for light to lit up a scene in order to ”shoot” it - The black out of cities during air-raids and the searchlights directed at enemy ariplanes. The dark viewing space - the cinema and the bunker. The director and the directed. The fixed gaze at the horizon. Film dresses the eye in uniform, as Franz Kafka has supposedly said.(2) What is perceived through various moving-image technologies, are representations of the actual. At times very true to its actuality, but always illusions. Illusions of life. Of movement.
The lit up path of film is also typical to that of a guided tour. A technique much used in the sound works of Janet Cardiff. Listening in headphones, one hears a mix of site specific sounds and added effects and speech, but also the local sounds from outside of the headphones. Perhaps the most strong narrative element being her own voice, guiding the listener in a very trustful way.
In the book Animal Capital by Nicole Shukin, the author speaks of (early) cinema and its close resemblance to guided tours at the Chicago stockyards. (A place which was at that time (1865-1971), possibly the largest centralized meat industry complex in the world, employing around 40 000 people in 1921).(7)
In the late 1800's, guided tours at this gigantic complex were extremely popular, with over one million visitiors in 1893.
Not only did the Chicago Stockyards with its assembly line inspire Henry Ford in his massproduction of cars, Shukin also argues that slaughterhouse tours helped to layout the very form for cinema. (8) As the guided tour proceeds, live animals are made into products, following a progressive breakdown, scene after scene.
An interesting point is that the tour route parallels the one way path of the animals, which is dictated by the logic of the moving line, because touring it in the opposite direction "would be like watching a film backwards; it would mean reconstituting the animal from the starting point of the carcass, and that would be at least equally disturbing." (9)
Original installation at Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden
Space used: 10x3x3m
The space is constructed so that the visitor has to walk through the installation, crossing small "rooms" with walls made of pallets, on the way. Each room is lit up as the visitor enters and darkened as the visitor leaves. Thus discovering the work in a linear way, as in watching a film where each frame (room) is lit up while viewed.
Some of the items found in these rooms are:
- A Zoetrope. Showing a limping elephant walk
- A film clip of kids at an amusement park, travelling on rotating objects and in skids.
- A photograph of a pile of bison skulls
- A coin (US) depicting on one side a bison, the other a native american
- A film sequence taken by Thomas Edison of native americans dancing "the buffalo dance".
- A film sequence of Edison depicting a dying elephant - the very first recording made with gelatin film, showing the very first electrocution by man.
- A film clip of a whale carcass, as it is blown into pieces by man made explosives
- A book spread where Albert Speer, Hitlers "architect general", explains his most powerful architectural piece ever - The Cathedral of Light
- Audio quotes hearable in some rooms
- Old posters