On Another Occasion

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click here to watch demo footage

title: On Another Occasion
year: 2002
series: n/a
body of work: n/a
medium: One channel video installation.
size: variable
edition size: 4 / 1AP
collections: MOCA, Jane Holzer, Beth Rudin DeWoody
availability:  #4 of 4 / 1 AP

artist brief:

On Another Occasion is a single-channel digital video projection about 4 minutes long, featuring the image of a dead Fidel Castro which comes into focus slowly over the entire duration of the video.   The work began by doctoring an image of Fidel Castro giving a speech without his military hat on, acquired from a friend working for the Associated Press.  The doctored image was then imported into a digital editing program, and made into a single channel DVD projection to be projected or back projected at least 10′ wide up, depending on the size of the exhibition space.

On Another Occasion can be described as doing two things.  On the one hand, the work engages the viewer in a basic retinal experience  – watching a form slowly come into focus over a period of about four minutes.  The Focus occurs too slowly to see change in an immediate sense, but not too slow to see that something is indeed happening. The viewer may have a hard time discerning weather one’s eye’s are adjusting, or if the image is actually changing.  This reminds the viewer in a simple way of their sight faculties working.  At the point of recognizing that the unclear picture they see is changing, the viewers imagination will likely engage in what one thinks they might be seeing. The image is sometimes embryonic, sometimes landscape like, almost breathing from one indeterminate stage to the next.  Out of a blurry field, which is for the larger part of the video’s duration formless, emerges the picture of a dead man.  This brings us to the second function of the work.  What becomes clarified is a fiction: the picture of a dead Fidel Castro, created by digitally altering a recent AP photo.  The viewer is then confronted with the inevitable event of Castro’s death, which will no doubt be part of, and quite possibly precipitate, “historic” change (symbolically and otherwise).  This engages ones imagination in what series of events one thinks one might see upon this event yet to occur.  I don’t know anyone who hasn’t tried to imagine “what will happen when the old man dies”.  In summary, the work encourages the viewer to be aware of the function of their eyesight, while simultaneously instigating the function of their imagination. The viewer sees a specific transforming image that in the end refers to a non present physical reality, and thus the viewer is returned to the capacity of their imagination to once again try and comprehend what their eyes are seeing.

Background

On Another Occasion comes from pondering how I think particularly “loaded” images operate on me.  Since images have such a huge role in what we “think”, It was my intention to make obvious particularly distinct aspects of comprehending an image.  In the first moments of the video, one aspect tends toward the imagination working to conclude what one’s eyes see (Is this something I recognize?), and at the moment of visual clarity another aspect tends toward the imagination working at piecing together a relative conclusion (What does this picture mean? What are its consequences?).

The works influences lie in images that represent change, and arguably take part in precipitating change within particular epochs, such as Jacques Louis David’s “ Death of Marat”1.  The oddball factor in “On Another Occasion” is that this work does not wait for “history” to take place before it represents it. “On Another Occasion” was completed on 03/13/02.  The date demarcates the “end” of the production of the work, while also placing a conceptual “end” to the subject matter depicted.   A conceptual tension is encouraged by taking subject matter temporarily out of historical order since on the one hand, history is, for the purposes of representation, always imagined anyway, while on the other hand “real” events still occur (Fidel will die – things will change)2,3.  Other influences involve artworks that discourage the substitution of an idea for what one sees.  One may recall works like Chris Burden’s All the Submarines of America, an installation of 625 miniature submarines that represent the US Nuclear Submarine Fleet (at that time).   Upon seeing this installation, the viewer must experience a specific physical representation of an abstract quantity that refers to a non present physical reality, and thereby experience the impossibility of such a conceptual leap via ones senses.

footnotes:

1. In his book Farewell to an Idea : Episodes from a History of Modernism, T.J Clark describes Jacques Lois David’s “ Death of Marat” as “My candidate for the Beginning of modernism -” This painting bifurcates in that it depicts an event, while it also contains within it a painted text that is not a depiction of text as part of the overall depiction, but text that is there as actual text to be read.
2.  It may be useful here to consider the two lives this work may take on.  Before Castro’s death, the work represents Castro’s death.  After Castro’s death, the work will have already represented his death.
3. Castro’s image is preferred over other’s here since he is arguably the last “individual” political figure who embodies a particular bygone epoch – an epoch where one could see a direct tie between political ideology and state power/ the political will of a particular person, and implementation of “state” policy.

Kevin Hanley All rights Reserved.  Reproduction by permission of artist only.