Second Sight/Split Seconds
Second Sight/Split Second brings together many of my various interests in art, science and the wonders of nature. Ever since my stint producing science videos at MIT with Walter Lewin I became amazed by Doc Edgerton’s high-speed photographs and films. For this project I had a rare opportunity to use one of the labs high speed cameras for this installation.
In Split Second I am interested in exploring basic human gestures to interrogate what we think we understand of them and to subvert their meanings. In the project I am interested in challenging notions and perceptions of time and the relationship and tension between stillness and motion. I filmed re-enactments of quotidian actions or gestures for a length of .5 to 2 .0 seconds and recorded at 2000 fps. When transferred to standard video they play back over the course of 60 to 120 seconds transforming them into something that is at once seductive and repulsive. I present the work as a series on 14” flat screens, mimicking the traditional size and proportions of classical photography exhibition.
Epic Measures: Close Encounters of Another Kind
Epic Measures was an exhibition at Watkins’s College of Art and Design in Nashville, TN in 2009 where I unravel the episodic film that I had recently finished Balkan Rhapsodies: 78 Measures of War (2008), to interrogate it’s construction as a documentary and to mine potential alternate readings, ways of experiencing, and interacting with its physical substance. A simple spatialization of the seventy-eight video episodes did not particularly interest me conceptually, nor did it seem logistically practical. I became much more interested in exploring and contextualizing the actual objects within the film that, for me, carry major significance and represent the fundamental armature that drives Balkan Rhapsodies. By privileging the objects and physicalizing the experience I liked the idea that one could potentially see, touch and linger with the actual artifacts in the film, and perhaps build stronger connections and resonate relationships to the film through the tactility and the contemplative space of the gallery.
The core structural image/object of Balkan Rhapsodies: 78 Measures of War certainly has to be the postcard featured in the film that was mailed to me from Belgrade by a friend while I was hard at work on the project in 2000, reading on the face of the card: Fuck the Coca, Fuck the Pizza, All We Need is Slivovitza (see below). My friend wrote a message on the reverse side explaining that she had chosen to send this to me as she needed to send it to someone who could “understand the point” and I assume who could appreciate its cultural as well as its political provocation. This postcard thus functions within the film on many levels as an outcry, as a joke, and as a tool for investigating a complex set of questions that the film (and I) are wrestling with throughout its seventy-eight episodes. What does this postcard actually signify? What is Slivovitza? Who and What is Serbia and Kosovo? And how do American people relate?
2009 | 45 minutes | High Definition Video
Silent Soliloquies is a high definition video that consists of two sections. The first part contains a series of thirteen long close-ups of people looking deeply into the lens of the camera. Each take endures for 2-minutes in length as the subjects negotiate their relationship to the camera and attempt to mask themselves from the gaze of the apparatus. The title of the piece is an homage to the great Hungarian film theorist Béla Baláz who coined the term “Silent Soliloquies” in his book Theory of Film (1949). He writes “The language of the face cannot be suppressed or controlled. However disciplined and practisedly hypocritical a face may be in the enlarging close-up we see even that it is concealing something, that it is looking a lie… It is much easier to lie in words than with the face and the film has proven it beyond a doubt.” Thus, it is the language and stories that the face harbors is my area of interest in Silent Soliloquies. Much as Andy Warhol asked his guest to stand in for a screen test at the Factory, I asked people (some known and others strangers) to do the same with the one additional element that I would show them and discuss with them an object prior to shooting. These objects were the artifacts featured in Balkan Rhapsodies. I also gave each screen model a letter written by the original owner of the object to read before sitting in front of the camera. Rather than having the viewer read the testimonials on camera I chose for them to not speak at all and to simply negotiate their relationship between them, the object/text and the camera lens. I would let their faces embody the heavy content of the testimonies for as long as I felt needed to roll the camera, until i noticed some synthesis between their being and character behind the object/text appeared to me.
On a pedestal sits a collection of dramatically lit bottles of various shapes and sizes filled with fluids of yellow, brown and clear tonalities. Upon the pedestal is a lone jigger containing a single measure of liquid. The liquid in the bottles and the shot glass is of course “Slivovitza”. The title of the piece, Sweet Refrain, playfully riffs off the multiple meanings of the words. The sweet refers to the irony of the plum origins of Serbia’s national drink (and to a great extent most of the former Yugoslavia), that when whiffed, the aroma of its bouquet entices you to drink it only to ravage you with a deep and burning sensation down your throat if you do. The refrain is at once referencing the musical usage of the word and the sonic phrases blasting intermittently from the boom-box in Anthem Anathema. Yet, it is also a heeding message to consider abstaining from the impulse to drink it. Yes, perhaps All We Need is Slivovitza, or perhaps not? The viewer must decide for themselves how to respond to the piece and whether to indulge or to abstain. Presumably, judging from the response of the exhibition (all the slivovica was consumed in a few short days), most viewers seem compelled to revel in the intoxicating lure of Slivovitza without great concern for its consequences. In this case, over the passing days, the bottles depleted lower and lower until they are eventually emptied and void of the sweet and powerful nectar of the slivo/plum. Perhaps those who have partaken now understand the riddle of the postcard and will shout it loudly through the streets. Some perhaps with glee, others with sorrow, or others perhaps with disdain…
Nine Down Beats: Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is
2009 | 180 minutes | Video
NDB makes use of a single 45 second piece of archival footage of a 1997 police attack of Serbian anti-Milosovic protesters in Belgrade. A rendition of the original material also features prominently in Balkan Rhapsodies as the first image of the film, where it is presented in reverse at regular speed with slowed down synced sound. This backwards image sets an unsettling tone for the piece that signals and foreshadows an interrogation of the documentary form and the content of its images and sounds. The footage is preceded by the films first inter-title with three lines of a T.S. Eliot’s Burnt Norton:
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
The Eliot quotation and the gesture of reversing footage makes the image less vulgar but at the same time makes it more claustrophobic and intolerable. As the viewer watches the officer violently snap back their batons away from the people whom have just suffered the tremendous blows one ponders the residue of the ineffable violence perpetrated throughout history and the difficulty of escaping its cyclical motion through time.
NDB multiplies this material and attempts to abstract it to the breaking point to make visible its persistence, so it ceases to exists as a singular representation of violence and becomes something much more human. Perhaps I should again invoke Andy Warhol, who so effectively made use of repetition in his “Death and Disaster” silkscreens to mirror and critique the endless continuum of violence in society and in our media. In retrospect, Nine Down Beats, which makes use of violent riot footage could be seen as motion image homage to Warhol. NDB cycles through the material in reverse twenty-two times reducing the speed of the footage from 100% by five percent each time until it reaches near imperceptible motion at 1.25% speed. Running a screen time of almost three hours makes the piece nearly impossible to consume in its totality and relies on the chance nature of when you encounter it in the exhibition. The image is projected in a 3 x 3 grid creating a mosaic tapestry from the forms of the darkness and grains of the distorted video signal. It is further cropped and masked from being a rectangular video image into a circular shape to resist the rigidity of the frame. A final visual transformation unfolds to a careful viewer who will notice that the monotone color of the images phase shifts over several minutes (at a different interval from the temporal slow down) to change color. One can glance at the image and within a few minutes the tonality might move completely from red to blue without even taking notice. NDB probe the limits of perception and of the relationship between motion and stasis, by refiguring and decontextualizing the inherent meaning of the source material to its essence. The alternate or secondary title of the piece brings Eliot back into the picture with a final ruminative quotation from second stanza of Burnt Norton that brings the piece around full circle.
Anthem Anathema is a collaboratively dispersed project seeking to engage with, interpret, and creatively interrogate linguistic and cultural symbols. Using craigslist, I posted a call for artists to interpret and respond musically to the three lines from the postcard featured in Balkan Rhapsodies. I promised to include any submissions as long as they adhered to the length and technical requirements and at some point in the song the lines from the postcard were uttered. I encouraged experimentation and even further development of additional lyrics to expand on the narrative of the lines. Eighteen songs were created over the period of the month long call and they represent a range of interpretations and musical tastes. These sonic vociferations, repeating the phrase over and over again, become a surreal echo of abhorrent humor that becomes deeply lodged into the listeners long after they have left the gallery.
Chilangolandia: Capital in Movement
16mm film & monograph| loop duration: 10 minutes | 2007
Installation with sound, video, spun polyester, haze, wire, metallic curtain, book, table, & rug.
Through documetary images, time-lapse photography, slow-motion and other impressionistic camera work, Chilangolandia explores the cultural layers and rhythms of life in Mexico City.
Line: North Adams (2006) & Line: Cambridge (2005)
Made in collaboration with Wendy Jacob | Concept: Wendy Jacob | Camera & Edit: Jeff Daniel Silva
Classes, Masses, Crowds: Representing the Collective Body & the Myth of Direct Knowledge
Made in collaboration with Ana Miljacki
Concept: Ana Miljacki | Camera & Edit: Jeff Daniel Silva
2004 | Loop duration: 4 minutes
Jeff Silva & Alla Kovgan Concept – Camera – Edit | Made in collaboration with Nicola Hawkins Dance Company
Hans Richter stated that “by taking the whole movie screen, pressing it together and opening it up, top, bottom, sides, right, left, you do not perceive form anymore, you perceive movement.” In tune with Richter’s insight “ARCUS” is an exploration of the ephemeral nature of movement.
Review of Site Specific Installation of ARCUS on Pond in Brooklyn, NY (2003)
ARCUS played beautifully on the pond—it really allowed me to consider a space–both of the dance and the screen–with the multiple frames and the editing which seemed to stretch the frame sideways (less vertically) so that I do wonder what it looks like rectangular–the shooting and editing suggest that it didn’t matter so much–and of course, by the end it was justified, as I was either so far inside the piece or so far away that what I could see was the remains or shadows of hi-con movement –which, incidentally, was one of the nicest moments–as the ending came, the boat moves slight farther off and the oval screen with what could be seen as ripples on the water was reflected in ripples on the water–that was beautiful. It brought everyone around me to a very active stillness. I found myself thinking (feeling, more) about where my body is in relation to time and rhythm and space– m.Jamieson
Available for installation or theatrical presentation on 16mm or DigiBeta.
Other Selected Screenings & Exhibitions:
○ Indonesia Dance on Camera Festival, December 2004
○ Betty Rymer Gallery, Art Institute of Chicago 2004
○ Dance Camera West, Cal Arts June 2004
○ Liquid Bodies Moving Image Festival, Toronto, CA 2004
○ Paris, France Anthology Film Archives Festival of American Artists March 2003
○ Greek International Film Festival 2003
○ BAC! 03 Barcelona Contemporary Art Festival, Spain 2003
○ Napolidanza Festival April 2003
○ Dance on camera Festival, Walter Reade Theatre NY, NY 2003