Two Shows Play Tricks with Sight and Sound
Now, Vol. 22, No. 41
June 12-18, 2003
By Thomas Hirschmann
Dianne Bos at Wynick/Tuck (401 Richmond West) to June 21. 416-504-8716. Rating: NNNN
Andrew Wright at Peak (23 Morrow) to June 21. 416-537-8108. Rating: NNNN
A lot of art stimulates the brain. Some pieces excite the theatre of the mind – where sounds stimulate the imagination to create imagery. At Wynick/Tuck, a body of new work by Dianne Bos takes that a step further, mixing audio with still images to create moving pictures in your head.
In her signature style of high-contrast black-and-white photography, she has captured beautiful images in the churches and squares of Europe's ancient cities. She sets a long exposure time on her camera, opening the lens to capture the scene over as much as several minutes. (The typical photo in bright sunlight is shot at 1/60 of a second.) It's kind of like filming a motion picture and superimposing all the frames. Unmoving objects like buildings are crisp. Moving objects like fountains become a blur.
Here's the really enticing thing – Bos also recorded sound at the locations of the photographs. The length of each audio recording corresponds to the duration of the exposure. One photo captured three minutes and 33 seconds of a French carousel spinning around and around. The result is photo of a grey blur accompanied by the sounds of merry-g0-round music and excited children. Voices and the constant crash of water hitting the pool of a fountain can be heard for one minute and 39 seconds at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. The accompanying image shows off the beautiful architecture of the space, its stillness contrasting with the motion of the water.
Looking at the pictures, listening to the ambient sounds, the scenes spring to life. And for the length of time dictated by the exposure of the film, it's as if you are there.
Where Bos gets beyond the visual, Andrew Wright probes the absence of sight.
Blind Man's Bluff, showing at Peak, is based on the schlock horror film of the same name, starring Boris Karloff of Frankenstein fame. Wright has recreated the story using the technique called descriptive video, a service that allows the blind to watch TV shows like Malcolm In The Middle. The action is described rather than seen.
Here, a videotaped narrator seated before a dark backdrop on a simple set reads descriptions of the film's action, with dialogue displayed as subtitles. It's odd, because you're hearing what you'd normally see, and seeing (the subtitles) what you'd normally hear.
One finds oneself using the auditory cues to picture the action, as people used to do with radio dramas, as children do in the game called Blind Man's Bluff and as the blind are able to do today with television.
The subtitles put words in the mouths of the imagined characters, and the tale unfolds. A blind person would hear the actions described but wouldn't be able to see the subtitled dialogue. For him or her, this would be what a silent film is to a hearing person.