Ponderings – Is it All About the Images?
When I started working in virtual reality spaces seven years ago one of my first large scale virtual environments was an icy landscape with castles, polar bears and seals. I invited Bettina Tizzy along to see my installation. She was, at that time, the arbiter of all artworks that would succeed or not in the virtual world Second Life.
Bettina gave me some advice that has stayed with me ever since. She said when she looked at an installation, all she was really seeking was the perfect image with that WOW factor that would make people stop and read about the work on her blog.
I’ve watched lots of people taking photos of my installation at Floating Land. I’ve taken hundreds of photos myself, and I realize the problems they were facing. Not much to blog about there.
It was almost impossible to get a good image of the whole installation, in place, in the inlet, because the light was always out there on the lake and you were looking out from a dark place into the light. When the light did reach the inlet it was dappled, and never as bright as the lake beyond.
I’d specifically wanted the installation to be part of the place. It was a response to the lines, colours and form that made up the little inlet, and it fitted in so perfectly that it merged into the background and was difficult to photograph.
At night, unless you had a tripod and a good camera it was difficult to get good images of the videos projected onto the installation. There were not enough lumens in my small projectors for the video on most cameras to work happily.
People want to be able to take photographs of the works in a festival like Floating Land. They want the perfect image to put up on Facebook to say ‘I was here! And it was Amazing!’ So, is making a work that is not photogenic at odds with what the audience wants? Works that slip quietly into place don’t seem to feature in images, but do they have another impact?
At the end of the festival all that’s left is the memory and the images. As an artist I’m hoping that, for people who saw my work, the memory is stronger than the images. I’m not sure that’s going to be enough. Does making work that is not photogenic mean you are sidelined in the documentation and forgotten quickly? I don’t think so. How does one take images of the amazing sounds made by Linsey Pollack or the sound installation of Lenni Semmelink? But….there’s a need to a visual artist to make an impact.
It’s not enough to make me change the way I work, but it’s a question I will ask myself if i am part of a festival like this in the future. What is success?