Saturday, August 20, 2011

IMPACT 2011: Exploring Slices of Time

Urban Jungles (All Photos by Dr. Chianan Yen, All Rights Reserved.)
IMPACT 2011 at New York University was an exciting panorama of collaborative invention from July 25 through August 12. The production of "works in process" was performed in Frederick Loewe Theatre August 11 and was streamed live on the Internet. Interdisciplinary production teams collaborated and collected their work under the title Creating New Worlds. A breakdown of the scenes may be seen at IMPACT 2011: Creating New Worlds.
The opening Urban Jungles was derived from daily movement and visual arts activities, beginning with texting, and reflecting the process by which many individuals intersected to form interlocking groups working together.

The focus of IMPACT (Interactive Multimedia Performing Arts Collaborative Technology) is about collaborative process. Interdisciplinary production teams of international participants explore ideas in various media which are shaped into structures of media, theatre, with elements of all the arts permeating each scene conceptually powered by some paradigm or theme developed through interactive process. For convenience, eight interdisciplinary production teams were established to create and shape time and scene as a collaborative artistic entity.  Material was derived from daily experiences, including warm ups, focused or specialized workshops, and combined arts workshops.

The striking images here are from the camera and artistry of Dr. Chianan Yen.  These are "snapshots" of dynamic moments in scenes of movement and media interaction.  This documenting of moments transforms the essence of the content. What emerges from this is an essay in visual content with description and explanation that creates new material from the old content. We begin to realize from these images how multimedia can transform the scale of the experience.

 Suddenly performers are the content of the eye peering out from the screen. We glimpse them in an unexpected moment. Unexpected because they are in the flow of the moment, in the transformative action that segues into successive moments in a steady flow, but the camera enables us to trap time, to freeze it for our scrutiny. We gain insight into the moment.  The moment is performed again in a transfixed texture where we can see each detail. Structure and form leap out at us because we are not distracted by the motion.
The power of camera is to slice Time at a particular moment. The fixed image often contains dynamic kinesthetic power like a spring tightly wound about to be released. We sense the energy and imagine what the release will unleash. Proportion changes the relationship of objects and we can experience parallel movement in different dimensions and different scales. The still image releases the imagination to speculate on what will unfold in the next few instances. The still image communicates the power inherent in the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas and images. In the differences we discover the similarities. It doesn't matter if you have actually witnessed the movement inherent in the single frame. Still images engage the imagination in ways quite different than moving images. Still images allow us to look at the details embedded in that single instance. We submerge ourselves in the details of the moment, the isolation and implied connections.
Although the photographer has chosen a fixed position to snap the action in quick succession, the actual moments captured are a random guess that something significant is happening or about to happen. In some ways it doesn't matter which particular instance of time is captured, we have the luxury to review the results and to edit by selecting or discarding specific instances of Time. That editing goes on at very subtle levels, often not consciously derived, but with an instinctive perception that something significant is revealed about the whole in this particular session.  

Even as we concentrate on the visual elements, each image is a window into the moment with implications of what happened before and what is about to happen.  In video terminology it is a frame that we have chosen to isolate and its very existence defines it and gives it shape and meaning, an inadvertent relationship to the whole, and at some point might be viewed as an embodiment of the process. 

We are mistaken if we consider that the images are merely the visual representations of the moment. They are a window into time, a window for the imagination to build a context of all that is implied. The visual content contains context, but it
is also highly mysterious, evocative, and kinesthetic.  This remains true even if we have viewed the work performed or have access to a video representation.  It is possible to consider the still image as more powerful than the video record. Even the video is an edited instance of the event captured by specific lenses and camera operators.  Video is less evocative than the still image because it is controlling the our view of the context. Still images release us from the confinement of the succession of moments to focus on a particular moment where energy is compressed and imagination is challenged to create the context.
There is a natural tendency of the mind to insert meaning and context, even where none is intended.  Perhaps this is why still images are so profoundly interesting and arresting.  We seize the moment to enter into the context, to shape what we see and to make meaning, to experience a revelation that leads us to creating something new. So we celebrate these not so random moments from the camera of Dr. Yen. Embedded in these images is his years of experience capturing live moments and his countless hours of processing, where he is editing and refining each single image into an instrument for the imagination. In some ways the moments he captures are accidents, but if they are, they are happy accidents, and we are all the better for his efforts. But there is a point of view that nothing is accidental, which helps us distinguish that Dr. Yen provides a sense of excellence and meaning to the moments he has chosen to share with us.

But we also need to honor those participants creating content in time, of unraveling the essence of an idea into an iteration that is packed with so much meaning and information that we will never decipher it completely.  That is the wonder and mystery of it all, with still images providing us glimpses of that infinite continuum. Bravo to the IMPACTORS of 2011 for creating such moments of artistic discovery, and Bravo to Chianan Yen for his experience and practiced eye, and his instinctive sense of capturing the moment as it is about to happen.


Jocelyn Wu said...

Nice photos. I miss you all. It has been almost a month after the final showcase.

Jocelyn Wu said...

The school has begon.