Tag Archives: Noxiterra

Noxiterra (small prints)

All of the above are 11 x 8.5″ open-edition digital prints on smooth matte-finish fine art paper, signed by the artist. These images would work well framed as pairs or groups of 4. Feel free to download these thumbnails so you can experiment with groupings.

For the Noxiterra project, I first created a series of large prints in each of which a montage of 9 webcam images recapitulates one of the original performances.

Now I’m also offering some of the webcam captures from those performances as the single-image prints shown here. These images, already highly artefactual due to the nature of webcam technology, have been further processed to place the images between digital photography and digital painting. They are vignettes of the Noxiterra landscapes, and although they look like traditional landscapes, in scale they are actually miniatures—most of these images encompass a field of view of no more than a foot or so.

For more about the Noxiterra project and the larger prints, see this page.

For my post about the process of making Noxiterra, see this post.

Posted in 2010, prints | Also tagged , |

exploring the miniature

webcam interface (Oculus software)

webcam interface (Oculus software)

I’ve just posted a new page of small Noxiterra prints, so I thought I’d write a post about the process that resulted in these prints. Basically, it’s similar to the way Hollywood uses miniature scale-model sets for catastrophe filming that would be too expensive or too dangerous to film at human scale, and that would be unconvincing if created entirely through computer special effects. I built a tabletop set for Noxiterra in my garage and used an Apple iSight webcam to shoot stills of the set which were streamed to the internet for a series of live online improvisations.

So one obvious difference is that I used just about the lowest-resolution cameras available. Another difference is the amount of accident I allowed in the framing of my shots. Unlike with a movie camera, I can’t see directly through the lens of my webcam. Instead, I see through a software interface to the webcam, in this case a program called Oculus that has a lot of flexibility in terms of file formats, cropping, and streaming uploads. But I was moving my camera around so much—I repositioned the webcam for a new capture about every 10 seconds or so—that the Oculus preview didn’t work very well, so I was never perfectly sure what was in and out of frame.

UpStage interface test

UpStage interface test

In the above screenshot of this interface, you’ll see that I further cropped the full webcam image so that only the small center area was captured. I did this to make sure I was excluding stuff that was supposed to be out of frame, namely, my garage. The center framing gave me a safety margin.

Noxiterra took form as 3 live improvisations during the UpStage 080808 festival of online performance. UpStage is a specially programmed software that allows a browser to become a cyberstage. The image at right shows UpStage during one of our tech tests, with a live feed from my webcam occupying the main ‘stage’ area, and a chat area at right where we could discuss what was happening as we working on solving various issues. Not surprisingly, since UpStage is hosted in New Zealand, and my feeds were coming from California, one of the issues we had to manage was lag.

During each 20-minute performance, I served as director of photography and cameraperson, orchestrating the specific sequence of shots that streamed into UpStage. I had asked a fellow artist or writer to improvise text as the watched the stream; the texts generated during the first and second performances were by Marlena Corcoran, and the third was by Lisa Tucker.  Here is an extract from the second performance:

I have seen many worlds.
I look at this world and see another.
I have seen many beginnings.
I fear for you.
I am the one who presides over beginnings.

I captured the images as I streamed them to UpStage, and these captures formed the basis for the two sets of large and small Noxiterra prints listed under “Open Editions”. I’m now working on a sequel to Noxiterra 2008 that involves building a small world in the round, instead of on a tabletop. Stay tuned…

Posted in 2010, latest | Also tagged , , , |


rainy gateway webcam

random webcam image

I’ve been in love with webcams practically since they were invented. The protoypical webcam, at Cambridge University, was aimed a coffeepot, setting the basic theme for all subsequent webcams: the melancholy of the banal. Tethered to one spot (or at least to a computer), located according to dictates of convenience rather than, say, aesthetics or drama, their images archived and then ignored, they epitomize the most reflexive qualities of the present information deluge.

Their complement is the cameraphone: free-roaming, relentlessly chasing drama, chaos, and rebellion, and demanding from us at least a passing moment of attention. I am interested in cameraphone images too, but I find them easy to assimilate to an already well-developed history of personal snapshots, travelogues, street photography, and photojournalism.

pet rabbit webcam

random webcam image

Webcam images are much more perplexing: they sit uneasily in the landscape and still life genres, asking the same question in a thousand shades of meaning: why this picture? why would anyone bother to capture this particular image? They require us to try to construct an explanation, often of a very labored kind; whereas the typical cameraphone image is culturally self-explanatory (of course they snapped that picture when they had the chance).

I am reminded of this line from Gary Zukav’s Dancing Wu Li Masters:

“The importance of nonsense hardly can be overstated. The more clearly we experience something as ‘nonsense’, the more clearly we are experiencing the boundaries of our own self-imposed cognitive structures.”

When I look at the images that issue from webcams, what I see is the boundary where our self-imposed mandate to Take Meaningful Pictures runs up against infinity.

Empire State Building webcam interface

Empire State Building webcam interface, looking south towards the 9/11 cleanup site in 2001

My first project using webcams was The Roman Forum Project 2003 at the Beall Center for Art + Technology in Irvine. I was in California on 9/11, having just moved there two years before from New York. So in the aftermath of that terrible day I felt like an exile, needing not just to follow the events there as all Americans did but to reconnect in some more direct sense to what I still thought of as my city. One day I went searching for webcam views of New York and stumbled on the fact that there are two user-controllable webcams at the top of the Empire State Building, one pointed south and one north. The south-facing camera could be aimed at the 9/11 clean-up site, and for many weeks I logged on regularly to check out what was happening and to collect screenshots. (The Empire State Building site archives its webcams, but even though my first visit was only a couple of weeks after 9/11, the archives from that day had either auto-expired or been removed. I wonder if those images are now stashed in some federal archive.)

"Repubocracy", 2003

still from "Repubocracy", 2003

I used these stills as a green-screen style backdrop to a video monologue segment of The Roman Forum Project entitled “Repubocracy” [play video] that is an intense spew covering the history of Euro-American use and abuse of the terms ‘republic’ and ‘democracy’. It begins:

“Junk now this Earth this noisy globe this spinning where no eyes are minute lump of congealed dust where I see from this vacuum I see Athens city of Athena city-state giver of democracy pure democracy by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens who assemble and administer the government in person one man one vote women are not men slaves are not men the poor are not men not yet… [more]”

"Chronvacuum", 2009

still from "Chronovacuum", 2009

Following this, I did three projects involving webcams, all of which I’ve posted about elsewhere on this site:

Noxiterra in 2008, which I’ve posted about here;

Chronovacuum in 2009, which I’ve posted about here; and

World of World in 2009,  which I’ve posted about here.

For both Noxiterra and World of World I used webcams to generate new imagery rather than working with found images. I suspect I’m not done with webcams yet.

Posted in 2010, latest | Also tagged , , , , , |