The Man With The Movie Camera / Modulator - April 2014

Artist - James Nguyen (The Man With The Movie Camera) & Marcia Jane (Modulator)

Author - John Pagnozzi

Bodies mixing, intertwined channels and planetary limits: everyday encounters of the real in the works of James Nguyen and Marcia Jane.

We move along a spiral out of an inverted embodiment of space and time; our experience fractal. At times it is nice to be reminded though, that we are in a sense engaged and engaging beings, sitting along a relational continuum involving things outside of a screen. The Man with The Movie Camera by James Nguyen and Modulator by Marcia Jane draw us into a sustained experience of these conditional states and invite a discussion on the relationship between ourselves and objects, their mediation, and the idiosyncratic dialogues that arise from the complex interaction between objects and technology.

A movement away from the cinematic image, The Man with The Movie Camera, recalibrates our perception of the filmic experience. At best peripherally centred, objects appear within their own time, obliquely arranged somewhere between the expanse of the Australian outback and the space of the gallery. We witness a large format projection of a floating world and a high definition display of a woman guiding something out of view, obviously much larger than herself. Confusing, this experience distances us from what is being filmed and yet offers us entry into a deeper relationship with it. Moving through James’ projection into the rear room of the gallery we recede into a surrounding darkness. Two apperati: a digital projector and camera lens sit furiously engaged with one another in a silent transaction. Marcia’s Modulator presents us with an information exchange and filtration out of which, a muffled circular projection of light hangs itself tentatively upon the wall. Condensed and visibly full the light almost feels like a portal inviting us to peer into some parallel consciousness of a larger dispersed being. This is an emptied event, coaxial with fullness.

The works present a direct and confrontational, albeit subtle experience of time. Yet these are versions of time that exist at odds with our usual subjective relations; duration by proxy, discontinuous and slightly out of sync. At face value each connect in part through medium and presentation: the conflation of digital and analogue processing and re-emergence within the space of the gallery using projection. Subtle, almost imperceptible manipulations seem to have brought both works into their respective states. Looking closer though, these works do traverse even similar territories. Both constitute ontological investigations, experimental sketches for a different way of experiencing the world.

This is explored through each artists’ attempt to experiment with the limits of our relationship to technology. On the one hand we witness in The Man with The Movie Camera the emergence of effects that fall out of the novel interplay of infrastructure: crane, camera, body, rope, mother, father, wind, sun, sky. James’ operation of displacement shifts his role as artist-creator to that of facilitator. Rather than impose a predetermined logical system, he sets up a relational structure out of which the work is generated. Similarly Modulator achieves exactly as it suggests: a modulation of information and systems filtered through a machinic cosmology. Flattened yet no less dense in complexity, networks of orders temporally adjust according to multiple registers: heat transfer between objects and machines, light, memories; processing, embedding and simultaneously detaching themselves. All contribute to an ever shifting schemata of object relation.

These processes seem to draw upon and expand some process art practices of the 60’s, especially experimental sound practices of the time. We may refer to Robert Morris’ Reich Pendulum Music: For Microphones, Amplifiers and Speakers (1968), whereby the artist draws attention to the characteristics inherent in the production of sound. Yet these works do more than challenge formalism. Here we witness an enactment of agency on the part of the artists, to engage uncertainty and dissolution relationally, rather than formally. Their respective processes draw attention to the limits of normative procedures. Therefore these delicate works act as critical operations for exposing the overlooked, yet possible types of relation, between ourselves and the phenomenal world.[1]

This equates to a range of fascinating dissolutions: between the artist as author and the object of art, the experience of an object of art and us as viewers and ofcourse the interaction between technology and artistic process itself. Breaking open this relationship the works point towards the necessary contingencies, interference, accidents and the mistakes that constitute reality. This method engages an aesthetic turn towards the Post-digital and necessarily a discussion on the results to be gained from a negation of intention. Yet The Man with The Movie Camera and Modulator do not merely present the ‘glitches’ that arise when pairing a crane with a camera or analogue and digital composites of information. These works function far more critically as a form of ‘interruptive process’ questioning the established codes of film and methods of relation more generally. To draw upon Vertov, these works do not try and present reality, nor frame a version of the real, rather they pose the problem of reality.[2] The works skilfully mix these problems into strange amalgams mirroring contemporary experience: enmeshed biological, cultural, collaborative and digital systems; recalibrating themselves and the nature of their operation.

In this sense the works here show the outcomes of finding new ways of seeing through aesthetic investigations into the techno-nature-object critique. They deflect attention away from ourselves and instead towards objects in the way Cage re-directs his attention away from music and towards silence. They multiply our relation to the real world by positing other ways of perceiving, challenging a single object relation. Objects within this show seem to be hugely more complex and far less contingent upon our own cognition. The objects in themselves possess innumerable qualities of their own.[3] These qualities are delicately teased out and displayed, between the chao-hypnotic specks of light and the gentle mania of an intangible motion, they offer a site for accessing something other within our contemporary every day.[4]  

[1]  Andrews, Ian (2013) Post-Digital Aesthetics and The Function of Process in Cleland, K., Fisher, L. & Harley, R. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 19th International Symposium of Electronic Arts, ISEA2013, Sydney.

[2]Dziga Vertov. In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from

[3] Harman, G 2005, Guerilla metaphysics: phenomenology and the carpentry of things, Open Court publishing, Illinois.

[4] Lorange, A 2014, Embarrassment, glitch, poetry, Das Super Paper, Sydney.