Archive for visual


Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2012 by javedbabar

The projectionist had carefully aligned the projection tent and screen scaffold positions as soon as he had arrived. The axis between them was the key to perfect screening. The crew had followed his precise instructions, he had fine-tuned the image, and everything was set to go by 4 p.m. The global launch of the film HUMANITY was at 8 p.m. so he went off to get some early dinner.

When he returned, he sensed something was wrong. What had happened?

Someone had moved the damn screen!

The crew were smoking near the bins. He felt like cursing them aloud from where he was but instead decided to walk over, by which time he had calmed down.

“Excuse me. Were any of you involved in moving the screen?”

The crew looked at each other nervously, and one of them said, “Yes, that guy there,” – he pointed at Sami – “asked us to angle it towards the trees.”

“That guy!” He exploded. “Who the hell is he?”

The crew member replied, “I think he is the local…”

Before he had finished, the projectionist ran towards Sami. While still ten metres away, he shouted, “I am the projectionist. I laid out the location this morning. Did you tell the crew to shift the screen?”

Sami was surprised by his aggressive manner, but responded coolly. “Sorry, did I need to ask you first? I didn’t realize. We need to give the VIPs a good view. Some of them have paid a thousand dollars for a ticket. The screen position needed adjustment.”

Sami backed away to ease tension, but the projectionist stepped forward. “Do you know what will happen now? The projector and screen are misaligned. There will be a tombstone effect. I am not sure if I can correct it. How will your VIPs like that?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean by that.”

“Tombstoning – keystoning – haven’t you heard of that? There’s image distortion…”

“Look, if it’s a technical issue, there’s no point in explaining it to me. There’s nothing I can do about it. You’re the expert here. Can you please fix it?”

The projectionist grumbled and went off to make the necessary adjustments. Sami didn’t like bossing people about; he preferred to work in a harmonious team, but sometimes you had to push a little. Hadn’t the projectionist already returned to his tent and started working on a fix?

Five minutes later, the projector came to life. A huge orange OM symbol filled the screen. It was the first frame of the film, instantly recognizable from the global marketing campaign.

Sami knew that OM was a symbol of infinity and could be expressed in myriad forms, but he had to admit that something was wrong with it. There were hazy areas and its dimensions were distorted.

The projectionist called to him, “See what I mean now?”

“Yes I do. Can we move the projector?”

“No pal, we can’t. All the kit here is set up now. Can we move the screen, or the VIPs?”

“I’m afraid we can’t. The VIPs…”

The projectionist had worked on hundreds of jobs. He was a professional. He said, “Okay, I’ll do my best.”

He reviewed relationships, reprogrammed forms and adjusted parameters using his projection software. The image flashed, shook, stretched and settled. Within half an hour, it was much improved, though still a bit hazy and distorted.

Sami realized that he preferred it like this. If the objective of filmmaking was to bring things to life, was it not more realistic for a cosmic symbol to be at least partly unfathomable?

Screen Angle

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2012 by javedbabar

“Keep moving please!” said the traffic cop. “No stopping here. There’s no entry.”

Sami was annoyed. He thought that by coming on a bicycle he would get a break, but the cops were treating car drivers, motorbikers, cyclists, skateboarders and pedestrians the same. He wondered how wheelchair users would fare.

“But I am part of the production crew. I am the local project manager for the screening.”

This had no effect. The cop waved him on and said, “Well you should know better then. Nobody is allowed through this way except VIPs. Do you have VIP credentials?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, go around the back like everybody else. Once you pass through security, you’re in.”

It was strange to see the heart of Lucerne cordoned off. It was an important event, he knew, and they had to take precautions, but it didn’t seem right somehow.

The global launch of the film HUMANITY could have taken place in London, Tokyo, Mumbai, Paris or New York, but the director had had his vision for the film while climbing mountains here. The white bulk of Mt Alba at one end of the valley, and dark bulk of Mt Negra at the other, had caused him to “transcend the monochromicity of the world, while retaining its bipolar archetypes.”

What this meant, nobody really knew, but he was a world famous auteur at the peak of his creative powers, so it didn’t matter. He declared this film the “cumulative cultural container” of his lifetime’s work, and said that it must be revealed to the world in the place where the world had revealed it to him.

The producer had wanted to show the film on the railway tracks to signify “humanity at the crossroads,” and his people had conducted negotiations with the provincial government, village council, railways department, health and safety boards, and emergency services, but had been unable to convince them to allow this. So instead they had settled for The Place, the communal square in the centre of the village.

It took an hour to get through security. By the time Sami was on location, the scaffold and screen were set up. He knew that the screen was twenty by forty feet, but in situ it looked much bigger. The film would look awesome on that.

He scoped the area, paced it out, and ran through things in his head. VIPs were here near the trees, premium diners there near the fountain, ordinary ticket holders on the terrace, and press near the bar.

Hang on! The VIPs would get the same view as everybody else. That wasn’t right. He had been told that VIPs must get the best view. He would have to move the screen, maybe angle it a little towards them. He called over a technician.

The technician said, “Look pal, it’s all set up. It will be tricky to move it. Why don’t we just leave it there?”

Sami felt he had no option. “I’m afraid we have to move it.”

“But isn’t this film called HUMANITY? Why don’t we give everyone an equal view?”

Cinema is a cultural artefact. By exploiting the universal power of visual communication, it is used for entertainment, education and indoctrination. Individual images are shown rapidly, creating the illusion of motion. One cannot see their flickering due to an effect called persistence of vision, wherein the eye retains a visual image for a fraction of a second after its source has been removed. Thus, things persist, whether we like it or not. One such thing is social privilege.

Sami said, “We need to move the screen for the VIPs. Can you please call the rest of the crew.”