ON PROJECTION AND IMAGINATION (REVIEW)
It is not very often that I find a video projection I am interested in watching to the end. Let alone watch twice. The Circle Of was a pleasant surprise, and a very engaging experience.
The big room of the Dokzaal was transformed into a cosy and relaxing setting. Cushions, rugs, blankets and bowls with fruit occupied the biggest part of floor. On the high ceiling, there was an intricate mesh of handwoven screens. They hung in well calculated distance in relation to their size and their function pushed one’s imagination farther than a giant dream catcher: their centre served as a semi-transparent, multi-layered projection surface. The video lasted about 45 minutes and was accompanied by live music.
I was immediately captivated by the experience and progressively got lost in space and time – a space and time that this multi-sensory work commanded very well. Soft, distant views of what could be blue skies were projected onto the ceiling screens and accompanied by a tranquil, dream-like melody. Seamlessly these images turned into close ups of vibrant colours and organic forms quickly alternating and rotating through the depths of the meticulously crafted netlike surfaces, while lyrical crescendos and improvised percussion echoed across the room. Not before long, this got dissolved and replaced by some lingering views of some past memory or encounter and floating sensations set against a resonating flat minor. Above and beyond me, chimes and bells were disappearing in the distance.
Finding the right balance between visual input, audio and space make-up in order to achieve an immersive but also a thought provoking experience is a challenging task. It requires creativity and imagination, and there is no doubt that Eszter Horváth and Zsolt Sarkozi who conceived the project and their collaborators Caroline Lindo and Gábor Hartyáni had plenty of that. But perhaps more importantly, one needs good technical and formal grounding to be able to perfectly combine and execute such a three-dimensional ensemble of images, sounds, surfaces and sensations. This installation/performance was finely tuned and progressed naturally, mesmerising and inciting one to wondering what there is to be seen and what could be there to be seen but also recalled, imagined and projected.
Now and then, the textile screens moved and jingled. This very simple idea has a remarkable twofold effect. First, it adds to the feeling of losing one’s self inside the space. The circle in the ceiling becomes a hole in a lowering sky – a sky that arches over the city but which also becomes inverted revealing kaleidoscopic views of the latter’s contents. In this sense, the screens form a tunnel of vision and imagination that connects the here with the out there, the now with some other time and our bodies with the world and the others around us.
Second, these physical and sound vibrations have a grounding effect. Enhanced by fabric details hanging perpendicularly to the rest of the projection screens, they interrupt the unfolding of the immersive experience and draw attention to the act of being immersed. They make one realise the process of losing one’s self in space while underling how space supports this act. They draw attention, in other words, to the materiality of the medium and the physicality of the act. This idea of providing a point of reference for the viewer helps conceptualise the dialectics of experience and has the critical potential to cancel any escapist tendencies that immersive installations often evoke.
According to its creators, one of the ideas behind The Circle Of is the interest in making the viewer aware of the projection screen and, more specifically, of the act of watching a projection. In strict terms, a projection is a one-way linear relationship between an aperture (often mechanically controlled) and a neutral surface. One of the ways to draw the viewer’s attention to how projection is formally supported and therefore conditioned is to break the frame and the composition of what is being projected (its time, space and contents). Another way is to disturb the projection surface by altering its orientation, texture, colour etc. The dialogue with live experimental music rather than a set score can also serve to ground the viewing experience. The Circle Of masterfully combines all the above and being based on improvisation and site specificity, it has the capability to expand further this engagement with the medium, the carrier and the positioning of the viewer.
Lying on the floor, I could feel, see, hear and imagine the dialogue between the ground pressing my body and the ceiling which was beyond my reach. It was a dialogue between the image and the sound, projection and matter, my body and space, me and others, transparency and colour, the rational part of my brain recording all this and the most subtle forms and hues my imagination could evoke. Realising what is still possible to do has a cathartic effect. What would the implications be, lyrical or otherwise, to conceive a hole in the sky looking right back at us?
Image credits: The Circle Of, 13-14 May 2017, Dokzaal. Eszter Horváth and Zsolt Sarkozi (video and concept), Caroline Lindo (textile artwork), Gábor Hartyáni (live cello music). Photo by Eszter Horváth.