[RhetoricNewMedia] Space/Place: Image/Text

by Thom Kiraly

Assignment A2 in our course Rhetoric and New (not really) Media is Space/Place: Image/Text. We were asked to consider the following works and how space and motion is used and represented within them:
Stéphane Mallarme: Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance).
Steve McCaffery: Carnival.
The photographs of Etienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge.

Taking these works into consideration I have created two static images that represent motion and the passage of time. As always, most of the actual work was coming up with ideas and discarding them until a final, acceptable, idea presented itself. For quite a long time, I was certain I would go with a motion blur image. Motion blur is a very easy way of creating a representation of motion and the effect can often be interesting. The problem with motion blur is that it’s been done countless times in countless ways and when we’re presented with works like those of Marey, creating a motion blur image seems a bit too easy. The man built a rifle camera in order to take (shoot) his pictures, for chrissake!

So, inspired by the image above, I decided that paraphrasing a master was better than repeating an old cliché. The question, then, was what to point the camera at. Trying to stay close to the original black and white photo, I wanted a black background (easily done) and a white object moving across it (not quite as easy, it turns out). As a reference to the Mallarme book I decided to use a die and capture its movement across a piece of black cloth. For this, I used a camera capable of taking several pictures in rapid succession (a Canon EOS 550D) and about one gigabyte and endless bad rolls of the die later, I finally had a sequence of pictures from which I could create one single image. Worth noting, when comparing my image to the one by Marey, is that the die in my image travels from right to left, while the bird in his image travels in the opposite direction.
The process of putting the images together was not very complicated. I picked out one image without a die in it, cut out the die and its shadow from the other images and pasted them onto the first background image on their corresponding places.

For the second image I wanted something produced by the very process of creating the first image. At first, I considered simply using a long shutter time to take a picture of my fingers running across the keyboard while editing the picture in Photoshop, but that would’ve only put me back into the motion blur cliché I wanted to avoid in the first image. Instead, I went with a purely digital way of capturing my motions and the passing of time involved in the creation of the first image. The application I/O Graph tracks the movements of the mouse and represents it in lines (for actual movement) and dots (representing places where the mouse pointer has been motionless for some time). The image produced is a document of my mouse pointer on the screen while working on the first image. What is immediately visible is the standard Photoshop layout: the layers panel on the bottom right, the window menus as straight lines going back and forth near the top left corner and the image in the middle. In the bottom left corner one can discern that this was done on a Mac OSX computer using spaces, a tool that lets you use the corners of the screen for quick navigation and switching between applications.