[ISEA97] Artist Statement: Zoe Beloff – CD-ROM: Beyond

Artist Statement

Beyond operates in a playful spirit of philosophical inquiry exploring the paradoxes of technology, desire and the paranormal posed since the birth of mechanical reproduction. One might call it an investigation of the dream life of technology, from around 1850 to 1940. There was an almost magical element in the way people saw these developments, an issue I feel important to bring to light as we enter the digital realm. Beyond is an interactive work (programmed with QuickTime Video and QuickTime VR) which allows the viewer to explore a new kind of mental geography, in which they find themselves traveling through time and space encountering my virtual alter-ego who, as a medium, that interface between the living and the dead, transmits movies that record her impressions. The location is a real abandoned asylum dating back to the nineteenth century. It stands in for many places both real and fictional, from Charcot’s clinic at the Salpetriere, to Raymond Roussel’s fictional world of Locus Solus, to the destroyed buildings of the two World Wars, to the Paris Arcades of the Second Empire, to Edison’s’ laboratory at Menlo Park. In the 19th century it seems as if progress appeared so dazzling that the boundaries between the real (or conventionally scientifically provable) and the fantastic was far more permeable than we can imagine today. There was a certain obsession with the question of whether a machine itself could possess a soul. (just as people today speculate as to whether a computer could be have consciousness). My thesis is that if something which we now take for granted like photography was experienced as an uncanny phenomena which seems to undermine the unique identity of objects, creating a parallel world of phantasmal doubles, then the possibility of the production of say Spirit Photographs was not nearly as implausible as it might seem today. Similarly sound recording was thought of as a strange phenomena, for the first time severing speech from the body and allowing us to playback the voices of the dead.

  • Zoe Beloff (U.S.A.) grew up in Scotland where she studied painting at Edinburgh University / College of Art. She moved to New York where she received an MFA in film from Columbia University in 1983. She has directed many independent movies which have been screened internationally at festi­vals and museums including Pacific Film Archives, Sundance, Berlin, and The New York Film Festivals. She has also worked with artists from other disciplines, most notably composer John Cale, and is currently collaborating with the Wooster Group,Theater Company on a new On-Line project HOUSE/LIGHTS. In the last few years her work has centered on a desire to get beneath the skin of every­day life by “dreaming” her way back into the past. She began to uncover links between ninteenth century tech­nologies and the digital realm. In 1995 she started pro­ducing BEYOND which began as a weekly QuickTime serial on the Web and is now an interactive film on CD-ROM. For this project she recieved grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. It was included in the1997 Whitney Museum Biennial. Zoe teaches film production and digital media at Pratt Institute.