[ISEA2022] Artist Talk: Lawrence Bird — i:M:mobile

Artists Statement 

Second Summit on New Media Art Archiving
June 10, MACBA – Convent dels Àngels. Artist Talk.

Keywords: media decay, materiality, film, architecture, half-life

A mis-rendering of eight sequences from Fritz Lang’s “M” (1931), recorded on a malfunctioning computer monitor, i:M:mobile concerns the decay of media and the difficult relationship of our architectures to the forms of life they are intended to protect – or to imprison?

Digital archiving strives to compensate for the rapid decay or obsolescence of digital platforms, material substrates, and displays on which these works depend. Digital materials seem to have a shorter half-life than even the unstable materials used in the early eras of film-making. This condition raises key ontological and epistemological questions: What is the essence of a work? What is permanence? What is solid? How must we rethink these notions when our works are inherently fluid — when they even melt into air?

This project engages with these problems by replaying an early work of cinema on a broken contemporary device. The project consists of eight sequences from Fritz Lang’s 1931 film “M”. The series begins with “Index”, a sequence shot in Berlin’s police archives, where a fingerprint provides the first clue in the hunt for a killer. Through subsequent sequences “The Hand”, “The Hunt”, “The Cell”, “Protokoll”, “The Stairs”, “Before the Judge”, and “Cower”, the film offers a meditation on the tension between our attempts to capture, protect, preserve and place before the law on the one hand – and on the other, to escape, to elude logos.

These sequences were filmed from a malfunctioning computer monitor; the malfunction superimposed successive frames of the footage, blurring or dissolving anything which moves. The malfunctioning screen thus renders two distinct architectures: that of the moving body, fluid; and that of its spatial and material frame, super-solid.

“M”, like most of Lang’s films, is known for its use of architecture. The project translates Lang’s use of architecture, which intentionally located that medium in relation to the medium of film, into a new dissolving or reworking of architectures provoked by contemporary conditions of media, existing somewhere between digital and analogue materialities.

  • Lawrence Bird (CA) practices in media art and architecture. His artwork focuses on imaging technologies and their intersection with space, in particular its political and social dimensions. His work includes video exploration of urban sites, projection mapping and installation, and short films; he led Winnipeg’s contribution to the cityoneminutes project. Since 2012 he has been developing a body of videos and projections focused on anomalies in popular imaging and mapping programs; the work intends to expose the failures of western mapping projects. Lawrence’s artwork has been installed in Winnipeg, Halifax, Toronto, London, Greenwich, Brussels, and Manizales (Colombia) with funding from Manitoba Arts Council, Winnipeg Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts. He also writes, having contributed to Critical Planning, Mechademia, Chora, Leonardo, furtherfield.org, and elsewhere. He works with Sputnik Architecture, Winnipeg, a practise focusing on cultural and social projects, including the international public art competition Warming Huts.