Scenes from Deseret
2-channel video installation. 16 minutes. Looped
"Scenes from Deseret" was initially inspired by two sources: the ever-changing landscape of the state of Utah in the US, and James Benning's film about the state, "Deseret" (1995). The history of Utah recounted in Benning's film ended in 1992. A lot has happened since that time, and I wanted to capture some of the changes in the landscape in the intervening 30 years and the changes in image-making technology. I believe that the media technology through which we portray our world profoundly affects our perception of it; to register the change between the years of 16mm film and 4k video is one of the goals of this project. Benning worked at the time in 16mm and recorded mono sound with a Nagra; my film is shot in 4k (though presented here only in HD) and recorded digitally with 32-bit floating point technology.
The video retains some of Benning's "structural" rigour as a bit of an homage to his work. The left image (shot at my favourite place in Utah, Hatch Point) increases in luminance over 15 minutes and 30 seconds. The 29 images on the right are arranged in order of descending average luminance, with the image in the middle of this sequence--the sign that says "Welcome to Utah”--exposed to the mean average luminance of the other 28 shots. Its average luminance is also the same, roughly, as the middle minute of the left image. Each of the right images--except the middle image--lasts 30 seconds. The middle image lasts a minute. It is, incidentally, shot at the exact same place as (to within a few feet, I believe) and framed nearly identically to the closing shot of Benning’s "Deseret." I chose this structure for a number of reasons, but an important one was that I wanted to model the arbitrary and human "structural rule" of descending luminance on the "natural" temporality and change embodied in a sunrise. In my view, this is a way to work with "nature", to follow it in the process of creation a bit.
The audio track follows a similarly mathematical progression as the image track, combining alternately ascending and descending complementary scales (F Major and D Minor) simultaneously. Each note's duration (except at the beginning and end) is 30 seconds. One track plays a MIDI cello; the other plays a MIDI clarinet.