Lev Manovich on Tue, 26 May 1998 07:28:18 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> The Camera and the World: New Works by Tamas Waliczky

Lev Manovich

The Camera and the World: New Works by Tamas Waliczky

     Tamas Waliczky is among the few artists who have been working with
and thinking about the computer for many years, long before it became
fashionable - and this depth of involvement can be clearly seen in his
works. In the new pieces - "Landscape," "Sculptures" and "Focus" - the
strategies which were already central to "The Garden" (1992), "The Forest"
(1993) and "The Way" (1994) are further developed and the new ones are
being deployed, yet, taken together, these six works look like different
experiments undertaken within a single research paradigm. That is to say,
all of Waliczky works are the result of a single aesthetic investigation
systematically being pursued by the artist.
        Computer forces us to re-invent every one of the traditional
aesthetic concepts, forms and techniques. What used to be a well-mapped
territory now became one big white spot. Image and viewer, narrative and
montage, illusion and representation, space and time -- everything needs to
be re-defined again. In his works Waliczky systematically maps out an
important part of the new post-computer aesthetic space. It is the part
where new ways to structure the world and new ways to see it meet. The
interactions between the virtual camera and the virtual world - this is the
main subject of Waliczky's aesthetic research.
        Waliczky thus is neither a virtual filmmaker who works only with
images nor an virtual architect who works only with space. Rather, he can
be described as a maker of virtual documentaries. In every one of his
works, he creates a world structured in a unique way; and than he documents
it for us. In "Landscape," it is the world where the time was frozen. In
"Sculptures," it is the world consisting from three-dimensional
time-sculptures. In "Focus," it is the world whose ontology was derived
from the basic quality of a digital image -- its organization as a number
of layers.
        In his concern with ordering every world according to its
principle, Waliczky can be also compared to ancient cosmologists. Each of
his worlds establishes a cosmology of its own, a unique logical system
which governs all of the world's elements. For instance, if in "The Forest"
the world is like a mechanical clock or a system of planets, with all the
elements continuously moving according to a complex set of rules, in
"Focus" the world is immobile, the spatial relationships between all the
elements being fixed once and for all. Therefore, although all of
Waliczky's works are concerned with the same aesthetic problematic, they
are also fundamentally different from each other, because each world is
organized according to its own unique principle.
        One of the trajectories in computerization of culture involves
gradual translation of elements and techniques of cinematic perception and
language into a decontextualized set of tools to be used as an interface to
any data. For instance, in the last decade the camera model derived from
cinema became as much of an interface convention as scrollable windows or
cut and paste function. It became an accepted way for interacting with any
data which is represented in three dimensions -- which, in a computer
culture, means literally anything and everything: the results of a physical
simulation, an architectural site, design of a new molecule, financial
data, the structure of a computer network and so on. As computer culture is
gradually spatializing all representations and experiences, they become
subjected to the camera's particular grammar of data access: zoom, tilt,
pan and track.
        In the process of this translation, cinematic perception is
divorced from its original material embodiment (camera, film stock), as
well as from the historical contexts of its formation. If in cinema the
camera functioned as a material object, co-existing, spatially and
temporally, with the world it was showing us, it has now become a set of
abstract operations. Waliczky's works refuse this separation of cinematic
vision from the material world. They reunite perception and material
reality by treating the camera and the world as parts of a single system.
        In Waliczky's earlier films, rather than simply subjecting the
virtual worlds to different types of perspectival projection, the artist
modified the spatial structure of the worlds themselves. In "The Garden," a
child playing in a garden becomes the center of the world; as he moves
around, the actual geometry of all the objects around him is transformed,
with objects getting bigger as he gets close to him. To create "The
forest," a number of cylinders were placed inside each other, each cylinder
mapped with a picture of a tree, repeated a number of times. In the film,
we see a camera moving through this endless static forest in a complex
spatial trajectory -- but this is an illusion. In reality, the camera does
move, but the architecture of the world is constantly changing as well,
because each cylinder is rotating at its own speed. As a result, the world
and its perception are fused together.
        In each of the new works, the camera and the world similarly
function as parts of a single gestalt, creating an effect which is larger
than the sum of the individual parts. And even more than before,
Walitczky's virtual camera operating not only as a tool of perception but
also as a tool of epistemology, putting its author within a modern artistic
tradition which includes such filmmakers as Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga
Vertov. In fact, without the operations of the camera, the structure of the
world would remain hidden for us. Thus, Walitczky's cosmologies are
distinctly post-cinematic: their structure can only be revealed by actions
of a virtual camera. In "Landscape," without camera's movement we would not
be able to discover that when time is stopped, the result is not simply an
interruption in the familiar structure of our world but a creation of a new
one, distinctly different. In "Sculptures," the camera passes through
time-sculptures at different speeds and angles, revealing new time and
space relationships which otherwise would remain invisible. And finally, in
"Focus," we ourselves are handed over camera's controls (focus and depth of
field) to uncover the space whose topology corresponds to a network of
human relations.  In Walitczky's aesthetic universe, the camera and the
world can't exist without each other, and their interactions always result
in new and surprising discoveries.

     The shorter version of this text appeared in "Continental Drift /
Europe Approaching the Millennium / 10 Photographic Commissions"
(Prestel-Verlag, 1998), published in conjunction with the simultaneous
openings in April 1998 of "10x98: The European Commissions" in ten
galleries across Yorkshire, England.
     Tamas Waliczky's works were shown in  Leed Metropoliten University
Gallery, Leeds.
      A collective exhibition will take place in October 1998 at The
Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh.

Dr. Lev Manovich
p: 619-822-1012    f: 619-534-8651
address: Visual Arts Department, 0327,
9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0327 U.S.A.
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