In the early days of film, many small and rural cinemas had only one
projector. After a reel was finished, the crowd waited for whomever was up
in the booth to remove the take-up reel, put on the new one, and re-thread
the machine. So for many cinema-goers, waiting was a built-in part of the
program. Directors knew all about this, and some bemoaned the inadequacy
of one-projector movie houses. Others, however, integrated this interval,
making each reel a sort of episode, or section, of the larger film.
Between reels, audiences often had something to reflect on besides their
drinks and cigarettes.
Smoking in movie theaters now is passe. Okay, illegal. But as a
result of new networked media, waiting as a necessary element in artistic
engagement has returned with all the swiftness of a wind-up car. This is
especially clear over at Jason Spingarn-Koff's Shockwave-based "Abducted
/Interactive/" web-site, which, if you try to squeeze it through a copper wire,
will probably crash your machine. But even if you get a chance to look at
it with all the fiber-optic breathing room it requires, don't expect
Site visitors must first pass through a "log-in" page. If you've ever
had to deal with nonsensical customs personnel you'll understand. Fill out
illegible forms. Click on fragments of code letters and serial numbers and
force your browser into manic–and funny–knee-jerk launchings. One is
made to feel that one's identity is not really registered with some obscure
authority but wholly surrendered.
Which is sort of the idea. The main character of the piece that
follows is a sort of non-person, an avatar who stands in for you. She has
no identity really except that which you project into her, and here the
site neatly brings together the history of subjective film experience and
the supposedly unprecedented electronic doppelgangers made possible by the
Internet. This figure appears and disappears from the streets of Berlin
like she was on an old-time sci-fi show, changing the camera from a first
to third person descriptive device and back again.
But she appears uncomfortable in this space. She is constantly on the
run. She looks over her shoulder, she gasps for breath; a red X appears on
her back and she swerves to avoid the hit. Is she dodging bullets? Will
the gun that fires them be yours?
If you're looking for a conspiracy, or "plot," you won't find one.
Spingarn-Koff tells us as much when a side-trip to Potsdamer Platz and a
grey military building turn into a dead-end. Whatever ails our heroine has
nothing to do with these dead bunkers, the last vestiges of territorial
militarism. So. Where to go?
To a dance. Where else? Berlin's "Love Parade" is comprehensively
photographed here; perhaps too much so compared with the sparseness of the
earlier scenes. At this point whatever sense of narrative there once was
falls away into a pulpy mush of dancing and half-naked rave madness. The
lack of some good techno here, or any music at all, is frustrating but I
guess I'm thankful because I swear if I have to look one more time at
Macromedia's tasteless inter-title that pops up while you're waiting for
things to load I'm going to do something unspeakable. At least the
one-projector houses back in the day didn't flash ads for Kodak film during
the reel interval.
The gracelessness of Macromedia's self-promotion fits though, in a
roundabout way, with the theme of abduction. Netscape is made mortally
porous by this site. Domain name errors, third-party products, email two
days later in your mailbox filled with routing information: these
interlopers indicate some possible escape paths from the hermetic bubble of
modern web-sites. Even the "end" of Abducted's story is an ambivalent
exit. It's more of a crash than a departure.
"Abducted /Interactive/" at: