repurposing images

Screening Report: Carl Stone, 11/6/96

I never heard of the word "repurposing" before 1995. I first heard it
when a woman putting together a multi-media CD-ROM included a video she
had shot for a different project. It was being "repurposed".

During a lecture at the School of the Art Institute on his micro-tonal
musical compositions, Carl Stone played a piece he scored for a Voyager
Company laser disc. This laser disc was originally conceived as a
photographic archive of the city of Los Angeles. The photographs on the
disc were composed of historical movie sequences and still images of the
city, billboards, postcards of old L.A. and current documentary images
taken for this project. The contemporary images of the city were shot
by a group of photographers sent out into L.A. by Voyager. They were
equipped with 35mm cameras that all had motor drives, and they shot
various locations around the city, two that I recognized were Venice
Beach, and the Watts Towers. The images were shot in sequence, at the
frame rates that 35mm cameras equipped with motor drives allow. The
contemporary sequences had this sort of modified cinematic quality, as
the photographers walked around streets, corridors in buildings and
fountains, taking sequences of 35mm still photos, at 1 or 2 frames a
second, or at longer intervals. The disc was then structured as a book,
each chapter containing the photos from one location, or images from one
historical collection. The plan was for the user to page through the
images one at a time, using the remote control, or your computer mouse
to view the images in a slide show fashion. At some point, whether by
accident or design, after the 30,000 plus images had been assembled and
organized on the disc, someone played the disc in an alternative
fashion, which all laserdisc players can do, by merely pushing the play
button on the machine. It was this new presentation of the material for
which Carl Stone was commissioned to create a score, and was one of the
pieces presented during his lecture.

30,000 discrete images played in sequence, at the standard video rate of
30 frames per second amounts to about fifteen minutes of actual time.
The score that Stone created, was a rhythmic collage of street noise,
spoken vocals, and other found sounds. The sheer visual force of 30,000
discrete images flowing off the screen pushed me back in my seat. The
random action of the sequences and placement of the periods of archival
material was extremely strange. The flurry of images at an almost
imperceptible rate, were punctuated by moments of calm, those being the
actual archival movie footage, placed at random within this context. A
sequence of images moving extremely fast; a walk down a city street, a
modern fountain in a park that due to the nature of it being
photographed revolved in the center of the frame like a spinning top,
twenty seconds of a streetcar going down a street in 1908, flipping
through a deck of postcards, then another sequence of contemporary
street images. This blizzard of photos left me with the physical
sensation that my eyes were filled, simply filled with images. The
soundtrack of assembled and tortured musical samples, was a perfect
accompaniment to the swirl of fractured video.

This piece tested the physical body's ability to receive and process
information. The aural and visual shreds seemed to flow out the
subconscious, flickering moments of recognition flooded and then
obscured by the continued oppressive flow of this material. The notion
that this disc was not originally conceived to be seen in this fashion,
and then scored to be an alternative way to view the material, may make
repurposing an art form, if it isn't one already.