Transparency Theory

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Video: Schmelzolan on Overhead by Christian Faubel

What do elementary school audiovisual departments have in their arsenals these days? Are fifth-grade teachers teaching with PowerPoint? That seems hard to believe, since mine barely mastered the overhead projector. She could never put the transparency right-side up and left-side left on the first try. The overhead projector’s flipping technique required the user’s brain to undo what the eyes do for it, in order to make one sheet of paper’s worth of information available to collective vision.

The tricky optics alone should be enough to interest artists in the overhead projector, but an exhibition dedicated to the device in Malmo, Sweden, focuses on the precious, nostalgic appeal of this quaint technology. Opening Friday and running through May 30, “The Art of the Overhead” will feature an archive of projectable documents and a spate of live programs: a projection-based performance by Katrin Bethge, an analogue computer game by magic-lantern artists Milk Milk Lemonade, and an interactive planetarium from Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser. Since Sunday these artists and others have been taking part in an OHPen Surface Workshop, sharing the projects they’ve prepared for the overhead projector and discussing how they’ve adapted the technologies they use in their usual practices, which range from sound art to minimal robotics. The full program is available at www.overheads.org, a site that makes nice use of another obsolete technology, the marquee.