Several prominent currents run through the oeuvre of Montreal’s Matthew Biederman – data systems, politics, broadcast media, performance and the promotion of awareness of northern landscapes and cultures. Another interest that is evident across Biederman’s body of work is colour, a fascination that he demonstrates an almost painterly preoccupation with within several of the installations that he’s executed over the last decade. The latest such work is the ominously titled Event Horizon, an immersive, generative AV installation commissioned for the International Digital Arts Biennial (BIAN) in Montreal.
Alluding to the unforgiving gravitational pull of a black hole, Event Horizon is an environment for contemplating perception, threshold and inevitability. Viewers entering Salle Norman McLaren within La Cinémathèque Québéquoise encounter an arrangement of fine mesh scrims that divide the space in two and serve as filters that the projection emanating from the back of the room pass through. These generative visuals (created with Quartz Composer) present an ever-evolving, dynamic array of banded colour fields that scroll horizontally at varying speeds. The ‘canvas’ is divided into upper and lower sections with a narrow wildcard zone in the middle that contains more diverse oscillating patterns. The modulating tempo of the colour bands is perfectly accompanied by foreboding Ligeti-like sound design that dissonantly drones along with the polychromatic flicker.
An excerpt from Biederman’s artist statement contextualizes some of the technical implications of encountering the work:
…I also see it as a hint towards the meeting point of the collapse of the technology supporting the work – namely display technology (in this case the data projector) and human perception. What occurs as we reach the technological horizon, and attempt to display more resolution than is available, is a breakdown of the technology itself, which produces moiré patterns. By forcing the projectors into states that they cannot reproduce – it does the only thing it can do – interpolate, creating an unpredictable pattern that we perceive perceives as a ‘third’ image, one that is seen, but is not seen for what it actually is it is … The same can be said for the audio track – using a multichannel environment (quad speaker arrangement + multiple subwoofers), and synthesizing particular tones – the physical sound waves in space create additional sounds that are only made through their interaction with each other and the physical space of the installation.
Biederman’s description of the ‘total synthesis’ of sound, image and the perception of the viewer is not hyperbole as the installation really is tightly executed. Event Horizon is a meditation on the digital sublime that can be neatly filed alongside projects like Ryoji Ikeda‘s The Transfinite (2011) and Carsten Nicolai‘s Projections (2012). It should also be noted that the visual language of the piece is kind of a generative retrofit of the work of colour field painter Gene Davis, who spent decades working with vertical stripes. Davis once defended his longstanding obsession claiming “for fifteen years they [stripes] have held my attention and, believe me, when the day arrives that they do not hold my attention, I will do something else, but, I’ve only begun to tap the surface.” Event Horizon demonstrates a similar reverence for pure visual language and excises that logic from the canvas and uses it to craft a dynamic, synaesthetic environment.
Project Page | Event Horizon is installed at Cinémathèque Québéquoise (Montreal) through June 10th
Audio synthesis: 4X
See also: Biederman’s Iterating Color Field, Sorted and Measured Three Times (2008) & Pulse (2006)
Photos: Conception Photo