Anatomy of a Screen – Jeremy Rotsztain’s House of Shadow Silence

House of Shadow Silence is a new VR work created by Portland-based software artist Jeremy Rotsztain. Riffing on the conventions of the architectural flythrough the project is an elaborate hommage to Frederick Kiesler’s 1929 movie theater the Film Guild Cinema. The Film Guild Cinema’s restrained design ignored the flourishes opulent American movie houses from the ‘roaring twenties’ were known for – Kiesler’s interior was about controlled sight lines and ingenious apparatuses (notably a screen that expanded or contracted under a cat-eye like shutter) that foregrounded viewing. It went further than that though, he speculated the cinematic potential of architecture; he envisioned 360-degree surround projections, anticipating immersive media (and even projection mapping) by more than half a century. Most of the Austrian architect’s wild ideas were never realized due to budget cutbacks – this is where Rotsztain steps in.

“I first discovered Kiesler's Film Guild Cinema when I came across this iconic picture of the movie house in Anne Friedberg's amazing book on the history of screens The Virtual Window,” Rotsztain writes over email, pinpointing the inspiration for House of Shadow Silence. “At first, there was as aesthetic connection – love at first sight? – but after reading Kiesler's goal for the project (“the spectator must be able to lose themselves in an imaginary endless space”) and discovering his life-long passion for endless experiences, I felt like our ideals were aligned.”

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