ALIAS - interactive video light installation

The video installation by Karina Smigla-Bobinski is an arrangement of projections and spectators. Entering  spectators stand in front of a light flooded wall. By moving inside of the room, the spectators themselves interrupt the light flow, shadowing the wall as the light projector is situated in the rear of the room. Inside the shadow projections of other people get visible. They show persons in real size, whose faces betray various origins and national roots. Standing in front of the wall one can see his own shadow filled with a person who apparently looks him into the eyes, moving slightly as if listening heedful to him, or maybe to his thoughts only. 
Thus, in the installation, the spectator meets the outline of his own figure and the same time the image of a stranger who seems to hide behind the light wall. Moving along the wall, one can fill his own shadow-outline with different appearances. His perception confronts images in various levels.  The real shadow as the elementary image and evidence of ones presence and then the light generated images (still in danger of being hidden by the other light) of absent persons. If the spectator is not alone in the room, he sees the other persons around him and their shadows interact strangely as well.

In Platos allegory of the cave the shadows that the people see projected against the cave wall present a metaphor for the different levels of knowledge. The different modes of knowledge are illustrated through different modes of perception in a hierarchy between light and shadow: the world of the ideal forms is the domain of light, which can dazzle somebody if unprepared. At the same time the shadows of these ideal forms are the only thing the people conceive as their reality.
The cave is a world of semidarkness, the kingdom of shadows.
Without taking it too far one can see the similarities between the two concepts, the allegory of the cave and Karina Smigla-Bobinskis installation: The well thought through structure, the trias of light, shadows and darkness, the isolation in the cave and the inside of the "white cube" gallery and maybe most important the relation between object and image - the significance of images.
Plato presents a dialectic order of the world, Smigla-Bobinski puts all images and objects into one light space. Through the outshining of the projections by the white light, presence and visibility get decoupled. Created and destroyed by the same medium, light, the video images need a recipient for their sensual unfolding. This recipient is the visitor, one could go as far as to call the visitor the medium, who makes these video people visible through his own silhouette.

Ultimately the installation can be understood as a beautiful metaphor for the dependency of art: without a viewer or visitor it is trapped in an incomplete existence.
In Smigla-Bobinskis "bright cave" the visitor are alienated in an intimate situation. The strange confrontation with the personal shadow and the appearance of a stranger inside of it creates a tension between individuality conceived within the own silhouette and the presence of an image of somebody else. This is emphasized by the slight movements of the video stranger, who seems more alive by this than a mere photo could ever achieve. It is somehow irritating to be unable to communicate with the shadow person. One can only stand still and gaze at the other.

Just as in the classical slapstick of Marx Brothers, where two comedians play each other's mirror reflexion on each side of an empty frame, the visitor can mime video persons posture, movement and attitude, differences and the asynchronism of these two 'mirror images' produces a confusion. Thus the visitor changes the sides and takes over the role of the image or copy. On the other side one is able to take the position of a creator: letting the other person appear or disappear at will.

It is possible to see it as a reminiscence of the theory of the Looking Glas Phase by Jacques Lacan. The reflexion in the mirror is gradually recognized by small children as their own reflexion, as a part of their own identity. This phase is an important step towards self awareness. The 'opposite image' in the mirror, that is at the same time strange and totally dependent on oneself, could be understood as a proposition for an alternative identity.

The contemporary disourse on the identity crisis within society is obviously also incorporated into the concept. The loss of conventional roles elicits a search for individuality and originality which leads to a general confusion about identity. Different Identities get mixed, overlapped and it is hard to find a distinction between identity and personality.

Side by side to the mentioned possibilities of interpretation the shadow-images are not alterable by the viewer, they are not illusions in the platonic sense, but hermetically sealed in traces of the Others, both representing the strange and the complexity of the perceived white and pure light, which is not only physical energy but also possesses transcendental qualities.  

© The bright cave by Thomas Huber, München, 2004

Award Winner 2003 by Frau Ursula Frohne (IUB Bremen, Jury 2003)

Karina Smigla-Bobinski's multimedia installation combines different projection techniques that react directly to the presence of visitors. With a sophisticated lighting scheme, she creates an interaction field in which projected video images of strangers merge with the shadow of the exhibition visitor. In this spatial set-up, Karina Smigla-Bobinski employs video as a means of encounter with one's own image, which oscillates with the aspect of "strangeness" due to the faded-over image. With this strategy, the artist engages in self-questioning, which is one of the traditional themes of video art. However, she transcends this approach by extending the narcissistic constellation of the usual use of video to include confrontation with the "other" in the shadow of one's own appearance. In this way, she creates a room of "self-encounter", which only comes into being through the encounter with the "other's" image.

Philosophierende Leinwand by Henning Bleyl (taz)

Der Bremer Videopreis eröffnet Perspektiven auf Monumentales und Schattiges
Bei einer Strumpfhose würde man sagen: blickdicht. Aber es handelt sich um eine Rückwandprojektionsfolie. Sie eliminiert sogar Streulicht. Und wenn man ein Bild auf sie wirft, sieht mans nur, wenn der eigene Schatten davor liegt.
Eine spannende Relativität von Blickdichte! Und: eine Installation von Karina Smigla-Bobinski in der Bremer Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst. Der schattende Betrachter wird mit lebensgroßen GegenübersteherInnen konfrontiert: mit Wartenden, einer Dirndlträgerin oder einer Galeristin aus Panama, die sich in einer dreistündigen Prozedur in ihr heimisches Traditionskostüm begeben hat - um jetzt einfach gegenüber zu stehen. Sichtbar oder unsichtbar.
Die Versuchsanordnung von Smigla-Bobinski, Bremer Videokunstpreisträgerin 2003, eröffnet ein proppenvolles philosophisches Panorama: Sind wir nicht quasi in Platons schummriger Höhle? Deren Schattenbilder im Verhältnis zur hellen Außenwelt eine treffliche Metapher für Erkenntnisebenen liefern? Oder ist das Ganze irgendwie Kant, weil man ja nur durch die Gegenwart anderer seiner Existenz sicher sein kann? Sagen wir einfach: Du wirfst Schatten, also bin ich. Das Beste ist: Auch theoriefrei macht Smigla-Bobinskis Arbeit Spaß. (...)

TAZ Nord von 16.10.2004, Henning Bleyl, Rezension

Technical Specifications

description > interactive video light installation
components > screen, light, video, projector
dimensions > 4 x 2 m diameter
space > variable, most: 10 m long x 4 m wide x 2,5 m high
premiere > 2004


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