Friday, September 16, 2005

If we can sparkle he may land tonight


The title is a line from Bowie’s Starman, a song on the Ziggy Stardust LP, and the installation was an attempt to deal with number of issues to do with photography, identity, and even time travel! In the blog “What is wrong with Photography” a little while ago it was argued that “the expanding chasm of emptiness that is inherent in photography functions something like a black hole sucking implication and association towards it as a cover for its nakedness.” To view a photograph then is always to stand on the edge, and as with all heights there is always a temptation to step off into the void. Never is this more so than with the iconic image of the star (man), a picture whose world we both create and tumble into. If we can sparkle he may land tonight, sought to open up this process, to make apparent the cycle of projection between audience and icon.

The back cover of the Ziggy Stardust LP shows Bowie resplendent in home made jumpsuit striking a camp pose inside a red telephone box. In the installation this image from the sleeve was enlarged to 4ft square and then lit by back projection from a slide of the same image. The process with its slight off register gives the picture a certain three dimensional quality. The light from the (back) slide projector rises and falls creating the impression if you put your mind to it that Bowie is "beaming" in and out of the scene. In front of Bowie's image a telephone receiver dangles from the ceiling. The mouthpiece begins to glow just as the light in the image begins to fade. From the ear piece the distant sound of a ringing phone can be heard.

The spectator stands in front of the picture holding the receiver and becomes part of a light cycle; transported backwards and forwards, in and out of the picture, through time and space. Rather than being interactive the viewer’s normally active (but hidden) role in creating the photograph is potentially exposed - or at least that was the idea.

The installation was shown at the Tannery in 1996. The project also spawned a CD called Through a Telephone Box Darkly, a parallel universe soundtrack to Heddon Street (where the phone box was, and still is located - well almost it is not the actual Ziggy box but a newer style red box).

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