Optical De-dramatization Engine - installation documentation of one of the O.D.E.s

This video documentation shows an excerpt from a long-duration work titled, "Optical De-dramatization Engine (O.D.E.) applied in 40-hour cycles to Thomas Ince's 'The Invaders', 1912". It was installed as a two-channel piece at Harvestworks (New York City) in June, 2012. The 40-hour cycle itself can be viewed with a flash player or downloaded as an app at the ODE location on this site

This video is intentionally silent. Colors that appear in the documentation are an artifact of the video camera interacting with the refresh rate of the media projectors. A visitor to the installation views high-contrast, crisp black and white frames behaving according to an algorithm that allows the frames to generate coherent and fractal movement patterns alternated with representational imagery.

The original O.D.E. software on each computer independently and dynamically modulates frames from each minute of an early 20th-century silent film (an early example of the Hollywood Western genre). The O.D.E. software launches using an algorithmically-determined point in the film that is consistent across dates and time-zones. Note that the documentation shows a subtitle from the nineteenth minute of the archival film, which appears along with current time at the bottom of each screen display. Across the entire 40-hour cycle, the original film subtitles are included at corresponding points in the cycle.

Software concept...

The original software "Optical De-dramatization Engine (O.D.E.)" decomposes visual representations - originally focused on a 1912 film depiction of human drama - in order to foreground non-human expressivity simultaneously embodied in the materiality of that depiction. Patterns emerge from interaction of light, photosensitive medium, material substrate, and artifacts of a digital encoding process. In this algorithmic work, twenty frames were sampled from each minute of Thomas Ince's 40-minute Hollywood Western. O.D.E. software takes each sampled minute and dynamically extends each minute to one hour. At end of 40 hours, the cycle repeats. Through process of stretching and doubling, the O.D.E. constructs a stroboscopic (dazzling) palimpsest of images displaying emergent patterns of coherent and complex movements. The O.D.E.'s fractal patterns began as historical imprints. The patterns were mapped to a material substrate during the period when the actual filmmaking process took place. During the following decades, the film was reproduced according to institutional needs, until the patterns were folded into a digital encoding process that imprinted its own unique markings. The O.D.E. hacks this occult dimension of the film ("occult" in the sense of needing a special key, in this case an algorithm) to unlock the film's capacity for patterned movement, its expressive order.



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