November 29, 2006

Digital Bicycle

I just posted this to but decided to double dip. I'm oh so lazy now...

Opening night at the Museum went well beyond our expectations. Most importantly the movie played without crashing, glitching, having the sound cut out, or having me fall off the digital bike into the laps of those in the front row. Secondly, we packed the house! It was a very euphoric feeling to look out into the theater and then have to get up there and perform with Caedron. Which leads me into the performance element of the "screening."
As some of you may know, I can't just stick to one mode of art. I can't just show a movie, like I can't just hang a painting. So all along I've been looking at this documentary as a way to create an environment that deals with ephemeral performances-much in the same sense as buZ's icon dispatches on the railroad. So in deciding to take the movie on tour I wanted to perform with it just as if I was a band playing in a friend's basement or an athlete performing at a competition. More so I wanted the performance to put the film into a higher context where it could be metaphorical, physical, but mostly evident of a larger relationship between me, the film, and the idea of searching.

The idea of manipulating a bike so that it could control video frame rate was my initial goal with the performance. After months of working with Ben Tedore at the Univ. of Nevada Reno's Digital Media dept. and Pete Froslie at the Univ. of Massachusettes, the first digital-bike was up and running. I bought a roller training contraption on ebay that allowed me to ride stationary but still assimilated real riding sense one had to balance on it. The first bike alteration involved zip-tieing a magnet to the crank and a magnetic switch sensor to the bottom bracket that allowed us to capture an analog signal and convert it to a digital signal. These signals travelled through a microprocessor and into a laptop running a program called Max MSP/Jitter.
Ben built a patch for the program that would then read the rate of my pedaling and apply that to a looped video of a train line passing. This video was projected during the screenings on a separate screen that appeared in front of me as if I was constantly chasing the train line. The digital bike then affected the video's speed, so the video would speed up if I slowed down on the bike and slow down if I were to pedal faster. This mirrored real life where it would seem as if one could catch up to a train only if one were to pedal fast enough. However, the continuous looping of the video and my pedaling endurance made it unmatched and completely unfair. Damn computers!

Since the movie is broken up into two sections-the road to colossus and the colossus of roads-I decided to pedal along with the beginning half of the film. By biking alongside larger than life projections of Derek and I biking it felt surreal and connected. I tried to let the dialogue and mental state of the characters govern my riding speed and at times became completely transfixed, as if in deep meditation, on the act of riding.

Before the digital bike made its debut I worked with Caedron Burchfield on an introductory performance that we performed only at the Nevada Museum of Art. Beginning in darkness Caedron approached the center stage with a staph in hand and self-made ceramic helmet. From the black of the stage the audience heard Caedron begin a mantra/poem/spoken word of sorts about the railroad that continued for 3 minutes. The subtle sound of train cars drifted into the environment and I began riding a vintage English bike on the stationary rollers across from him. On my bike was an old-fasioned light generator that illuminated him as soon as I began riding at a decent pace. As the light from my light struck his face a wireless video camera attached to his staph projected it's recording of his face at real-time onto the large projection screen behind us. As I rode faster the intensity of my light increased and in doing so increased the brightness of the real-time projection. At the end of the performance Caedron turned from facing the audience to facing me. As he turned towards me, my light projected through a stencil of a traincar and a key that were attached to his staph and became magnified and illuminated on the museum wall. I began riding slower and the light gradually dissolved. The stencil projection dissolved. Caedron's real-time projection dissolved. The performance was over.

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