The Art of War
An Interactive Sound/Image Installation
Stephen Gang Gallery
529 West 20th Street
New York City
March 6 - March 27, 1999
Borrowing its title from the ancient Chinese classical text on military philosophy and strategy written by Sun Tzu more than 2000 years ago, Alan Berliner's new interactive installation takes the sounds and images of war and transforms them to the brink of pure abstraction. Focusing primarily on old black and white images and sound recordings of bomb blasts, explosions and anti-aircraft fire from WW II, the exhibition recalls recent media coverage of the American and British bombing raids over Iraq, in which beautifully framed images of bright lights flickering across the Baghdad skyline, or point of view footage of "smart bombs" hitting their targets became evidence of the ways that our eyes and ears are increasingly conditioned to understand abstraction as both sign and symbol of the brutality of war. Through the unpredictable and serendipitously interactive juxtapositions of sounds and images -- all in extreme slow motion -- The Art of War releases its source materials from their original historic grandeur as documents of death and destruction and reworks them to yield the additionally powerful and ironic dimensions of commemoration and pacifism; elegy as an abstract text of light.
Like all of Berliner's work, sounds and images are integrated in a new and formally innovative manner. In the center of the gallery, a video projector mounted on the ceiling beams down images upon a "screen" consisting of almost two hundred small white audio speakers aligned in a rectangular grid on the floor below. Concentric rectangles of pressure sensitive black floor matting surround the central image, radiating outward like rings in a bulls-eye target. Each ring is connected to an individual sound source; depending on how many people are in the room and where they are standing, up to twelve individual sounds -- from air raid sirens to bomb whistles to screams, all slowed down to the limits of aural recognition -- are activated, separately or simultaneously (in any combination), to emanate from the bed of speakers ("the image") on the floor. Whether random or purposeful, the engaged interaction of gallery visitors guarantees the potential for a wide array of complex and surprising sound/sound and sound/image collage relationships.
ALAN BERLINER is a filmmaker and media artist. His award winning and critically acclaimed experimental documentary films (Nobody's Business, Intimate Stranger) are in the permanent collections of many libraries, festivals, universities, archives and museums worldwide. His interactive installations, Audiofile and Aviary were exhibited at New York's Lincoln Center in 1994. He has received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Jerome Foundations, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the NEA and NYSCA. He is also a faculty member of the New School for Social Research, where he teaches a course titled, Experiments in Time, Light and Motion.
The opening of The Art of War coincides with Berliner's video installation, Gathering Stones, part of the exhibition To The Rescue: Eight Artists in an Archive, currently on view at The International Center of Photography Midtown, through May 16th.