Commission by Glasgow International
Mitchell Library. Glasgow.
An array of video cameras continuously examine a series of crafted landscapes in exacting detail and relay the footage, projected in real-time, to a large-scale screen. The work runs live using three revolving tabletop carousels holding sculptural props, collaged forms and architectural motifs to generate perpetual and endlessly variable cinematic and phycological landscapes.
Canopy 10m x 6m x 4m, equipment 6m x 1m x 1m
Video cameras, video mixers, sequencers, motors, bespoke electronics, metal, cloth, wood.
Text by Francis Mckee
Calum Stirling’s installation sits within the splendour of the old reading room of the Mitchell Library. On one side of the room five large wooden turntables sit on a small platform, rotating very slowly under the gaze of a series of CCTV cameras. Each turntable presents a miniature landscape or interior. On the other side of the room a vast canopy houses a video screen on which images from the nearby cameras are projected via a live feed.
The image we see on the large screen is constantly changing and endlessly different. Stirling has programmed the video feed from the turntables so that the various camera shots intersect dynamically. Three technical effects also come into play, modifying the screen image – vertical and horizontal split screens and a ‘wipe’ that blends different feeds together.
The large screen then presents us with a constantly shifting montage. The slowly turning images combine and blend into one another or at other times sit in sharp contrast against each other. This random process offers us a continuous series of compositions. The tiny whirr of the turntable motors and the pace of the computer’s editing establish a meditative rhythm that tempts viewers to linger with these images.
There is a certain hybridity to this work. The impact of the screen is at times cinematic. We respond to the camera angles established by Stirling, drawing on our years of movies and TV dramas and the language of camera shots they have ingrained in our minds. The editing and split screens though recall security camera set-ups and touch on the world of surveillance. This is undercut however by Stirling’s use of models – we are always aware that they world captured on the screen is composed from a series of models and dioramas sited not far behind us. This knowledge leaves us with a very contemporary problem. The actual objects we are viewing on the large screen are available for viewing in the same room. In many ways, however, it is more alluring to watch them on a screen with our back to the thing itself. The vast canopy could easily be a modern version of Plato’s cave in which people view representations rather than reality.
This mediation of the real surrounds us on a daily basis. Stirling’s turntables and screen remind us that we often prefer the mediated image and, in fact, prefer a remixed version of the real.
Rostra Plaza does not approach this situation satirically though. The models have the charm of miniatures, the rhythm of the large screen images is slow enough to evoke an elegiac mood and the melding images emerge like memories.
Despite each turntable having the appearance of an upturned spider there is an anthropomorphic element to the technical set-up. A conglomeration of robot-like metal arms crane over the model buildings and objects protectively, as if searching for something.
This spectrum of responses to Stirling’s work is all geared to question how we perceive the world and how we interpret what we see. The linked elements of Rostra Plaza function as a kind of eye, capturing data under available light sources, passing it through an analysing mechanism and creating an image.
About the artist: Calum Stirling is a Glasgow-based artist, his wide-ranging practice encompasses sculpture, sound, moving image and architectural intervention. His practice combines traditional sculptural techniques and handmade electronics in works such as Longplayer – his record making machine, and the project Landstylus, devised to translate the topography of the highlands into sound. He has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad throughout his career with shows in countries as diverse as Canada, Norway and Australia amongst many others and has carried out numerous residencies.
Gi Festival 2008