Temporary Highs: A New Media Circus


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Curated by Lindsay Howard, the new media project Temporary Highs contains nine video pieces, and screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The video pieces are embedded with multiple visual perspectives and different social, emotional aspects. The various elements provided a large amount of information for the audience to process.

After the entire screening I was trying to figure out if there was a specific order or sequence exist among these videos: what kind of flow Lindsay Howard wanted to presented to us as a curator? However, I don’t feel like I have a clear answer for it. One thing I caught on was how the videos were screened from very personal and private contents, then gradually blew up to public and socially engaged reflections.

Personally I was not drawn by the first two or three pieces in the case of content. I thought they were too personal to ask the audience for reactions. But I do think it is very interesting to just consider this fact — that the new media art (specifically internet based) is very self-guided and filtered. Whoever understands would understand. There is no need of common sense or general understanding on internet, because this virtual platform is open for any connections to any individual. It could get as specific or even as subtle as possible. Although Lindsay mentioned in her talk that people’s “ability to connect with each other is becoming more and more superficial”, it is reasonable that we want this kind of irresponsible dimension to express and abreact.

The most powerful piece was definitely the last one —American Reflexxx, directed by Alli Coates and starring Signe Pierce. According to the introduction published on the website  (Links to an external site.)of this film, it is a short documentary that presents a terrifying journey of the actress Signe Pierce whose face was covered by a mirror-finish mask while walking through the tourist gathering commercial street in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. During the entire shooting process, the director (also the cameraman) did not communicate with the performer in a single word. All the actions and behaviors of the pedestrians in this film were real and were not interfered with acting element. It was extremely disturbing and almost outraged to see the revealing of this ugliness. The performer covered her face and made her identity anonymous triggered the mob to become recklessly curious. People kept questioning the performer’s gender, and without any eye contact and response they were stirred up to be even more excited. It was also scary but revealing to see that the kids and teenagers were actually the group of people who behaved the most brutally. Another reflection in my mind was also related to internet environment. Becoming faceless and anonymous means you could either be vulnerable or inhumane. This film was provoking, and makes me disgusted. However it was not a surprise to see how morality could easily collapse. This social experiment presented us a cruel reality as well as a cold fact.

It was quite interesting and worth thinking to actually watch these videos pieces in different formats on a theater-standard large screen in a totally dark space, and as a serious audience. Is new media artwork “site-specific” in a virtual way? I remember there were one of two pieces that was originally web-based, but breaking away from the internet and showing this video in a off-line situation makes me feel like there is something lost in the content. It is fairly strange for me to sit there still to watch these videos in an arranged order all the way through. The resolution, format, theme or even approach of each video are different. It was a lot to process.



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