In 2011, I began creating initial photographic and video studies for an interactive and multi-monitor installation project entitled Estuary. The work imagines the industrial port region of the Delaware River and around the industries along its tributaries in the age of climate change. The work addresses how industrial uses of the river, notably those of the energy industries and transportation industries, become inscribed in a visual language that ranges from geological maps to flood markers. It also considers how the meanings of markers change when ideas surrounding the water evolve. For example, what happens when the water is seen as a force washing salt and toxic elements inward toward the cities of the Delaware rather than a force washing toxins away.
Eastuary is a three monitor interactive video installation with a supporting interactive Website. It is based on original recordings of the industrial docklands that stretch from Wilmington to Trenton to include the cities and environs of Chester, Philadelphia, Camden and others. Much of the work is filmed from kayak in the busy port areas – one of the busiest in the United States. Setting geological and marine mappings, FEMA flood zone studies, biological research, energy grids and industrial constructions in relation to original animated panoramic recordings and video, the project considers how the meanings of maps and markers may change in relation to the contexts in which they are applied. Recordings of ships in motion, lighthouse signals, and natural seasonal changes are among the measures of time that are integrated in the project.
This project draws connections to Buckminster Fuller's writings on the sustainable relationship between industry, science and sustainability and it expands my prior work looking at the relationships between human industries and nature carried out in the US desert west, Chile, France and Norway.
Estuary premieres at the Museum of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, July 2013.
Figure 1. Video sample: Industries and water flow. (Flash Video)
Project Crewman's Report: Spaceship Earth and Toxi-City
Visual elements in Estuary are integrated with text and an original music composition to form the multi-projection performance work, Crewman's Report: Spaceship Earth.
Crewman's Report: Spaceship Earth features an original composition for 14 voices by composer, Gene Coleman. Crewman's Report combines visual elements, original writing that includes log nots and lyrical assesments from surveys of the estuary region, and text fragments from the works of Buckminster Fuller.
Toxi-City incorporates all of these materials as well as spoken voice into a work for immersive-environments. This project is included in a major, multi-institutional 2014 festival proposal relating to the legacy of Burkminster Fuller. The work is oriented around themes of termporal separation and speculation -- relationships between the deterioating city seen by Fuller 50 years ago, the one imagined and the city in fact -- as well as themes of sensorial knowledge, navigation and boundaries. The work seeks release summer 2014.
The project is developing in stages. The first stage involves the collection of original imagery as well as the collection of archival materials. Panoramic photographs are printed and also animated to form the backgrounds for the multimonitor intallation and interactive elements. The images are also organized for later possible web and book formats. Next, the animated panoramas are combined with original video recordings. This will result in layered video works for exhibition. Examples of the videos are presented in a Web documentation and they may be additionally presented during a special sound-image event in collaboration with the composer, Gene Coleman.
ESTUARY SUMMER/FALL 2012
IMAGE GATHERING AND INITIAL PHOTOGRAPHY. The first stage is the collection of original photographic and video site-studies produced on land and from the water. The site studies are accompanied by the collection of archival scientific maps and symbols.
Some of the materials that will go into the final project include, among others: (1) Elements from historic maps that show a development of the river use. These are extracted and layered upon still panoramas and animated videos. (2) Actual and imagined maps describing the mineral composition of the landscape from rocks to concrete, steel and wire are layered upon gigapixel satellite imagery as well as maps showing water systems, flood zones, and tides. (3) Original video and photos that are gathered through a river survey, much of it carried out on kayak. The images show human-industrial activity and natural life on the river, with attention given to various forms of energy use and flows (natural and industrial). (4) Original recordings with an actor are filmed above and underwater. (5) Evocative reoccurring layered video recordings of temporal markers bridge between representations of material forces and flows of the Delaware.
Project Development (continued)
ESTUARY WINTER 2012
VIDEO/MULTIMEDIA POST PRODUCTION OF ELEMENTS FOR SYNCHED AND IMMERSIVE MULTIMONTIOR INSTALLATION. The panoramic photographs are processed into video to combine with original video recordings, scientific data and geological studies to produce layered video projections for exhibition. The exhibition approach features a layering of elements on a video screen tied together by the motifs of the evolving maps, spiral panoramas, water and swimmer.
CREATION OF THE CREWMAN'S LOG IN PRINT FORM. A poetic book of fieldnotes is compiled. This is printed for the exhibition at the Chemical Heritage Foundation and integrated in the following projects.
SPECIAL PERFORMANCE VERSION WITH MUSIC COMPOSITION. In addition, these materials may also be integrated into a special sound-image event for live musical performance with 14 voices. Anticipated premiere, late fall 2013.
IMMERSIVE PROJECT for Satophere, Omnimax, CAVE and/or other immersive environment. Proposed for the yearlong Festival of Legacies of Buckminster Fuller. Summer 2014.
WEBSITE AND PRINTED PROJECT DOCUMENTATION. Examples of the videos, logs, and working process are presented through a Website.
Figure 2. Video sample: Stasis and motion (Flash Video)
This project uses a variety of methods in its production and output. Some examples of these methods are:
1. PANORAMIC IMAGERY. The panoramic studies are created using digital photography and video. In the photographs, hundreds of images are stitched to create "gigapixal" photographs that can be navigated, zoomed in upon or animated into video. Parallel video studies are made to create time-based elements which may seamlessly edit together.
2. VIDEO COMPOSITIONS. Video and audio recordings are made of elements expressing motion, flow and trajectories. These are cropped and embedded into video and animation backgrounds through digital processing. Materials are composited for the installation project, and they are kept as separate layers for interactive manipulation.
3. PRINT WORKS AND MANUAL DESIGN. The printed materials are drawn upon by hand using graphic design tools and either rescanned or mounted as original one-of-a-kind works.
4. WRITING AND DOCUMENTATION. Logs, notes and supporting materials are added to the Web documentation of the project.
Figure 3. Examples of the working process are included in the web documentation - this includes the comparison of historic maps and contemporary landscapes.
SAMPLES OF PRIOR WORKS DEMONSTRATING MODELS
1. CANYONLANDS (THE MOVIE). VIDEO AND PHOTO INTEGRATION THROUGH LAYERING. In this movie, imagery is layered upon studies of places that are related to the writings of Edward Abbey, who worked as a ranger and fire-lookout in the parks and wilderness deserts of Utah and Arizona. http://edabbey.com/
SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED ONLY ONCE: ANIMATED PANORAMIC AND VIDEO, SPIRALING FORMS. This 20minute work is an example of layered spiraling techniques.
3. THE HARVEST: GATHERING LOGS AND PHOTOS FOR INTERACTIVE INSTALLATION AND DOCUMENTATION. "The Harvest" is a layered photograph and video work for exhibition and web viewing. The work uniquely holds differing kinds of writing (fieldnotes, editing logs, essay, and interview text) in relation to each other and in relation to a 56 image study in Burgundy. See CULTURES IN WEBS demo page for more:
Roderick Coover's films and digital installations include, among others, The Unknown Territories Project (Canyonlands-Interactive, 2011; Canyonlands-The Movie, 2011; Voyage Into The Unknown, 2009), Norwegian Trilogy (Rats and Cats, 2011; Norwegian Tsunami, 2011; Det siste utbruddet/The Last Volcano, 2010), Outside/Inside (2008), From Verite To Virtual (2008), The Theory of Time Here (2007), Something That Happened Only Once (2007), The Currency Series (Three Lions, 2006; J.S., 2007; Fillip a Guinea--The Elephant And Castle, 2007; Marianne, 2007) and The Language Of Wine: An Anthropology of Work, Wine And The Senses (2005) among others. These are complemented by interactive works such as Cultures In Webs: Working in Hypermedia With The Documentary Image (2003) that bridge studio production and theoretical writing. They are also complemented by multimedia performance events such as Gerald's Party Radio Play (2010) and theoretical writing such as in the co-edited book Switching Codes: Thinking Through Digital Technology In The Humanities And Arts (2011).
Coover holds a Ph.D. in the History of Culture from the University of Chicago, and he is Associate Professor of Film and Visual Art at Temple University.