July 21st - July 24th, 2003

click button to see maps and performance routes

This proposal is a variation on previous "Drive-By" performances. Check out "Drive-By" 2001 and "Drive-By" 1999 to see these previous encarnations.
The artist refers to this piece as a ‘video projection performance and roving installation’. The emphasis is on the action, the content of the video and the interaction between the projection and the environment. The audience, those expecting the show and those who chance upon it, get to see random moments from the video. The projected video consists of a live mix of digital video streams from a high-speed computer being controlled by the artist/projectionist.
Drive-By consists of a number of site-specific installation/performances. A dark car is driven around each site (streets of New York City). The artist is in the rear seat equipped with a data projector connected to a computer. He points the projector out the window of the car, hitting specific surfaces of the location with projected digital video. The artist controls, live, the direction of the projection and the content of the video. Each site has its own set of video streams for projection. Each incarnation of the performance will be documented and combined with the original video streams, to produce a DVD as the end product of the piece. The work embodies notions of ephemeral, virtual, non-destructive graffiti coupled with the guerrilla tactics of a drive-by shooting, while also addressing formal issues such as surface, motion and the fleeting moment.
Completed projection unit dubbed "Video Remix Artilery Gun". It mounts as above from the ceiling of the car, is suspended from a gimbal so it can resist the inclining of the car as it moves and can be pointed in any direction. It features 60 midi switches which allows the artist to play any of 60 video clips at any time (just as musicians play midi instruments, with video relplacing audio).
A low-resolution version of Drive-By has been performed/installed twice at the D.U.M.B.O. Art under the Bridge Festival. In that version two of the proposed sites were used: Times Square, Manhattan and the D.U.M.B.O. area, which is located under the Manhattan Bridge on the Brooklyn side. A 600 lumen projector was used, hand held to project somewhat successfully, if a bit shakily, on the dark D.U.M.B.O. streets and rather unsuccessfully on the bright streets of Times Square. I am proposing to remake the piece with high resolution, computer controlled video streams, for all sites. These video streams will then be projected from the moving car by a brighter data projector (3,000 lumens) which will be customized to hang inside the car with a rig designed for the artist to control its direction without having to support its weight (see above). It will be connected to a computer delivering the video feeds and the artist will control the content using a custom MIDI controller on the handle of the projector rig.

The production of this piece, which culminates in a DVD, starts with the shooting of the original material which make up the video streams. Each site serves as the source material for the projection onto its paired site (e.g. video shot along the streets of Coney Island are projected on 5th Avenue, Manhattan, and vice versa). Tripod, steadycam and roving pan shots of the neighborhoods, documenting the essential visual elements and concepts descriptive of the area, form the substance of the shoots. This footage will then be edited and prepared into video streams for projection.

Next the projections are installed/performed at the sites: a dark body rental car is rigged with the projector set-up, a computer loaded with the video streams and UPS battery systems to provide power. The artist and a driver perform the piece in each location pair on different days while a camera person documents the events. Footage of the performance/installations and the various projection footages will be combined in post-production to create the final dvd.

In this example, which was part of the 3rd Annual D.U.M.B.O. Art Under the Bridge Festival, the performance was executed in two parts. The first consisted of a video sequence depicting Times Square being projected repeatedly onto a derelict block in Brooklyn. The block is surrounded by a continuous, corrugated, galvanized, iron fence, topped with razor wire. The car made approximately 20 laps of the block. The second part consisted of depictions of the Brooklyn block projected onto Times Square. The car made numerous passes through Times Square, hitting as many surfaces as possible with the projection. While the Brooklyn location was close to other events in the festival and was advertised, the Times Square part was done ‘guerrilla’ style, with no warning and therefore no expectant audience.
This “Drive-by”, obviously, mimics the modus operandi of a drive-by shooting: a slow moving, dark car with a rolled down window creeps along near the sidewalk, ‘shooting’ video images at all that gets in its path. The superficial images skim the surfaces and textures of the recipient walls and objects. In the case of the block in Brooklyn, the video image ripples as it travels along the corrugated fence. The highly pixilated image glistens against the dull grey, due both to the nature of the subject matter (Times Square’s sparkling neon, tv screens etc.) and because the metal fence reflects the projector light in all directions (the curves of the corrugation make for a full 180 degrees of surface to bounce off).

The surface glamour and glitz of Times Square has been stripped and reapplied to the Brooklyn fence in a thin, ephemeral veneer. What once may have impressed the onlooker now shows itself to be just a cosmetic surface that is powerless in any attempt to cover up the desolation of the Brooklyn block.

In Times Square, where all surfaces sparkle and glow with light, the projection of the Brooklyn block adds another layer, another surface to an already cluttered environment. The projection serves to remind us that the images and surfaces that comprise Times Square are just that, image and surface. They are only as deep as the materials they are made of and last only as long as the advertisers pay for. The Brooklyn images are images of reality that are momentarily usurping the unreal. Times Square, stripped of its surface decorations, could easily be a dark and run down neighborhood; the Brooklyn block projection gives us a glimpse of the view through the crack in the polished surface.

Of course, the artist fails to overwhelm the brightly light billboards and monster tv screens with his images, mirroring the inability of any individual to impact huge corporations; but his images do make it through to the ‘dead’ spots, the holes in the fabric of consumerism and most importantly, he is not deterred, he has tried despite the odds and it is the doing that gives life to the piece. Should the artist amass the financial strength to bring an enormous daylight bright projector to the location and completely burn his images onto the brightest billboard, we know he would; in the meantime he has succeeded in making a small dent in an enormous cultural icon for the few that glimpsed his images

"Drive-By" is a set of performance/installation events with many contributing elements. It uses the streets, architecture, people and images of New York City as both the content and canvas for an ephemeral portrait of the city, complete with all its complexities and paradoxes. It takes the personal cityscape of the artist and expands it into a descriptive of socio-economic diversity, of architectural metaphor and neighborhood identity.
After gathering footage from specific paired neighborhoods, the artist renders video streams that try to summate the visual 'gestalt' of those areas. Each video stream set (group of video clips) is made available for live mixing by means of programmable software and an array of programmable buttons. The artist, situated in the rear seat of a moving car, projects these video streams out the rolled down window onto the landscape of the chosen neighborhood, changing the content (mixing and choosing video streams) as he sees fit.
Images from one location are projected onto the landscape of its pair and vice-versa: these locations are chosen for their differences and the dichotomies in society that they represent. The juxtapositioning of incongruent, virtual landscapes with the real incites one to re-examine both and to produce associations previously unmade. A poor, dilapidated neighborhood projected onto a wealthy landscape; a brightly lit, fantastical location projected onto a barren, desolate one; a business area superimposed on a residential... and, of course, the reverse of all the above.
The artist uses urban guerrilla tactics to present his work; the car, dark and slightly sinister, moves amongst the other traffic without revealing its intentions until the right time where, like a drive-by shooting, it surprises its recipients (buildings/architecture) with a shower of digital pixels. In the less traffic-laden streets, the car delivers its payload in a slow, calculated fashion. While this piece is performed, both by the process of projecting from the car and by the live remixing of the video content, the performer remains somewhat anonymous; he is the shadow behind the bright light, akin to the drive-by gunman, implying that we are witnessing something we shouldn't. The bringing together of two opposing locations, the usurping of the real by the virtual, the implied commentary, the unexpectedness and the resultant beauty all have the feel of an underground, alternate view of the city fighting to be known. As quick as it appears, so it retreats as the car disappears around a corner or into traffic.
A number of paired locations are chosen, each of personal significance to the artist, having worked, lived or socialized there. An immigrant from Ireland who started out in America with nothing, working minimum wage jobs and surviving hand to mouth, the artist fulfilled his American dream by working his way to the top of the events production industry, overseeing productions for the wealthiest of New York society. He has a unique perspective both because he came from the outside and because he was privy to the extremes of society which co-exist while never really interacting. He is taking those extremes and forcing an interaction, albeit momentary and non-physical. He is using the mechanisms of a drive-by and graffiti to modulate and invigorate our reading of the sites chosen. His graffiti is moving and non-destructive; his drive-by gives illumination instead of taking life. The fear of the other is brought about by the severity of contrast, but in this piece the contrasted also unite.
The architectural landscape of New York City is mostly made of boxes with facades and often those facades are layered with adornments and advertisements and perhaps those with graffiti. Drive-by adds another layer to these surfaces, a fleeting, moving layer beholden to no monetary gain, selling no product although, perhaps claiming territory, like graffiti. These multiple layers form a metaphor for the strata of society, with the structural obscured by the trappings of wealth and capitalism which in turn are usurped by the destructiveness of the disenfranchised. The artist both participates in and exposes this process in Drive-By.


© Gearóid Dolan, 2004. All rights reserved