The artist refers to this piece as a ‘video projection performance’. The emphasis is on the action and the content of the video. The piece is titled ‘Drive-by’ because it is carried out in the guerrilla manner of a drive-by shooting. The audience is mostly approached unaware and have experienced the event before they really have time to take it all in. The audience get to see random moments from the video. The video is a looped clip, of short duration, with content geared towards the environment projected onto.
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.
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© Gearóid Dolan, 2004. All rights reserved