November 16, 2002 – January 18, 2003
LACE presented Beacon by Rebecca Carter, a two-channel video installation that ran 16 November, 2002 through 18 January 2003. Beacon was the artist’s first solo show in Los Angeles since receiving her masters in fine arts from Art Center College of Design in 2000. An opening reception took place on 16 November 2002 from 6 – 8 pm. The artist spoke about her work on 6 December 2002 at 7 pm. This exhibition was organized by Irene Tsatsos.
Beacon centered on the relationship between physical and visual perception. Carter noted that during a sudden change in speed, the change is often first registered visually, followed by the body realigning itself in time and space to accommodate the shift, much like adjusting a level. However, sometimes it is the body, instead of the eyes, that senses an acceleration or deceleration. It is the space between these two phenomena, the moment of destabilization where neither perceptual system dominates, which Carter’s scenario sought to evoke.
The work was installed as two facing projections. Placed close together, the projections formed a narrow video corridor. The viewer was, in effect, sandwiched between two planes of light and sound.
The image for Beacon used a single shot of video, taken aboard a plane from the pilot’s perspective, as the plane heads toward a runway for landing. To maximize the potential for spatial dislocation, the video was shot at dusk, which Carter views as “the most ambiguous time of day.” The shot consists of a darkening field interrupted by white landing lights and sequential flashers at the edge of the runway, which serve as beacons for the landing.
In each projection, just before the plane appears to touch down, the video reversed itself and the plane appears to ascend. The speed of the footage is altered differently in each of the looped projections. In one projection, as the plane appeared to descend, the speed of the video was slowed, lengthening greatly the time it would take the plane to near the earth under normal perceptual conditions. Then, as the plane appeared to ascend, the extreme deceleration was reversed, generating a sense of centrifugal force, as if the plane was tethered to the point it kept trying to approach. In the second projection, the same sequence of video was presented with the plane appearing to accelerate as it landed and decelerate as it ascended.
The juxtaposition of these projections dramatized the delicate balance between what is seen and what is felt. By continually shifting the viewer’s real-time expectations of the scenario, Carter aimed to create conditions where at certain moments the physical sensation of hurdling through space became primary, while at other moments the visually observed cues superceded the physical ones, and still at other moments both perceptions competed simultaneously until the viewer negotiated the disparities and re-orientated his or her position between the two projections.
While Beacon was overtly structured as a contradiction of physical perception and visual perception, Carter’s deft melding and inversion of these expectations prompted the realization that these perceptual systems exist in continuum rather than in opposition.
Beacon was produced while Carter was in residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University in Columbus.