© Robert Bowen 2017


N.Y. Background (The Model of the Model)

The premiere of N.Y. Background was at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum on December 11, 2015.

The performance is a collaboration with:
Robert Bowen - moving 3D photographs
Jason Smeltzer     -    theremin
George Quasha    -    percussion
Charles Stein       -    vocals
Julian Sparacino   -    flute, soprano sax and bass cl

NY Background (The Model of the Model) is a speculative artwork about the city. To date, the work has been screened at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, Yale, The Skyscraper Museum, the School of Visual Arts, New Spectrum Foundation and elsewhere. Bookings are now available for the 2017/2018 season.

NY Background (The Model of the Model) is a 3-D stereoscopic film accompanied by an unusual live quartet of poets and musicians who approach the film as a visual score. Through sensations of depth, movement, and sound, this unique collaborative performance is an instrument to view the city as it examines the iconic geopolitical landscape of Lower Manhattan in different time periods. One day in 1903, filmmaker, J. B. Smith, on assignment for the Edison Manufacturing Co. of West Orange, NJ, took a boat ride down the Hudson. The project takes off from the digital stereoscopic conversion of what Smith saw, what he didn’t see, what’s missing, and what’s been added since. By varying the modes of perception one experiences trans-temporal drift. New York City is revealed to be a panopticon of frenetic urban renewals culminating in postmodern hyperspace, geopolitical tragedy and the entropic effects of climate change.

Throughout the work the city is visualized in ways not previously experienced. Stereoscopic conversions were made from early archival films of Manhattan. An additional step involved making 3-D mesh models of the city using digital photogrammetry extracted computationally from the same archival films and other sources. NYB is an experimental artwork about the city, and not a documentary.

Ultimately the film asks questions about the limitations of the physical body in relation to urban spaces. To what extent can one move through time and space? In Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Walt Whitman “projects” himself to the men and women of the future. How different are they from us he wonders? Given the logical conclusion of climate change and the plausible future of AI, the spectator is transported within the film on a journey from observation to realization. One has a sense of actually experiencing what was formerly only an idea. As the work progresses one becomes increasingly unsure of what is seen and even who is seeing. Ultimately the viewer emerges as if (s)he is an AI being negotiating the Anthropocene.

Additional Notes: Three versions of the work are available. All things being equal, version 1 is most recommended.
(1) The work accompanied by the full quartet.
(2) The work accompanied by a solo musician playing theremin, an electronic instrument that is spatially aware.
(3) The work is shown with a prerecorded soundtrack.

The projection is anaglyphic stereoscopic 3-D and requires an LCOS type digital video projector (DLP type projectors are not suitable for anaglyphic 3-D). I travel with an LCOS projector that performs well in up to medium size venues (less than 150 seats, depending). I also supply cardboard anaglyphic stereoscopic glasses (red and cyan) which are necessary for viewing this format of 3-D projection. For venues local to NYC the quartet will bring its own PA system.

Photography Exhibit: An exhibition of approximately a dozen photographs is now in development. The photographs are in essence film-stills, though the images don’t appear anywhere in the film. The photographs were specifically designed to be seen as a series of stand-alone images that work separately from the cinematic devices of stereoscopic 3-D, sound and animated movement.