The title of this piece, Ouroboros, is the name a Greek mythological creature, a worm, that according to the legend is eternally devouring it's own tail. It is thus continually nourishing and regenerating itself while simultaneously consuming itself. Newtonian physics teaches us that on the scale and level of the universe that we function, this is quite impossible to do; the classic perpetual motion paradox. On a grand cosmic scale, however, this may very well be exactly how the universe works.
In his book Godel, Escher, Bach Douglas R. Hofstadter has written "What you are now reading, I am now writing." To me, this expresses beautifully the relationship between writer and reader, and by extension, between video artist and audience. Perhaps through my involvement with computers, or influenced by Hofstadters book, I have come to be very interested, maybe even fascinated by the concept of recursion. Recursion is hard to define or explain briefly but it has to do with things that are self-referential, defined in terms of themselves, or--as in the case of Ouroboros the worm--self regenerating. "What you are now reading, I am now writing." This piece attempts to be a further expression of this concept, that the entire universe is self-referential, as we--being part of and contained by the universe--attempt to explain it to ourselves in our practical lives, in our science an particularly through our art.
Playing in the OUROBOROS installation.
The piece is conceived around a unique environment, consisting primarily of a square room with two walls made of rear projection material and serving as screens upon which the video is projected. The two remaining walls of this square room are mirrors, made out of aluminized mylar. The mirrors/walls create a virtual space four times the size of the actual space (see diagram 1).
As a dance piece, in each performance, a dancer carries a video camera as part of her/his costume, thus controlling both where the camera is pointed and--by his/her exact position--what it sees. The result is a video feedback loop such that wherever the dancer points the camera, the image the camera sees is part or all of the image projected on the wall/mirror of the room or reflected in the mirror/wall on the other side of the room. Either the dancer's shadow, as cast by the projector, or her/his reflection, or perhaps several of each, also appear on the camera and therefore on the screens and in the mirrors, ad infinitum. This creates a visually complex and interesting image, a piece where a single dancer, whose movement is constrained by the size of the twelve by twelve foot space, might otherwise result in a piece of limited possibilities.
As an installation, when no performance is taking place, the room contains a device that contains a video camera, one fixed mirror and one rotating mirror, arranged in a clear plexiglass box in such a way that the image picked up by the camera is continuously panning around the room and simultaneously rotating around an axis perpendicular to the plane of the image. This image and its complex motion is transmitted to the two video projectors, generating a constantly changing video feedback loop environment. The spectators or audience are allowed to enter the room one at a time or in small groups, becoming part of the image, the feedback and the environment.