Denis Beaubois          

  The Terminal Vision Project    
  The Fall From Raiatea    
  The Fall From Matavai    
  The impossibility of a still point in a fluid environment    
  Video for Gallery    
  Portrait of a guilty man    
  Impact (there is no aftermath)    
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Text about the Terminal Vision Project

In the Terminal vision project I implemented an alternative method of dealing with video, where a physicality is introduced to the process of recording (and to the camera) thereby suggesting an ontological approach to the medium of video. Through such a physicality, the camera’s state of being is explored both as an autonomous entity and as an extension of the performer (self), whilst the video image generated by such an approach is primarily seen as the experience of the camera.  Subsequently the act of recording becomes more an act of experiencing, where the video images acquired from such events are treated as recollections from the camera.

The camera in the Terminal Vision Project is anthropomorphised in so far that it experiences its own death. And the process of death allows for a natural completion to the works, a terminal endpoint that enforces a sense of autonomy in the camera. It is an end dictated by process as opposed to being dictated by aesthetics. It is an end that arises from the camera’s physical experience. The physicality in these works is inherently interwoven between location, intent and history (as these cameras do not exist in isolation), yet this physicality also paradoxically attempts to detach itself from location as it is driven by an uncertain political landscape to concentrate on action or event.

What led me to the physical in regards to video was a distrust of the (unblemished) optical. This was partially driven by a frustration with a homogenous aesthetic enforced by the medium of video itself, where everything was slick and displayed in higher resolution. News, tragedy, advertisements, comedy, art, all in my head seemed united under the same “optically correct” screen surface (Virilio, 2002). It was an aesthetic limited to, and to a certain extent defined by, technology and the tools associated with the medium. Furthermore the medium’s nightly association with the factual through the broadcast news, inspired a questioning of video’s capability to depict experience. 
On an ethical level I did not like the way the video camera silently consumed everything in its path. A technology with an insatiable appetite to indiscriminately capture was reminiscent of earlier concerns in my work about video and its links to surveillance. In essence (if at all possible) I did not want my camera to function like a surveillance camera.

What is my camera?
(The camera’s state of being)
In response to such issues with the medium I decided to implement a series of simple points outlining what I wanted the video camera to do;
* I wanted the camera not to consume everything that traversed its lens. 
* I wanted the event recorded by the camera to mark or change the camera in some way.
* I wanted the camera to physically experience its surroundings (reinstate a sense of distance and geography)
* I wanted the camera to shed its status of passive observer by making its presence felt.
In order to achieve these objectives I experimented with the video camera as a projectile. To record a subject or landscape with the video camera would now entail throwing the camera at that subject or landscape.

The action of throwing the camera addressed numerous issues. Firstly, throwing the video camera forces the camera to physically experience its surroundings. As a projectile the camera’s recorded imagery is influenced by its physical trajectory. When thrown, the camera suddenly develops a ‘body’ with which to sense gravity, velocity and ultimately impact. Its vision is also subjected to the same forces as it is propelled towards its subject. It inhabits the same physical world as its subject and is not a detached omniscient eye where environment and action are compromised to feed its ocular appetite.
Secondly, when the camera is used as a projectile it becomes a potential device of assault. To record becomes an aggressive act, due to the physical exchange that eventuates in the collision between camera and subject. This relationship between the (photographic) camera and the metaphorical assault is suggested by Sontag, who states that, “Just as the camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder” (Sontag, 1984, p. 15).
Although her links to murder primarily relate to an acknowledgement of the inevitable mortality of the subject in contrast to the permanence of the photograph, Sontag also confirms that, “there is something predatoryin the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them” (Sontag, 1984, p. 15).
Under the Terminal Vision Project to record something or someone means that both subject and camera must experience or endure a physical exchange, sometimes culminating in discomfort, damage or death (of the camera). Sontag’s metaphorical violation becomes a physical and immediate one as the camera impacts or marks the event or subject. The recording process cannot be achieved covertly, as the subject cannot easily ignore or forget the presence of the camera. In this way, the camera’s capture is embodied by the subject through the physical exchange that has occurred.
Image is gathered through impact whilst at the same time the camera deposits a sign of its presence onto the subject in the form of the mark derived from the collision. The exchange occurs through contact.

In the work Portrait of a Guilty Man (see Figure 8) a video camera is repeatedly thrown at the subject’s head until the camera is eventually destroyed. Conceptually the work follows the principles established by the Terminal Vision Project where both camera and subject experience a physicalising of the image taking or recording process. I wanted to suggest and set a tangible price for the camera’s capture. In this work the camera bruises as it records, it deposits as it gathers, it marks the subject and is also marked by the subject. The title offers guilt as a reason why the subject repeatedly accepts the blows from the camera. Whether the imposition of guilt is bestowed by the camera or self imposed by the subject /human performer is deliberately left open. I also wanted to explore possible connections between the metaphorical impact of the camera striking the subject and the desire of the person to be recorded, referencing situations where the allure of the camera is so strong that it may drive people to perform unusual or detrimental actions to the self in the name of exposure.

Thirdly, the action of throwing in the Terminal Vision Project also acknowledges the presence, and to a certain extent, the state of mind of the individual located behind the camera. It is he/she who imbues the camera with a physical representation of their mental state.

In Impact (there is no aftermath) (Fig- 9), the camera is aggressively propelled towards the location and destroys itself on the target. The result of the impact is the physical destruction of the camera and the electronic destruction of the target, which although left physically intact, ceases to exist televisually. As a consequence of this televisual absence there is no aftermath to be broadcast, there is just the end of the program.

The video image obtained from this event (the recollection of the camera’s existence) takes on an aesthetic familiarity referencing the military rhetoric of distant, sanitised and remote warfare, where destruction is safely mediated through the screen. However, when further considered the footage obtained from the projectile may be perceived as the inversion of the classic warfare imagery we are accustomed to (Smart Bombs destroying their targets). What is destroyed is our ability to watch and our ability to consume the aftermath of destruction.Webber links the process of exposure to imagery from the Gulf War, where targets are televisually destroyed, to that of an almost sacred vision that desensitises and removes the viewer from their humanity; “when you are invited to play god, you don’t want to be worried about such banal terrestrial things as mutilated bodies” (Webber, 1996, p. 165). Yet in the Terminal Vision Project the camera’s act of remote viewing, whilst still present, is entwined with the “banal terrestrial” fragility and ultimately the mortality of itself and its subjects.

The act of throwing in The Terminal Vision Project also demarcates a territory where change is possible. Here the camera becomes an extension of the thrower, it is a way to remotely conquer space and “to effect change at a distance”(Crosby, 2002). Yet this traversing of space is not achieved via an optical path where the image of the subject is only rendered accessible through a lens. Instead the traversing of space is achieved through physical propulsion by the thrower. The propelled camera must physically enter the space and engage with the subject or environment of interest, its range or capabilities are bound by human limitations of throwing distance. It is a remote presence yet there still remains a physical and emotional connection between thrower and subject. They exist in the same environment and are both aware of their respective presence.

In his book The Vision Machine Virilio paraphrases Merleau-Ponty in describing the human vision / distance correlation as an area of possibility; “Everything I see is in principle within my reach, at least within the reach of my sight, marked on the map of the ‘I can’” (Quoted in Virilio, 1994, p. 7).

The camera as projectile physically exists within this realm of the “I can” and within the realm of the possibility of change.  The realm of vision discussed by Merleau-Ponty is that of a human un-enhanced vision. The camera here is not utilised as an optical tool to decorporalise vision,  instead it is an object and a presence that experiences its position in space defined by a human geographical possibility and its own body. The camera only functions within the physical realm of change.

Such territorial and geographical limits are also echoed in the technology used by the cameras, where the small low powered transmitters are used to relay the video image to the recording unit and onto tape. The transmissions for these works occur on a human scale. Their limited range transiently demarcates a communicable territory that lies within the realm of the video signal. This transmission area (of approximately 50m) falls within covering distance of a human voice and also within throwing distance. They all share a similar local area of influence that is not only anchored in geography but also in proximity and action.
The resulting reception and image from such technological limitations does not align itself with the authoritative, stable and informative quality we are accustomed to through television.
As the signal travels between transmission and reception points, it must negotiate its immediate surroundings ranging from; architecture, geographical landscape, electrical interference, weather and movement of camera.  Subsequently, it is often a weak and broken signal that is received and recorded, a compounded signal shaped by a forced collaboration with its environment, where stability (of signal) is sacrificed in lieu of mobility, whilst purity (of signal) is relinquished in favour of miasma like infiltrations from rogue transmissions (see Figure 10). Hence the camera’s recorded vision is vulnerable to a contagion and infection from its surroundings, amassing airborne pathogens that lie beyond the scope of human vision. However, the result of such contagion is by no means negative, instead it is a phenomenon true to its etymological roots, where the word: “(‘con’: together: ‘tanger’: touch) insinuates that contagion can put us in touch.” with our surroundings (Bashford, 2001, p. 11). The resulting video image, in its infected state, is entwined with the local geography, whereby the resulting static and interference is experienced as an accurate representation of the landscape conveyed from a body (the camera) infiltrated by, and responding to, its environment.

Finally the use of transmission allows the camera to experience visions generated by shock. The damaged circuitry promotes frequency drift where the locked signal is slightly shifted in the trauma experienced. This phenomenon enables other nearby signals to infiltrate the damaged unit, which momentarily obscure the primary signal. The resulting video image is prone to a type of electronic possession where images from another unknown nearby signal will materialise onto the screen and onto tape. We witness the mortality of the battered camera through the static and absence of signal, whilst simultaneously viewing an enabled borderline cannibalism of a host from other local signals.

Authenticity of the image through destruction
I began working with small, modified wireless video cameras which are thrown at, and often destroyed on their subjects in order to explore the links between a remote viewing and physical reality (consumption and experience). As soon as power flows through the circuitry of these cameras, they begin to transmit, and their experience is recorded. These units are used once, they have a single uninterrupted lifespan. They are the antithesis of the camcorder, where event after event is captured at the repeated press of a button. There is no ‘off’ button once the cameras are powered, they cease to record through their eventual exhaustion or destruction.  The camera’s lifespan is a crucial factor in the creation of these works.

Through the self-imposed structure, of one camera equating one experience, the fate of the terminal camera evokes issues of originality and exclusivity. Whereby the fatality experienced by the camera suggests an air of authenticity, in that the event experienced and recalled through the video imagery is the first, last and only event to be experienced by this camera body.