New York

Kit Fitzgerald And Jon Sanborn

“Resound,” a video installation by Kit Fitzgerald and Jon Sanborn, consists of 20 elements scored for eight color channels in stereo sound. Each element is made up of the sound and the image of an ordinary action or accident (e.g. a handclap, a dropped tool). None of the videotapes was constructed as a whole; and the elements, which are very brief, move randomly and rapidly from monitor to monitor. One may be repeated many times, or leap elsewhere after one or two runs. Relations that do occur seem to be coincidental.

Here one wonders about the order of unorder. What is “pure” randomness? Does it ever reduce to an order? Must it be structured to remain random? To seek a narrative order here is not so much futile as irrelevant. No given order (e.g. left-to-right) is used, even to articulate a concept of unorder. In this regard, the experience is more aural (or “environmental”) than visual (or “spatial”). The percussive sounds are too dense, too layered to order. Too many hierarchies compete.

The eight monitors form an arc of images that coincides with one’s field of vision. The tendency is to focus on an image at the arc’s apogee (which corresponds to the point of focus in perspective); and yet as one focuses or zooms in on a “perspectival” image, one may hear a “peripheral” sound. In this way visual and aural spaces mix. (I would say that they are mapped onto each other but no third term or space emerges clearly as such.)

Other spatial terms mix as well. Ideational space (related to vision) mixes with bodily space (related to hearing); so too, conscious space (related to the visual and the perspectival) is confused with subliminal space (related to the aural and the peripheral). One is led to consider these interrelations. The sense is that whereas visual space is more specific, aural space is perhaps more indicative. Hearing seems to orient (and so also disorient) one more than vision.

No element quite concludes, so silence is never one of them; it is punctuation only. And yet the elements are closed as such. Extracted from the texture of life, they are purged of associations. No longer a part of the world as indices or signals, they become signs, whose terms refer only to each other. They are thus circular. Fragments of the world, they do not refer one to it. There is no mediation, no real engagement by the viewer.

To Benjamin one value of film is the shock inherent in montage; this, he said, makes the viewer critical and active. More importantly, it may provoke what he called “correspondences” or “dialectical images” that stand still without resolution and invite the viewer to awaken. (The two concepts are flawed, hardly dialectical, as Adorno pointed out.) “Resound” is built on shock. It makes us critical, and yet keeps us from any correspondences. Fitzgerald and Sanborn are very wary of the subliminal insinuations of TV; and we are made aware of many cognitive reflexes. But the disruption does not inform as it disrupts; the shock, finally, is numbness.

Hal Foster