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Nina Sobell: History

In 1971, I created "Disintegration and Re-creation of Objects within a Sequential Time Period" (1). I was still very interested in sculptural issues and issues of time. I choose to engage the viewer as a galvanized participant where installation becomes the stage and s/he an actor. In this way, the audience actually mentally and physically plays a dynamic role in the completion of the work. The work itself progressed from a focus on the audience interaction with the physical object (documented with video) to the disintegration of the object and presentation of the memory of that interaction. It concluded with a closed-circuit video work which acted as a reaffirmation of the physical existence of the viewer in the present, but also as a reminder of its transitory nature. The resulting output was as diverse as the individuals who partook, the dynamics between them and the way they choose to engage with the work.

Closed-circuit video first became the focus of my work in 1972-3 with "camera as audience only performances watching monitor" (2). I was very interested in utilizing it as a means to explore various aspects of human interaction. The work can be best understood as a combination of performance and installation with a ceremonial/ritual/magical blend, rather than aesthetic and decorative. The exciting results led me to want to dive deeper into the realms of depicting unconscious levels of communication.

So, in 1974, I created "BrainWaveDrawing LA" (3). With my brainwave projects I am, in effect, a cartographer, gathering data, recording it and rendering it accessible to the audience in a visual form. It is a voyage through the mind.

The success of this project led me to continue this line of study with "Video Telemetry Environment" in 1975 (4).

Somehow, these experiments reawakened the sculptural issues in me and deepened my interest in physical space. I became interested in regularly engaging an audience beyond the confines of the gallery. This combination of thinking in tandem about how relationships develop in real time with technology bridging physical space manifested itself in "Videophone Voyeur" (5). The work was shown three times in three separate locations, twice in London (7) and once in Manchester (6), and evolved with each installation-based viewers' interaction with the work.

The trilogy concluded in 1978 where the communications from the previous two installations became an integral part of the piece. As the work progressed, I felt an increasing disconnection and took a more passive voyeuristic role, offering more and more of the stage to the audience. "Videophone Voyeur" left me with the desire to take a more active role in the direction of the content of the work.

In 1978, "Up Against the Wall, Camera as Gun" (8) I recast myself in the role of the performer and dressed in a police uniform instructing the now passive audience. Closed-circuit Video became a tool for inward investigation rather then interpersonal communication. In the following two years, my inward investigation continued with " Hey! Baby, Chickey!" to "Chicken Pieces" (9). These works depended on my watching the image on the closed-circuit monitor, which were the audience and frame respectively.

In 1980, I decided to take what I had learned through my intimate relations with closed-circuit work and invite the audience back into the mix. With "In the Window/Out the Window" (10) two parallel closed-circuit systems were installed inside the front window, and directly outside the window on the sidewalk. Artists interviewed each other about their work for 15 minutes each. They faced the monitor in front of them that displayed the image of the other. I once again left the role of performer and let the work take on a life of its own.

In 1981 with "Six Moving Cameras, Six Converging Views" I completely exited the stage once again; it had not been since "Disintegration and Re-creation of Objects within a Sequential Time Period" that I had completely left the frame. Three pairs of closed-circuit cameras were mounted on a structure. In the first setup in the center of the frame were three monitors stacked on top of each other, each displaying corresponding split screen images of the cameras views, including the World Trade Center towers. A closed-circuit monitor displaying partial windows of all six images could be seen as soon as you entered. It was also set up twice in NY (11), once in "1981" (12) and once in "1982" (13).

Through "Exhumed" (14) in 1990 I once again reĪntered the picture as I invited the audience to take on a passive voyeuristic role in my exploration of loss. "Left Brain, Right Brain: Investigation of the Creative Process or 25 Pounds of Clay" (15) of 1991 demonstrates a reaching back out for the other using closed-circuit video as a catalyst for that motion.

"You can see our mind as a sensory organ that perceives forms in the mental plane. It is a sensory organ that orders the many other perceptions that we receive and that continuously abstracts from the primary impressions and from primary abstractions on the objective, unspeakable, levels so that we can function in our environment." --anonymous

In 1992,
"BrainWave Drawing" (16) was benchmark piece. A closed-circuit monitor inside the front window of the gallery in the South Bronx displays two people communicating via their brainwaves as they watch their physical image dissolve with their mental communication. People on the street and in the gallery could see this. This is the first time that all the questions (physical space inside and out of the gallery, the communication between the two participants, charting the brainwaves and a passive audience) came together.

Suddenly, the Internet became a possibility allowing me a means to transcend physical space and broaden my palette. I was eager to explore the possibilities of going remote. A floodgate of possibilities opened and the first step was

"ArTisTheater Streaming Performances" (17). I was so thrilled with the results that I decided it was time to take it out of the gallery and to the streets in "Alice Sat Here" (18). Alice created a dynamic node inviting virtual participants. These experiments continued with "Blast Installation Sandra Gerring Gallery" (19) streaming the Art World on to the Web and "Touch NYU/MIT NY/Boston" (20).

In 1999, the process became more insular again. "Connecting the Dots Banff" (21) and "Web SČance NY/Banff'Web SČance NY/Banff Closed-circuit" (22) marked the first time that I directed the actual thoughts of the audience.

Closed-circuit video has been the catalyst in my exploration-inward and outward, physical and mental-for exploring dynamics between the self and the other, acknowledging the audience as active participants in the work, and the world as my stage.

Closed circuit video has been the catalyst in my exploration inward, outward, physical and mental, for exploring dynamics between the self, and the other acknowledging the audience as active participants in the work, and the world as my stage.

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