Original programme note:

Zoetrope is a dangerous and perverse experiment in alchemy. Machines are pushed until they break, sound is pressurised and overheated until it bubbles over into light.

It is an object made from technological detritus – howling feedback, power spikes, white noise and video snow; the blank blue screen, flickering slightly. This raw material was melted and moulded until it at last took on a new sheen of artifice, but its original character keeps on breaking through.

It explores issues around the relationship between people and machines, and questions perceptions of the ‘perfection’ of technology. It is about use and misuse; abuse, breakdown.

It speculates about what happens between video frames, when a waveform crosses zero for an unmeasurably short period of time, or when a switch is positioned exactly half way between off and on. It questions the illusions of technology; that there is something beyond the TV screen, or between the loudspeakers; that a succession of still images constitute movement, or that a dead, pre-recorded voice is alive.

Sound is absolutely at the centre of Zoetrope. It is the sound that carries the piece, dictates its form. The video images are forced to conform to ‘musical’ rules, made part of the texture of something that is essentially a piece of music. Sound and image have a complex relationship in the work; not so much mixed as interleaved. They flutter around each other, not quite making contact, but defining one another, by absence as much as presence. They work together to make a meta-texture, highlight aspects of one another, but remain essentially independent.

Zoetrope exists on tape, as a performance (suited to a concert environment), and as an installation (suited to a gallery). The performance version may also be played with sound only.

Don’t watch the light, watch the spaces between.

Additional Notes

  • Commissioned by BEAST/West Midlands Arts for premiere at the Midlands Arts Centre.
  • Subsequent performances in Pandaemonium, Lux Centre (London), the Montréal Festival of Film and New Media, Ars Electronica, the International Computer Music Festival (Kobe, Japan), COMTECart (Dresden), Transmediale (Berlin), The Broadway Media Centre (Nottingham), the New Media Centre (Huddersfield, England), The CBSO centre, (Birmingham), the Virginia Film Festival, and the New York Film Festival.
  • Incorporated into the Sonic Circuits touring programme (US).
  • Won first prize in the COMTECart competition, second prize in Transmediale, and an honourable mention at Ars Electronica.