John Craig Freeman and Will Pappenheimer
Included in Hans Richter: Encounters
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Resnick Pavilion
May 5, 2013–September 2, 2013
Hans RichtAR @ Hans Richter: Encounters, John Craig Freeman and Will Pappenheimer, augmented reality installation art, LACMA, 2013.
Hans RichtAR was designed to blur the line between the physical space of LACMA, the objects and films in the larger exhibition and the virtual space that occupies the same location, by filling that space with an alternative virtual exhibition. The work can only be seen with the use of an iPad, using augmented reality technology.
The project was installed in a part of the exhibition which Timothy Benson, the curator, dedicated to the representation of the Film und Foto, or FIFO exhibition which took place in Stuttgart in 1929, and for which Hans Richter served as film curator. Hans RichtAR re-imagines this groundbreaking exhibition in response to the emergent technology of our time. Designed by El Lissitzky and his wife, Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, FIFO was intended to put into practice the ideas of expanded cinema space that Richter and his contemporaries were experimenting with at the time. They were trying to break with the use of theater as an interface metaphor for film, the emerging technology of their time. Richter and other avant-garde artists of Europe and Russia were committed not only to the idea that that a new visual language needed to be invented, but that cinema should shed its reliance on the narrative forms of the past. Early film was most often made by setting up actors in front of a camera, as if to make a play. The film was then displayed on a screen in front of an audience, as if the screen was a stage, replicating the classic proscenium arch of theater.
Many of the principles of 20th Century avant-garde relating to the need to invent a new visual language stuck, and in fact, form the basis for the construction of meaning in contemporary cinema. A case in point is the invention of montage by artists such as Sergei Eisenstein in Battleship Potemkin. Here, meaning is made by the poetic juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated film shots, many filmed at different times in different places. Montage is so commonplace now, it mostly goes unnoticed, but in 1929 it was quite literally revolutionary. However, the notions of expanded cinema space, a space that envelops and immerses the audience, has gone largely unrealized, but will perhaps find its expression in virtual and augmented reality.
We hope to extend the line of inquiry that Richter and others began in the early 20th Century. Just as Richter invented the language of abstract film from his interest in the sequential image in painting, we hope to participate in the invention of a new language for place-based virtual reality. The questions they raised in response to the emerging technology of their time are questions that will never be fully answered and must continue to be asked in the 21st Century.