Interview with Bill Seaman
[Reproduced with permission of Transcript, University of Manchester Press, edited by Kerstin Mey, 2002.]
© 2003 FDL
Since the late seventies/early eighties Bill Seaman has been working with linear video tape and he has carried on the preoccupation with this medium in the installation works that combine videodisk with computer-driven menu systems. He has also repeatedly made different versions of the same piece, like a videotape and a CD-ROM for the Exquisite Mechanism of Shivers (1991/1994). Even when he approaches interactive media in the installation Passage Sets/One Pulls Pivots at the Tip of the Tongue (1995) he also has a linear video tape that uses the same audiovisual materials. Also the projection of video sequences on large scale screen seems to be crucial in a number of his multimedia installations like Exchange Fields (2000). In Exchange Fields the viewer/user rather physically interacts with a computer programme steering certain video sequences that are projected next to images from linear videotape through positioning themselves in relation to sculptural/furniture objects. This work reveals a choreography of different movements, where the interactive participant has to move from one furniture/sculpture to another in order to activate through immediate physical contact different passages of a dance movement. These movements are performed on a projection screen in such ways that video sequences build layers transparent to each other according to the multiplicity of interactive impulses given by a certain number of participants at a time. Similar to this high complexity of movements causing spatial density in Exchange Fields, the earlier virtual reality work The World Generator/The Engine of Desire, with programmer Gideon May, (1996/98) asks the participant to “generate” from a given menu system, the interrelation of virtual objects along with texts and music, and also define their interacting and moving qualities. On the one hand, the participant (viewer/user) in these interactive works becomes more and more the “author” or even creator of a multidimensional virtual world, through which he navigates while the visual material unfolds spatially and also temporally on a large screen, whereas on the other hand the processing of image, sound, and text relies upon certain predefined structuring principles, some of those are more fixed, such as the digital video, while others are rather open-ended or elements are loosely connected through hyper links and virtual proximity. There are at least two sides of creativity that characterise the encounter with the machine. This approach becomes even more evident in his recent piece Red Dice (2000) that incorporates a poem (a written text) and develops text into non-linear, circular and overlapped readings, that is also expanded and accumulates its meaning through accompanied visuals, related text and music. Many of the images explore engines and physical objects. Here again, the work has an open ordering structure and the interactive process will only reinforce Seaman’s major concern to recombine text and other semiotic/linguistic patterns. While at the same time the videotape Red Dice emphasises a meditative quality in the same materials, when an associative montage, more precisely a combination of slow motion images, a musical score, spoken words and written texts that loosely relate to each other, guide the viewer. These “passages” through images, sound/music, and written or spoken texts, that many of his works represent, demonstrate in particular a strategy to work with different media in such ways that elements affect each other through combination, a sort of combination that conveys not only different media elements but also immerses the viewer and participant into web-like patterns.