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Robert Whitman

Two Holes of Water - 3 (performance)

Robert Whitman, Two Holes of Water - 3 (video)
Robert Whitman, Two Holes of Water - 3 (video)
Robert Whitman, Two Holes of Water - 3 Robert Whitman, Two Holes of Water - 3 Robert Whitman, Two Holes of Water - 3
Performance (a) presented as part of the 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering festival, The 69th Regiment Armory, New York, N.Y., United States, October 18-19, 1966.

Technological design: Robby Robinson

Technical assistance for the closed-circuit video recordings: Bill Hartig

Performers:
Melynda Albrecht; Karen Bacon; Max Baker; Per Biorn; Robert Breer; Trisha Brown; Gloria Bryant; Ken Dewey; Simone Forti; John Giorno; Alex Hay; Julie Judd; Jane Kramer; Jackie Leavitt; Vernon Lobb; Suzanne de Maria; Julie Martin; Gil Miller; Toby Mussman; Hala Piepkiewicz; Bob Savage; Karl Schenzer; Malinda Teel

Lighting design: Jennifer Tipton, Beverly Emmons (assistant)

In Two Holes of Water-3, Robert Whitman juxtaposed the time frames specific to film and video through a theatrical setting. He wanted to show that the first of these media records traces of events, while the second makes its content appear and disappear in real time (no recordings of TV broadcasts were used during the performance). To make his point, Whitman employed TV cameras on stage, and then projected the resulting image tracks side by side with excerpts of 16-mm films from various sources, some of which were made by himself. The stage environment evoked drive-in movie theatres (cars were used as projection booths) (1).

First moment: Six projectionists in the cars, which were covered in semi-transparent tarpaulins and outfitted with projectors (three 16-mm and three video) waited for a signal from Robert Whitman before running their films. Hung from the balcony, a paper screen covered three sides of the Armory (b). Two more smaller screens were placed to the right of the stage and on the ground. The engine of a seventh car started up and it emerged from a freight elevator (the sound of the car engine were amplified using a contact microphone placed on it's exhaust pipe). The car then came to a stop in front of the screen to the right. Behind it, a 16-mm projector was already showing a film (c). The other vehicles slowly took up positions paralleling the large projection surface at the back of the stage.

Second moment: As each car came to a stop, the projector inside was switched on (handled to the participants, the power cables for these projectors were connected to Armory ceiling plugs). From his position in the balcony, Robert Whitman selected from each source and did a live montage (d), (e). From time to time, he transmitted a signal to the film projectionists in the cars to tell them to switch off their projectors. As pre-recorded material was played, real-time images were shot using seven video cameras.

Simultaneously: Les Levine and Suzanne de Maria stepped out of the vehicle parked in front of the screen to the right (f). Levine was outfitted with a portable lens hooked up via a fibre optics system to a camera that filmed close-ups of de Maria’s body. These images were relayed through a closed-circuit system (g), (h), (i). During the break, another camera placed on the Armory floor filmed de Maria pouring water from a pitcher into a pair of shoes (the sound of the water was amplified). From the balcony, Toby Mussman trained his camera on Trisha Brown and Mimi Miller, who moved about slowly near a large mirror designed to produce optical effects (j), (k), (l), (m), (n). Beneath the balcony, the image on the screen alternated between that of the two performers and that of their distorted reflections in the mirror. To the right of this area, on the balcony, Jackie Leavitt was filmed typing (the sound of the keys was amplified) (o), and her image was shown via a video closed-circuit. At times she stopped typing, stood up and remained standing for some time in front of the camera lens (p), (q). A signal splitter made it possible to project two adjacent tracks representing her upper and lower body on the large screen. Other live image feeds came from TV stations picked up during the performance: these included, for example, a Pepsodent toothpaste commercial and news bulletins (r). The film projections, for their part, ran back-to-back excerpts from documentary films and advertising featuring, for example, underwater film sequences and the flora and fauna of Alaska (penguins, honeybees, eagles, birds’-eye views of landscape, etc.) (s), (t), as well as films made by Whitman himself. These short features showed ordinary actions, like a woman dressing and undressing, or a man shaving (u), (v), (w), (x). Some of these actions were shot with an optical device that made use of two parallel mirrors to obtain several viewpoints at the same time. The film and TV program soundtracks were cut. Along with the sounds picked up by the contact microphones during the performance, Whitman played recordings of crickets made near a pond, and a speech by the philosopher Bertrand Russell, played so loud it became unintelligible. Whitman also occasionally asked the projectionists in the cars to honk their horns at the same time.

Third moment: When the film sequences came to an end, the projectors were switched off and the house lights came back on. The projectionists then left their vehicles and headed toward the wings (y), (z). The lengths of the performances are not mentioned in the documents consulted when writing this description.

[Documentary sources...]

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Vincent Bonin © 2006 FDL

(1) Paragraph based on Robert Whitman’s statement of purpose in the program. See: 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, Pontus Hultén and Frank Königsberg eds. ([New York]: Experiments in Art and Technology: The Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, [1966]). p.[11].