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Peter Rose on YouTube and Transfalumination


Peter Rose
Peter Rose, Transfalumination. This is a low resolution screen grab and doesn’t do it justice.

Peter Rose, wizard of film/video whose works screen nationally, internationally and (too infrequently) locally, emailed to say he’s got new work (along with some older work) on YouTube. “I’ve recently concluded that the best way to show work these days is to avoid waiting for the right gallery/museum context to present itself and, instead, to just put work up on youtube,” wrote Rose, a comment so interesting I just had to follow up with him (see Q&A at bottom).

I love YouTube and think it’s a great artist’s empowerment tool but several artists I’ve talked to shy away from it for either technical reasons (the video is shown pretty low res on the site) or for reasons having to do with lack of control (how many things get picked up by YouTube and have a life of their own no matter what you intended to begin with). But regardless, I think it’s a way to carpe diem, get a big audience, and cut out the real world logistics (and all that anxiety, politics, hustle that goes in to getting a museum or gallery gig). So I’m really delighted to hear of Rose’s move.

His new work is called “Study in Transfalumination” and you’ll find it here.

The short pieces — there are several and the total running time is 5 minutes, 30 seconds — are moody almost abstract depictions of light playing on architecture, man-made objects and nature. I love their quiet soundtrack and their magical transformation of the real world into something both ominous and beautiful. View them full screen for full impact.

Here’s the artist’s description of the short work:

Studies in Transfalumination (5:30, 2008) exploits modified flashlights and stripped down video projectors to explore the visual complexities of the ordinary world: a tunnel, a clump of grass, a discarded table, the underside of a bridge, fog, a piece of rock, and a tree.  All images were shot in real time- there is no animation. The video is the third in a series of works that explore light and darkness.

I conducted a short Q&A with Peter by email:

ROBERTA: Where did you shoot the flashlight ones–they seem like they’re in an Egyptian tomb (or am I just seeing too many Indiana Jones references lately)?

PETER ROSE: I think one of the images you are referring to is called “Hierophant” and it was shot underneath the Walnut Lane Bridge in Roxborough.  The opening image, entitled “Invocation” was shot in a tunnel that runs underneath a cemetery in Gladwyn and that has figured in a number of my other videos. The rest were shot in my backyard, on a small chunk of rock out in the Schuylkill, and up in the Catskills where I summer each year.

The works are short and I assume they’re supposed to be viewed sequentially, each piece a kind of chapter in a greater whole?

Actually I would love to see each of these as a self-contained (and longer running) video installation- a looping image on a flat screen monitor.  (Imagine a whole room of these.)One of the reasons I put the titles in was to isolate these images a bit, to insist upon their numinous specificity rather than running them together in a sequence that would lead the viewer to parse them merely as elements in a larger context.  Nevertheless I think they do form a meaningful sequence, a kind of loose narrative:  an invocation of light; an examination of the structures of the natural world, then an examination of human, formal structure; then an homage to (manmade) architectural space in which a gesture is made to the heavens; then a light from the heavens; then an indenfation made in matter by the light, then an epilogue.

It’s interesting that earlier works like Metalogue featured words as visual/aural motifs and in your more recent works the motifs are non-verbal except for the titles which have lots of word play  (I love transfalumination and believed it to be some scientific term I didn’t know–but I guess not?).

Yes I’ve been moving away from language, trying to find images that somehow subvert our tendency to name everything- you should see the titles for the next several sections- so the titles here skirt the edge of meaning.  I made up the word “transfalumination.”  My lighting instruments are called “transfalumicons.”….

Rose's Metalogue, a trippy, verbal piece -- also on his YouTube site.
Rose’s Metalogue, a trippy, verbal piece — also on his YouTube site.

If you did want to show these in the real world I assume you would want to project them since they’re very atmospheric and even on my computer when I switched to full screen mode bigger was truly better?

Yes I like seeing them on larger monitors- I just saw them projected at a festival in Edinburgh and they looked pretty good- but there is also something jewel-like about seeing them on a computer screen that I like quite a bit- there is a saturation and a luminousness that you don’t get with projection.

I love that they were made in real time with no animation.  Maybe that’s what gives them a primal feel…almost like an old  home movie.  Have you done any studies on light and darkness that have used animation?  I wonder how the feel would be?

No- one of my intents here is to make images that require the physical, interactive presence of the filmmaker in a real space, to subvert the tendency to see everything as grist for the computer-animation mill, to re-engage us with the act of witness.  I have no doubt one could make these images on a fast enough machine, but there is something about the simplicity of my means that functions as a retro retort to the hegemony of virtuality (to coin a phrase).

What kind of camera did you use—and does that make a difference?  (I know very little about cameras).  And is this video or film?

I used a fairly low-end prosumer camera- shooting sometimes at a slower than normal shutter speed.  This had to be done in video- there is a quality of light that would not be feasible in film.

Why youtube and not some other artier place (there’s vimeo, blip…i think there’s other sites too)?  (I think youtube is the place for them and more artists should be putting things up there but I’d like to hear what motivated you).

My sister has put work up on youtube and has had a huge number of hits; I’ve seen quite a bit of really interesting work up there; it’s easy; and I didn’t know about vimeo until last week.  I ‘ll probably put work up there as well.  I’ve several other pieces, including Metalogue, on youtube and the system there is pretty intelligent- linking you to other sites with similar work, allowing for comments, etc. I’ve also put all of my language work up at which is an astonishing resource for all kinds of work, both historical and contemporary, dealing with sound and language.