Karthik Pandian's Reversal (2013) is an image and sound installation for a completely darkened room delineated by a grey theatrical curtain and consisting of a 65" plasma monitor and 6 speakers. The piece is composed of 113 still images that Karthik Pandian shot on dead stock Agfa Scala 200X 35mm black and white slide film. The stills are cycled in an aleatory mode by a custom computer program that applies the cinematographic effect of a still image in motion, also known as the Ken Burns effect. Red rectangular shapes, set in motion by the image program, travel across the screen in different directions and speeds and remain equally unpredictable in their size and frequency.
The sound of Reversal is similarly based on chance calculation, with 6 speakers set in 2 triangular configurations in the room, and from which a set of 6 synthesized tones is played. The sound is not recorded but generated by a program as it runs, producing different lines of sound moving across the room, structuring the space with an invisible architecture. Because the elements are played and presented at random, exact repetition is almost impossible in the piece.
In an important shift from the medium of the film, the image in Reversal is not being projected but is sourced in real time, adding to the dematerialization of the film as a tangible reality. All this reinforces the tension between the paintings, sculptures and ready-made objects seen in the white cube gallery space downstairs and the digitized analog imagery presented in the black box room upstairs.
The subject of Reversal is a performance that Pandian staged for the camera in a black box theater in Chicago, without an audience. In the first take, performers assumed the roles of artistic archetypes (such as painter, poet, and dancer) with actions that were determined by the roll of the dice. In the second take, the performers attempted to mimic the first sequence of actions, playing with the dichotomy between structure and improvisation, rehearsal and repertory.