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San Francisco
Tim Thompson
Artists' Television Access
992 Valencia St, @ 21st St, San Francisco, CA 94110
December 6, 2008 - January 3, 2009

by Andy Ritchie

Captured Accidents captures intentions too: Tim Thompson, god, stages the existential epic battle between control v. chaos, commanding -wares both soft and hard to play out on-screen events. A video game controller mod translates human controls while custom software plays dice. It sounds dramatic, a techno retelling of Gladiator, but the effect palls instantly to the viewer/subject. A visible dimension of disorder plays out before the camera, as you mug, dance, or ignorantly walk by. Stock edits and effects overlay the camera’s unfailing eye, chopping the image into quarters, playing havoc on contrast and color, and spinning the image into a stupor. But Thompson’s rig does the thinking invisibly, the metal brain weaving Wi-Fi-performed directives with programmed randomness. Which is which? Is this supposed to be tree-falling-in-the-woods conceptual art, or is it just unresolved? Emerging from the cloak of black is the metaphorical face, a single tripod-mounted camera tethered to a single flat screen—that’s input and output right in your grill. I now see how musicians feel onstage.

The experience of sustained watching while standing on the busy Valencia Street sidewalk—even on a Tuesday night—is a bit like swimming upstream, or at least like the later levels of Frogger. When you’re done straightening your hair in the camera’s eye, notice how the frame is composed around a nicely centered parking meter while nipping the corner of a bike rack and angling to shoot across the street as well. It’s decidedly not a wide-angle affair. Unlike the online “target video,” as I would call it, filmed at the Climate Theater in October, you’ll probably not catch any hyperbolic psychedelia. While the Climate video delivers the same frenetic mambo of energy as the Adidas house party commercials—Yo KG! What up, Russell Simmons!—the frequency of cuts on Valencia is less MTV and more HGTV. I hear crickets. The variety is all there, but it’s spaced out to a rather bland effect.

I regret not being technologically able to connect to the server to perform edits and test the versatility of manipulations. Ahem and alas, I strongly invite anyone who’s controlled the Captured Accidents for any amount of time to comment on the experience below. (I only wonder how many can and do, considering the Wi-Fi constraints.)

Innovative art often has a sketch-like incompletion, but so does junk. (Think of an IKEA bookcase with no screws.) I like that Thompson has treated Captured Accidents as an ongoing location project. It can help him learn from his art, a great privilege that should aid his proven technical skill. He has exerted a strident break from video game convention yet retained its heritage with red-on-black arcade-like demo screens. Short loop? Yes please, with an extra order of solarize. Now where do I put the quarter?

--Andy Ritchie

(*Images: Tim Thompson, Captured Accidents: Valencia Street Live, courtesy of the Artist and ATA.)

Posted by Andy Ritchie on 12/15/08

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