Atmospheres--Ambient Video Installation


ARTEC 91 , Nagoya, Japan (1991)

A response to Shinto Gardens visited near Kyoto, Japan.

This is a series of slides showing the visual installation of four islands constructed of Japanese maple wood, filled with natural materials obtained near Nagoya (river pebbles, beach sand, sea salt), with multiple CRT video monitors buried in the materials.

The four islands are sub-titled: Water, Earth, Fire, Gaia

The piece was inspired by a visit to Mt. Kurama near Kyoto, on my very first trip to Japan in 1990. Japanese ³pebble gardens² have always fascinated me, and there were several of them up the way of Mt. Kurama, which is a Shinto sacred mountain.

As I was climbing the mountain, shrines appeared along the route with the gardens of stones. An image came to mind of using light sources such as video screens buried under the pebbles and stones, but partially revealed so that the light from the CRT screens would pass through the stones, which would act almost like optical filters or lenses.

Further, it was an idea to place images of waves, water, flame, plasma and other electronically produced video synthesized images on the various CRT screens. This light would be kinetic, moving, and modulate and be modulated by the materials.

If, for example, images of water waves would appear beneath the pebbles, might the result resemble water flowing in a stream? Of if the images were flames and plasmas, would the result appear to be red hot coals?

In the Gaia island, a single reflecting sphere rests on the CRT surface, which is covered by sea salt mixed with crystals of silicon, gallium, and other materials used in the production of the electronic integrated circuit chips contained within all the video synthesizing and display equipment.

The viewers can observe themselves viewing the work, and the meeting edge of the reflecting sphere and the glass surface is very interesting.

Being still moments, these images do not convey the full kinetic effect of the final work, however.

The dimensions of the islands range from 1 meter to 3 meters across, and they stand 1 meter high. Some two tons of pebbles and stones and salt were required to build the piece.

ARTEC 91 was a stellar presentation of art and technology, and the Crown Prince of Japan was the main patron of the event. The installation works of my commission passed into the private collection of the Crown Prince.



Beck with installation - over view

Gaia island portion

Gaia island close up of reflection sphere on Cathode Ray Tube video screen buried in sea salt.

Beck with Water Island portion

Water Island portion, close up

Earth Island portion

Earth Island portion

Fire portion

Beck with fire portion

Stephen Beck Work