Tuesday, October 20, 2009

John Klima

In American Cinema (2002), John Klima used a dual Java applet to show still images from horror films on the left side of the frame and pornographic films on the right side of the frame. There are 50 images in each frame with one image placed on top of a larger preceding image. Through the use of three-dimensional rendering technology, Klima was able to stack the images on top of each other and allow the viewer to see a zoom into the image until it gets out of focus to bring out the next image that was stacked on the frame (CityArt). Klima is known for his computer software art in which he creates programs and game-like environments so that the viewer can participate in the artwork by maneuvering certain aspects in the artwork such as movement, actions, and (in Glasbead) the creation of musical sounds (MarkTribe). In American Cinema, Klima "allows the viewer to zoom through the stack by clicking and dragging the mouse up and down over the image" (CityArt).

Klima uses close ups of faces from still images of both horror and pornographic films rather than the whole body. This allows us to compare and contrast facial expressions, emotions, and messages expressed from the images displayed. Also, Klima places two quotes separated by both frames on the bottom and a titled quote at the top. The quote on the left states: "...it is far easier to slash a breast..." and on the right: "...than to kiss one..." with the top quote saying, "...in American Cinema..." Klima states in his CityArt website that, "it is odd that the images on the left, frequently displaying mutilation, rape, and torture, are far more disturbing than those on the right, yet the images on the right are considered 'X' rated and the left only 'R' rated." Therefore, the artwork questions the censorship on media and allows us to judge on what makes something more disturbing and forbidden to a viewer compared to something else.

I think it gives an interesting observation to visuals as we compare and contrast two images on a split screen as different images dissolve onto another. When we think of sex and violence, I feel that there is a tendency in America to strongly oppose and protest against portrayals of sex rather than violence. The rating system and censors in America seems to be able to accept more images of violence than portrayals of sex. Therefore, I agree with what Klima was trying to explain through his art in that the depiction of violence tends to be more disturbing than the depiction of sex. At some points during the viewing, I felt that a few of the images of facial expressions shown side by side were almost identical which made it more difficult to distinguish which image was worse. However, the motionless quotes shown below each of the frames gave me a constant reminder that one frame represented images from horror films and the other from pornographic films. I then thought about the portrayal of violence in sex, such as rape, and how the two aspects combined create a larger force of disturbance. Also, historically, there have been films such as Midnight Cowboy that received an X-rating at the time of its release for it's portrayal of sex and male-prostitution which seemed to be a forbidden subject for censors at the time. Now the film has an R-rating after it won an Academy Award and the sexual aspects do not seem as explicit controversial now with the R-rating and the passing of time. I was also not able to download the programs presented in Klima's CityArts website and I only looked at images and videos of his artwork and what others have done when participating in his programs. I might've had a different experience with the artwork if I was participating in it because I could also create various movements and actions within the art and observe the variations that could be shown when another person collaborates with the art.


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