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Interactions, by Fred Camper

Early in 2023, after almost two decades of making digital prins based mostly on my own still photographs, I began making films again, digitally, about four decades after I ended work on my last film, SN. There are related prints which should succeed on their own, but will have their best effect when viewed in connection with the related film.

These films are all silent. Each begins with eight seconds of black. This is not part of the work, but is there so that you have time to hide the cursor and the other distractions that are constantly effecting a flattening of all of our experiences. The title image and the four seconds of darkness that follow are part of the work, but the four seconds of darkness at the end are not. They are there to give you time to turn off the screen, so that the film ends when it ends, rather than serving to introduce whatever Vimeo is choosing to display at the moment.

These films were all shot in 4K video, with an excellent camera and superb lenses. I have concluded after viewing the high res files on high-quality projectors and large screens that the versions you can view online, while capturing a large part of the work, also lose much and are still only reproductions. Do, however, view them in darkness. I am now seeking public showings so that the works can be seen properly.

Interactions 1: Denver (2023), or film only. 5m
Interactions 2: Forest Near and Far (2023), or film only. 4m
Interactions 3: Forest and Stream (2023), or film only. 5m
Interactions 4: Questa, New Mexico (2023), or film only. 4m
Interactions 5: Netherlands Skies (2023), or film only. 4m
Interactions 6: Amsterdam (2023), or film only. 9m
Interactions 7: Near Antwerp Port (2023) 5m
Interactions 8: London (2023) 8m
Interactions 9: Stone Circle, Avebury (2023) 6m
Interactions 10: Paolo Uccello's Hunt (2023), or film only. 6m
Interactions 11: Jardins des Plantes (2023) 4m
Interactions 12: Both Sides of a Street (2023) 4m
Interactions 13: Oradour-sur-Glane (2024) 10m
Interactions 14: Bourges Cathedral (2024) 5m
Interactions 15: Ossining (2024) 5m
Interactions 16: New York City, 1 (2024) 14m
Interactions 17: City and Suburb (2024) 5m
Interactions 18: Bloomington-Normal, 1 (2024) 4m
[Prints will eventually be made and posted for every Interactions]




The digital work I have been making is divided into projects, each consisting of separate but related art works. There are twelve thus far. When I begin a new project, I generally have no idea why I have begun it, or why I am constructing its works the way I am. It is usually some months before I can write an artist's statement. I began work on my most recent project, Interactions, in early 2023, though with many years of forethought. It is now late November of 2023, and I am still not completely clear as to what I am doing, or why. This statement is thus tentative, and likely to be revised.

Interactions consists of two types of works. The first is a series of short films, thus far only silent. They may look best as projected films, with projected video a second choice, and video on a decemtly sized screen in a darkened room the third. They will likely not be visible as art when seen on a phone or a tiny tablet screen. There are ten Interactions films so far, with many more likely to come.

The second type is a group of works called Grids, of which there are three types, Grids 1, Grids 2, and Grids 3. There are, or will be, three for each film, one of each type. They currently exist for the first six Interactions. These are grids of still images taken from the films. Grids 1 uses one image from each take of the film; Grids 2 and Grids 3 use three from each take, generally meant to be read together in rows of three, top to bottom or left to right, and almost always presented in the order in which they occur in the film. The Grids can be viewed in any order, but there is a primary way intended, which is to view the images in the order in which they appear in the film. For Grids 1, that is how you would read a printed page. For Grids 2 that would mean viewing the colums of three images top to bottom, and the rows of them left to right, and for 3 the rows of three left to right, and then the columns top to bottom.

If I could write the shortest possible artist's statement for all my work, perhaps as a response to the unasked question, Can you sum up what you are trying to tell us in four words?, my answser would be, Look at the world. I like to add, only half-jokingly, That is the meaning of my entire work. The rest is commentary. There is, to be sure, a long history of art attempting to enrich, and elevate, eyesight, and not only in visual art.

Each work so far is shot entirely outdoors, though I expect that to change, as our world also is found indoors. Each contains no staged images, though that may change too. Past cinema is one of my inspirations, and constructed fiction films can certainly address ways of seeing the world. The only special effects I have used are modifications to brightness, contrast, and in a few cases color, and at least at present I don't expect that to change. Through framing and editing, I hope to help the viewer rediscover the life-giving beauties of sensuous, imaginative, and thoughtful seeing. My general intent is evoked in the poem Philarete Praises Poetry, by George Wither, written on or before 1621. Please note that in context the her referred to is Poetry:

In my former dayes of blisse,
Her divine skill taught me this,
That from every thing I saw,
I could some invention draw:
And raise pleasure to her height,
Through the meanest objects sight.

With regard to the films, it might be most rewarding to vew one of them three or four times rather than four once each. It is my hope that they will reveal more coherence, and perhaps even grow more wonderful, with greater familiarity. Note the rhytms of movement within shots, and between shots, and the rhythsm produced by intercutting varying shot lengths. Note the matches, or mismatches, that occur at the point of each cut: a tiny movement in one part of an image continues to another part of the next; intercut shapes match but imperfectly, or else contrast. In addition to hoping to raise looking at even ordinary things to the pleasure of poetry, I would hope my rhythms reflect inspirations from classical music. As well, I am striving to express the visionary, almost out of body sensation I experienced on wilderness trips, hiking alone in northern Canada, in 1975 and a few years after, of a mystical connectedness between all things, a magincal wholeness to the world. Physics can be used as partial evidence, since we know that a rock, a leaf, the sides of a building, and a human body are all composed of the same elementary particles, and that all attract each other physically by the same gravitational force, however immeasurably weak it may be for smaller objects.

My original intention for the Grids was to show one or more of them in an installation hanging next to the monitor or screen that displays the film. That will be done in public showings wherever possible. I am unsure of how successfully they connect with the films when both are viewed online. One intention is that they will evokoe the wonder, as I hope the films will as well, that can be found in viewing a plant in close-up, or an ordinary house, or a painting in a museum, or a bicyclist, or the sky. I would suggest one way of using them would be to view the images from a very few takes in connection with reseeing those takes in the film.

Each of the four types of works is meant to stand on its own. However, I hope they will also reinforce each other, each having a kind of meta relationship to the other. We know that any film is a succession of still images, and viewing the Grids with the film that generated them should reinforce that awaeness, and, I hope, offer poetic qualities to their combinations as well. We know that still photographs can suggest movement, and I hope that will also occur here. In Grids 2 and Grids 3, the juxtaposing of three images taken in the same few seconds should suggest the changes in any scene over time. One might imagine the small rows and columns of three as suggesting a kind of cinema in miniature. Even the single images of Grids 1 should suggest movement in context of the film. I have thus far shot only handheld, and I can be an extremely unsteady hand-holder, so every image will be a tiny bit different from each other. None are repeated; I carefully select seven different stills from each take to construct the Grids. The viewer may feel a bit at sea at first, understanding that movements suggests stills, that stills suggest movements. I hope what emerges is a sense that the truth of the visible world is perceived in a greater fullness, lifefulness, and glorious uncertainty, through an awareness of both.

Fred Camper
Chicago, Illinois
November 24, 2023, Revised January 17, 2024.

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