12.09.2012 - 14.10.2012

The work What are all these lights doing? (STROBES) by Laurent Schmid places stroboscopic light – as a scientific achievement that also has psychoactive effects – in the context of contemporary media technology. Stroboscopic, or strobe light, as implemented in the project What are all these lights doing? (STROBES), was developed in the 1930s by the former MIT professor Harold E. Edgerton for photographic experiments. The strobe light made extremely short shutter speeds possible, which produced unprecedented snap-shots of motion sequences. Short-term measurements that surpass the capabilities of the human eye became possible. In contrast to Edgerton’s scientific approach, in the 1960s artists began to work with the perception of the strobe flash to discover what kinds of profounder experiences could be made with the strobe light. The artists’ collective USCO, consisting of, among others, Michael Callahan, Gern Stern and John Brockman, organized acid-festivals in the 1960s in which strobe light was used as a mind-expanding medium. USCO, which was at that time still very much influenced by the then recently published writings of Marshall McLuhan, were looking for the digital trip by exposing themselves to the strobe light – in order to feel like they were in a film, to experience how film becomes real.

For www.collective-view.ch, Laurent Schmid has planned a situation in a space accessible to the public. The webcam and the stroboscope are placed next to each other in a passage way in the Stadtgalerie Bern. The stroboscope is activated when the website is accessed. The visitor who is within the webcam’s field of view will suddenly find him or herself in a stroboscopic light storm, perceiving his or her movements as in a film. This leads to a shift of roles. The individuals being watched become aware of the observation, and the viewers experience a partial loss of their invisibility, as it is their presence on the website that triggers the strobe light.

The image on the website shows the overlap between the digital real-time transmission of the webcam technology and a filmic, fragmented situation that is generated by the strobe light. The shift of roles also creates a field of tension, characterized by irritation and cognition.

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