a digital film cycle interrogating disruptive technology while illuminating the fragility and impermanence of an analog system...through the act of the work, this system becomes a metaphor for the deterioration of democracy exposed by the 2016 US presidential election
Commissioned by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art
01 January - 31 December, 2017
Diplomat is a series of short meditative films capturing real-time, unpredictable natural ‘re-mixes’ of a warped long-playing record. The record, issued in 1964, is a memorial album for the then-recently assassinated American president John F. Kennedy and features several of his most famous speeches. Purchased for $1.00 at a flea market in rural Wyoming, this heat-damaged and almost comically warped record was considered ruined and unfit for purpose, only minimally valuable for its kitsch collectible cover.
Diplomat concentrates on side A of the warped album, specifically Kennedy’s oath of office and inaugural address. Each time the album is played, it reveals a slightly different variation of the words due to the record player needle bouncing across the warped surface. The skillful rhetorical devices used in Kennedy’s speeches are dissected through chance, his message re-edited at random. What was once fixed has become unpredictable and fragmented. Using the disruptive technology of digital recording to illuminate the fragility of an analog system, Diplomat offers a slowed-down and re-configured experience of what is considered by many to be one of the most inspirational speeches in contemporary Western history.
The films themselves focus on the real-time playing of the album. Capturing digitised variations of the damaged album’s capricious new impermanence challenges the function of a stable form of documentation while producing a new consistency for variable material. Real-time filming prioritises how the warping creates natural rhythmic repetitions, mimicking turntable ‘scratching’ techniques by lifting certain words and phrases, while skipping over others, giving new weight to Kennedy’s powerful speeches.
Commissioned by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art, Diplomat is hosted on an austere webpage featuring an imbedded video player. On viewing the video, what initially seems to be a single short film is actually 100 short films – one for each of JFK’s first 100 days in office – each one presenting a new recording of the same material, each one revealing a slightly different re-mix of Kennedy’s iconic words. The films are programmed to cycle arbitrarily through a random playing circuit that further disrupts the dominance of a repeatable (digital) form.