medium: DVD video projection (loop)
BatBat (2005) is a short projected DVD loop that combines the collage aesthetic of avant-garde cinema with the tense atmosphere of horror films. Testing the static and dynamic possibilities of flashing light, the video is comprised of two alternating frames of a comic book bat in mid-flight. When the frames are combined in succession the wings flap, simulating animal movement. Manipulating the theory of the persistence of vision, the work counters what in optics is known as the ‘flicker fusion threshold’, the frequency of motion at which the flicker between the singular frames of a moving image becomes invisible to its viewer. The back and forth repetition between the two key stills in BatBat alternate so rapidly off of one another that a ghost of a third shape concretizes in the viewer’s visual field. This optically driven pulsing encourages a trancelike stare from the viewer, or it may put them slightly at ease depending on their sensitivity to flashing lights. Intercut into this rhythm are other occasional frames of the bat exhibiting further moments of movement, little narrative stabs at the retina. There is a kind of intense spacial pressure that occurs as the printed dot patterns vibrate off of one another, or as scenic moments are flashed briefly into sight, only to be replaced by the original set of stills.
Sonically, the work is comprised of a set of two high-pitched sounds that sustain throughout the entire duration of the loop, along with occasional triggers of other abrupt or modulating sounds timed to the visual intercuts. The sound palette employed is meant to reference echolocation, a sound-based method of sensory perception by which bats orient themselves to their surroundings, detect obstacles, communicate with others, and find food. In echolocation a series of short, high-pitched sounds are emitted; these sounds travel out away from the animal and then bounce off objects and surfaces in the animal’s path creating an echo. The echo returns to the animal, giving it a sense about what is in its path.
It should be noted that the bat already has a history of appearances within the iconographic system of symbols I have developed over the course of my artistic practice; in this instance, the bat is being employed as a trigger to highlight implied psychic conflict within the viewer.
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Almost all echo locating calls are out of the range of human hearing. Humans can hear sounds up to 20 kilohertz (kHz) but bats echo locate n the 9 - 200 kHz range. If human ears could hear the echo locating of bats our nights would be very noisy: some bats echo locate as if ‘shouting’, operating at loud as 110 decibels (dB) or the loudness of a smoke alarm; others echo locate by ‘whispering’ at 60 dB, the level of normal human conversation.