The 3D Machine: An Experiment With Aura, Television, and Installation

Curator's Note

In April 2010, the criticism of 3D reprocessing technologies had piqued my curiosity, and the limits of the technology were becoming quite clear.  My research question was this: are 3D reprocessing technologies really adding to the image, or are they ways of producing aura?  What was needed was an experiment; an installation experiment where stereo-optically reprocessed material could be showcased outside of the theatrical context.  I began with the premise that any program could be reprocessed in 3D, developed a method for cheaply reprocessing material, and executed with an installation. 

With engineering out of the way, I turned to execution, reprocessing old television shows including: I Dream of Jeanie, Quantum Leap, Star Trek, Alf, and several others.  With a montage of reprocessed footage in hand I set up my installation, calling it a "3D Ride" that would "Take You Into The Televisual Past."  On both occasions where the installation has been setup, a carnival installation has prevailed.  As I brought groups of riders into a darkened booth I made audacious claims about the power of 3D reprocessing technology.  Riders leaving the installation reported experiences ranging from enjoyment to nausea.  Even those who could not appreciate the artificially enhanced perception of convergence knew that they had just seen "something." 

Thus, I present the montage of reprocessed 3D archival television material that audiences encountered in my installation.  Images of your favorite shows have been enhanced with stereo-optical convergence.  Here are instructions on how to make glasses to enjoy this artifact.  Use pink and green for your lens colors.  Does this experiment democratize 3D? Does it provide dispositive evidence that television is auditory rather than visual? Or does the act of naming and describing the technology show the continued relevance of the curator, editor, director, and the caption in the age of digital technology?


Great post, Dan.  Your work is incredibly fascinating and you've raised a number of interesting points.  I wish I had been able to see your exhibit when it was still being hosted. With the elite status of owning a 3D television and the fact that content for that medium is severely limiting in its variety, the notion of democtratizing 3D is something that warrants closer examination. I was wondering if you might be able to expand a bit on your application of aura when it comes to this home-produced 3D technology. Are you looking at aura solely from an experiential stand-point (the creation of moments, etc.), or are you also referring to the auratic potential found in a unique object? If it is the latter, does that aura diminish through the democratizing process (i.e. through extended mechanical reproduction)?


I think you are getting to the crux of the debate about stereoscopic technology. Many of the 3D televisions that I have found use similar reprocessing algoryhtms to those deployed by the studios in an attempt to retroactively re-produce new content.  These display technologies would cut against the status of the unique object (read: Avatar) just as they produce a new cult of upper class viewers wearing those awkward shuttered 3d glasses.  The 3D processing that I have attempted was intended to speak to aura in both senses.  Once it was clear that I could produce acceptable quality stereo-optical images (my best is of a station wagon and a motorcycle) I was underwhelmed by the response I got from my test audiences.  The station wagon/motorcycle did not rouse much passion from anyone.  The comments I received on the installation often said something to the effect of: your performance is good, but 3D is nothing special.  In the context of speech acts that might hail individuals to become spectators this takes on an added dimension, since so many public relations texts for films are predicated on the idea that pronouncing/naming/declaring a film 3D would be a saleable quality.  Aura in the context of 3D technology is produced by the PR department, the ghost of the auteur, and an attention to the work of art itself.  The theory of this installation is dialectical, it pushes the idea that we can democritize the means of 3D production, but affirms that the discurisve dimension of 3D (what I would claim is more important than the somatic dimension) remains in control of a few. 

This is really incredibly fascinating - particularly since you are able to address the various facets of aura all with a single case study, as well as audience responses. Are you continuing this research in any form? I'm very intrigued by this whole project.

I am not sure where the project will go next as prosumer level 3D cameras are now on the market, and low level 3D switchers are cost effective.  3D really could be comming to your local newscast in the very near future.  If the installation has a third run I would likely reimagine the artifact/experience to include a sort of confessional booth where I could collect audience reactions, in addition to placing a camera inside the "ride."  

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