Look and Learn Parts 2, 4, and 5: A Projected Installation
In Look and Learn Parts 2, 4, and 5: A Projected Installation, Janie Geiser excavates the visual vocabulary we use to operate and construct our daily world. Using a collage/montage approach, Geiser mines found imagery from elementary school textbooks, product diagrams, how-to manuals, safety instructions, and maps to examine the adult-created structures that frame childhood and the practices of institutional learning.
Look and Learn Parts 2, 4, and 5 centers on in a series of found photographs—sequential year (1953-1956) class photos from a California elementary school, The school photographs place the students into an unforgiving grid, suggesting a desire for order, or the illusion of order), a hope that given instructions might actually be followed. The photographs become their own kind of diagrams, forming barely glimpsed guides to the students’ future world. They look ahead to their near future, when the imagined order of things will be exploded.
In constructing the video, Geiser used mirrors to reflect and refract the images, doubling them, and unmooring them from their original frames. She merges and collides the photographs with diagrammatic instructions and text books, as pedagogical tools that reinforced existing social structures and prejudices.
The installation consists of three sections:
Part 2: Video footage from two pico projectors is projected onto two rotating, 5-sided mirror units that then reflect the video onto a corner in the gallery. The video sequence consists mainly of shots that are split in two, merging photos and diagrams. The two separately rotating videos merge at moments, creating brief, superimposed images, before dissolving back into their separateness. The sound, played at a low volume to encourage intimate viewing, was recorded at an elementary school playground near Geiser’s home in Los Angeles.
Part 4: Part 4 is a 3-channel projection that forms a kind of stroboscopic scroll. The images in each position change more quickly, and are interspersed with moments of flat red video, creating an almost musical rhythm. Some of the video images are nearly impossible to hold onto—Geiser moved the school photos, along with documentary photographs of anti-war and civil rights era protests, quickly under the camera as she shot them. There is a sense of chaos, of a rushing forward and backwards, of time out of reach, of the impossibility of holding onto change—then, now, later.
The soundtrack, heard on headphones, is a score of collaged music and found sound. with vinyl recordings from the 1965 Berkeley Teach-In. The sound suggests a possible future for the school students as they emerge from their highly structured world into the California of the Vietnam war and civil-rights era protests.
Part 5: Part 5 is a single-channel loop of a small figure with a stick, moving up and down as if to hit something or someone. The original object was a small “charm” figure in the shape of a jester of “Punch” figure. Historically, the Punch figure was a kind of trickster character who, through both indirection and violence, tricked the figures of authority. Here, as a shadow figure on a red background, it’s not clear whether he is a trickster for the people, or an authoritarian himself, a dichotomy not unusual in our world.
Look and Learn (Parts 1 and 3) was presented at the Knoxville Museum in 2017 as part of the Big Ears Festival. You can view documentation of that installation HERE.