27 Views of Alamo Square Park is a video installation piece that is intended to be displayed on a series of small screens or iPads. These video images were intentionally recorded with an iPhone (5s), a personal device like those used by tourists visiting the park every day.
Each ‘view’ is a miniature video landscape lasting 9 minutes in length; 9 minutes because 9 is an integer of 27. The length of time also references the long exposure time involved in taking photographs in the Victorian period that Alamo Square Park was designed and built.
Unlike the cameras of the Victorian era, the camera used to record the views of “27 Views of Alamo Square Park” is an everyday personal device, the same type of device used by the many of the tourists who visit Alamo Square Park daily. Each view is both a static landscape, which references historical paintings or traditional photography and a kinetic one capturing the people who move in and out of the frame, plus the sounds and movement in and around the park.
The images taken by visiting tourists have a distinct difference from the ’views’ in “27 Views of Alamo Square Park.” While visitors often focus on the historic houses and cityscapes that surround the park, the views captured in ’27 Views’ frame the surrounding landscape through the topography and trees of the park or focus on the park’s infrastructure or its interior.
‘The Views’ use landscape painting and landscape photography as inspiration. Some ‘views’ deliberately reference the landscape paintings of 17th Century Dutch painters utilizing high, horizon lines in the composition. Other ‘views’ use ideas from Romantic landscape paintings with an emphasis on large, asymmetric compositions and naturalistic forms while de-emphasizing people in the frame. In other cases, ‘views’ reference more contemporary, abstract paintings by artists such as Richard Diebenkorn by flattening and reducing the landscape to multiple planes of color and texture. The influence of modernist photographers Ansel Adams or Charles Sheeler also finds its way into the compositions as well.
We live in the most surveilled society in the history of the world. Our image is captured by government or private recording devices on a daily basis through cctv, Google Maps vehicles, mobile phone video or still images, satellite imagery and more. We also unwittingly surveil each other in settings such as Alamo Square Park. Thousands if not millions of people visit the park and surrounding area annually and they take moving or still images of the houses and views made available by the natural vista point the park has to offer. Unfortunately, by doing this the images of other people are captured along with the subjects photographed. With the increased use of facial recognition software built into our devices and social media we find ourselves becoming more comfortable with our privacy invaded and our identities recorded in some unknown database.
The video content of the “27 Views” includes people walking in and out of the frame. On one hand my images are simply a document of a vibrant urban park that is used by the people who live nearby and the visitors who come to the park daily. On the other hand these recordings could be seen as an invasion of privacy and nothing more than a surveillance camera capturing the movements of people in the park.
However, as mentioned previously, the ’27 Views’ references landscape imagery of the past and like those works, people in ’27 Views’ are, albeit randomly, incorporated into the composition.
Very few people asked me what I was doing while recording these images and not one person complained about their movements being captured on video or their image recorded. Acceptance of constant surveillance and the loss of privacy that goes along with it is the world we live in.
The last neighborhood we lived in before moving away from San Francisco was Alamo Square. The park was our local, neighborhood public park. These compositions came into being through my daily walks in and around the park. The dramatic topography of Alamo Square with its hills and trees allowed me to see flat planes and wild landscapes within the context of a city public park.
Located at the top of a hill, Alamo Square park was designed in the Victorian era in 1857. The park is visited daily by tourists from around the world who are mostly seeking out a group of seven Victorian-era houses that can be seen from the East side of the park. These houses create the dramatic juxtaposition of a Victorian foreground with a modern cityscape backdrop of the tall buildings of downtown San Francisco. My goal was to avoid the views that most tourists sought out and instead, focus on the park itself.
“27 Views of Alamo Square Park” can be installed in small or medium sized spaces in three different formats. For small spaces, 3 small screens with 9 views on each or 9 screens with 3 views on each can be mounted on the wall. Larger spaces can be configured with 27 screens with one view on each. The content could be displayed on iPhones, iPads or small monitor screens connected to a central device.
I envision including the supporting power cables as part of the aesthetics of the installation as well, while hiding the power source for each device. Details on how this will be executed are still being worked out.
We are currently looking for venues to mount this installation. Please contact Book of Ours with suggestions or, if you have an art space or a space conducive to such an exhibition, feel free to contact us.
All 27 videos of this piece are available for viewing at our Vimeo page. Go to: Vimeo to watch the various views. But, of course these videos are just the parts of a larger experience we hope to produce in a gallery environment.
You can help us mount this piece in two ways. One though a one-time donation on our Paypal page or through regular funding on our soon to come Patreon page. Either way, you can help us get this project out in the world.