Two guys disrupt space and time.
There’s a bit of a story behind this one.
We were approached by Mike Min of the Seattle School to participate in a performance art endurance project. As part of the Motel performance triptych series, the premise was to spend at least 8 hours in the room of a working motel and do your art – whatever that may be.< It just all had to take place inside the one room. Oh, and it was all going to be streamed live online for the ultimate in performance art voyeurism. Other participants, mostly modern dancers and "true" performance artists, elected to adopt a more abstract approach to this challenge. Some improvised modern dance moves for 8 hours, while others filled the room with plastic wrap and undulated underneath the entire time. Mike himself spent three days with 6 cats in an homage to Joseph Beuys’ 1974 performance installation I Like America and America Likes Me.
Paul and I decided to do something a little less symbolic. We had decided to film a 30 second video inside the motel room, and then recreate that video using live stop-motion animation, shooting one frame per minute over the next 16 hours. If shot at 30 frames per second, then it would take 900 minutes to recreate a 30 second film. There are 960 minutes in 16 hours, and so that left us a buffer of 30 minutes at either end for set-up and tear-down.
We called our project “Replica” and were scheduled for 10:00 am Monday the 24th through 2:00 am the following Tuesday morning.
Mike had always wanted to use one of the run-down motels that line Aurora Avenue for this project, and finally found one that agreed to participate. The managers of this motel, however, backed out of the agreement after witnessing the blow-out party and press coverage of the first part of the Motel triptych – the send-off of the Bridge Motel. Mike had to find another motel quickly, and soon secured space in another Aurora motel on the condition that the location not be made publicly available.
On Monday morning, Paul and I arrived at the secret location (The Seal’s Motel at 12035 Aurora Avenue North. The exterior shots of the motel that bookend the final film are that of the actual room we filmed in) shortly before 10 to learn that we were going to be set up in a different room than the previous act (Mike and the Cats), and therefore had to wait until the new room was cleaned by housekeeping and the streaming equipment moved.
We finally gained access to the room around 10:45 and spent a little time settling in, setting up the equipment, and discussing what the film was going to be. Around 11:15 we began filming – improvising a small scene about a guy who has hired someone to test a recently acquired “device”.
What this device does nobody knows, but after a couple takes and a few minutes editing on my laptop, we had a finished “guide movie.”
Since we had a late start, we decided to shoot 24 frames per second instead of 30, and had a 32 second final film. That means we had a total of 768 pictures to take – or 12.8 hours. From Final Cut Pro, I exported a flopped Quicktime movie to use as a guide. Then I connected my Canon PowerShot A95 digital camera to the Panasonic DVX-100b via RCA video, and connected the 100b to my PowerBook via Firewire. That way, we could see the live image from the digital camera on the computer monitor, as we were going to use the Canon to take all the subsequent images.
I had previously downloaded a program that allows you to adjust the opacity of Quicktime movies, and so, with the image from the digital camera coming through iChat, and the guide movie at about 40% opacity laid directly over that, we were in business.
We ran into a few technical glitches setting the entire thing up, so we didn’t begin the re-creation phase until about 1:00 pm. If we kept to our schedule and didn’t screw anything up, we would be done with the picture taking by about 1:45 am.
Or, just in time.
Unfortunately, the PowerShot A95 does not have a feature which allows you to set one minute intervals between photos, and so we monitored the second hand of the wall clock (which we brought and duct taped to the wall). At 10 seconds to the minute we would hit the timer shutter button on the camera, which would give us about 7-8 seconds to try to line ourselves up as best we can with the image on the laptop screen. The camera would take the picture, then we would advance the guide movie one frame, and relax for the next 40 seconds.
This was what we did for the next 13 hours.
Occasionally we would forget if we advanced the guide movie, or sometimes iChat would quit and we’d miss a minute due to having to get everything set up again. Mostly, though, we watched the clock, hit the shutter button, took a picture, and watched the clock again. Every once in awhile we’d have to use the restroom, try to get something to eat, or take a phone call.
After about 4 hours of this we started to get pretty sloppy, after 7 hours we got bored and just watched television between pictures, and near the 10 hour mark we just flat out didn’t care anymore. And at the 16 hour mark we were happy to be done. However, we did finish, and below is the completed stop-motion recreation.
The fun part is watching all the stuff on the table move around.
For comparison’s sake, here are the two versions together:
A total of 793 photos were taken. We took pictures up until the 2:00 am mark, getting out of the motel room around 2:15, but there was an empty 8 hour block right after us, so we weren’t in anybody’s way.
And as it turns out, we did screw up and took about 20-25 extra pictures due to forgetting to advance the guide movie.
All in all, a pretty successful little project.
And if you have 16 hours to kill, seriously, you can watch us do the entire thing!