Words gravitate to story. The first words were pictographs; carved in stone, they sustained, commanding minds as no spoken words could.  A lot of time passed before it was learned that phonetic writing, based on the sounds of a spoken language, could express much more than pictographs, and could go where pictographs could not. Ink came in, and then mechanical printing, eventually on cheap printing paper, ephemeral but widely distributed. The news-story dominated and still does but eventually even story would be bypassed: there was too much to discuss, the business of the world, in the abstract. 

Painting, drawing, the depicting of things must’ve preceded the pictograph. Some people would not allow the picturing of things lest The Creator punish them for pushing into His Domain and they stayed with discoveries in abstract design, inventing geometry. Semblances, after all, are innately magical and therefor taboo.

Painting illustration gave way to seeing how things actually appeared, then to how they could appear (Surrealism) and finally, with optical trickery of all sorts, Cubism played against expectation.  From there to Abstract Expressionism and the seeing of what paint itself was and could do free of all obligation to illustrate, was a given.

Paint as subject matter left many people bewildered, so that reactionary Pop Art swept in, requiring nothing more of the viewer than a memory for commercial cliché.

Words had to tell stories of every sort, while painting, flattened to a wall, invariably depicted things happening in depth (if only picturing a face, the nose forward of the ears). It was obsessive: imaginary story, imaginary depth.

The actual seeing of depth, of illusory depth from a flat painting, can be brought about by painting two pictures side by side, seemingly the same yet different, offering two perspectives to crossed eyes, but few viewers can manage this.  Another way is to combine pictures behind a lenticular screen capable of sending one image to each eye but I’ve only seen stereo photos shown this way, never a painting.  (This technique of combining images without need for special glasses should be available soon on 3D monitors.)

The Nervous Magic Lantern

is a device of my invention, first assembled in the year 2000, that makes moving 3D images appear in projection on a screen or video-monitor. Like the original magic lantern, it is a very simple device, but nervous. Flickering light is evident and images move -but not from one place to another; shapes (not recognizable objects) positioned forward and back in depth move within a larger depth but, uncannily, move nowhere. They move in place (this can’t be imagined) until repositioned by the attending projectionist. 

A light source to the rear, a small exhaust fan, a single-element lens and spinning exterior shutter to the front, and a device supporting a selection of painted plastic disks is positioned and repositioned within a cardboard box open on the side facing the projectionist.  A second flat lens sometimes joins the main lens to supply enlargements of the scene.  

Because all screen information is seen by both eyes simultaneously, the illusion of depth can be fully apprehended by even a single eye.

Painting the disks requires no talent, only an anticipation of how rich in event they will bring about when activated onscreen when different areas will be brought into view. Applying paint, I mix things up, even mess things up, seeking mostly for textural events. (I’ve said, “My favorite color is chemical reaction.”) But the actual act of painting is in performance when attention is required every moment to determine choice of moves.

The Nervous Magic Lantern is, with the original glass-slide projector (with mechanical devices to add, say, an animated sunrise), and with film and video, another cinema.

Ken Jacobs 7.9.18