By Joe Ferguson
I once sat in a meeting where I was the only one who was not a radiologist. I was also the only one not staring down at my hands when the topic of the future came up. Apparently, my colleagues had lost a significant amount of work to overseas firms offering 24/7 x-ray analysis at extremely low prices.
At one time it was thought that health care could never be outsourced, but the advent of broadband technology brought the ability to send very large images—including high-resolution radiographs—over the internet. When your doctor is going over your x-rays with you, it’s very likely that film was read by someone on another continent who received the file online and only knows about you from a check-box form. I have spent a lot time in radiologists’ offices comparing radiological findings with clinical presentation—which I have always considered to be a valuable part of the diagnostic process.
On November 7th, Lucy Raven’s Hollywood Chop Riding opened at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Upon seeing her show I could not help but think about my radiologist colleagues. Inside one of the darkened Upstairs Galleries, Raven has staged an anaglyph 3D video installation titled Curtains. The new piece creates a powerful portrait of the invisible global assembly line of post-production for the film industry.
Raven shot various office scenes in postproduction studios in Beijing, Mumbai, Chennai, Vancouver, Toronto, London, and Los Angeles. The scenes contain scores of office workers staring at computer screens, more often than not with their backs to the camera. She then compiled these images into a 3D video. Two versions of each image, one red and one blue, slowly drift on to the screen before briefly fusing into one image. There is nothing random or neutral in the places or people chosen. It is mind boggling to attempt to fathom all the necessary global efforts that converge to produce films like Godzilla or Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Those stories you see on screen are now being created by a professional diaspora as Hollywood is being deconstructed.
After watching Raven’s Curtains, it will be hard to put on 3D glasses and watch a Hollywood blockbuster without remembering all those images of disparate office workers staring emotionlessly at computer screens. My time and $12-ticket make me complicit, another anonymous face in the chain of the entertainment industry.
It is difficult to define what a professional community is these days. We’re all connected, but only by a thin tether of copper wiring--it’s fast and less expensive than what preceded it, but it brings with it a set of limitations and formalities. If the global sharing of talent is better for the product--whether that’s a film or a clinical outcome--then it needs to be considered. However, I’m not convinced an interface can replace a human face. In Curtains, Lucy Raven is not commenting on whether this professional evolution is right or wrong, she’s only asking us to question the practice.
A series of screen prints from Raven’s ongoing RPx project are also featured in the exhibition, as well as a new lenticular print. Hollywood Chop Riding is part of Control: Technology in Culture, a series of exhibitions in the YBCA Upstairs Galleries that examines the social, cultural, and experiential implications of technology, curated by Ceci Moss, Assistant Curator of Visual Arts.