View Masters

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James Bradley looks through a View Master

James Bradley looks through a View Master

 

View Masters are hand held viewers of specially made reels small images.  There were originally made by Sawyer’s Inc., in Portland, Oregon.  Each reel contains 7 pairs of images, that when inserted into a View Master viewer and viewed, present 3D images in a tiny little theater-box window covering both eyes.

 

vintage View Master reel set of Mexico City

vintage View Master reel set of Mexico City

simple magic

I like View Masters because they are a very simple form of magic- seeing things in 3D always has a special optical quality that grabs our attention and wonder.  I also remember my father having some at home, and I used to love looking carefully through the putty colored viewer at scenes from natural parks we had visited.

 

Cortezuma performing 'We Are All Artists"

Cortezuma performing ‘We Are All Artists”

How else to present performance

As I was struggling with the questions of how to present performance work- which is to say, what else besides video can represent performance-  I came up with the idea of the View Master.  Their souvenir like quality addressed a concern I had been having about creating action art/performance art/ live art: most people will not have been in attendance when you do a performance.  I kept having people come up to me a half hour after a performance and asking me when I was going to perform.  Frustrated by this, I also found myself in the same situation on occasion with friends’ performances.

still life from The Something

still life from The Something

Then there was is also the thought of  “I’ll just watch the video later”.  As I was trying to create something alive with the people present for a performance, this struck me wrong. If someone wasn’t there, I didn’t want them to think they could just click on youtube and say that they ‘saw’ it.

Rafaelito floats with balloons

Rafaelito floats with balloons

The View Master seemed like a great way to address this issue.  People could have a tiny little souvenir performance of my piece by clicking through the 7 pairs of 3D images.  The French word souvenir means ‘memory’, and that would be a perfect way to experience something that happened before you saw it.

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