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Sept '13          Page to Stage          Her Left Cheek           The Unravelling

The Unravelling

Shot IX


By Matthew Ostrowski

Hitchcock's 1948 film Rope is best known for having been filmed in only ten extended takes. This video, representing an excerpt from one channel of a ten-channel work, is a reprocessing of the ninth shot of the film. In the completed work, all ten shots will be shown simultaneously on ten monitors.


The Unravelling reconsiders this cinema landmark by subjecting each of these shots to the slitscan technique, which smears time across the horizontal axis of the screen: the right-hand side of the screen shows pixels almost a minute earlier than those on the left. 


The original film is already verging on the abstract. The central focus of Rope, more than character or plot, is the inescapable gaze of the camera as it transverses and explores the claustrophobic space of the single room in which the action takes place. By spatializing the camera's temporal movement, and showing each shot on a separate screen, The Unravelling proposes a new perspective on both the form and content of the original film. 


The small vocabulary of objects and characters, simultaneously appearing in different perspectives, provide a kind of Cubist simultaneity, revealing the tight drama of every visual element in the work, while the movement of the camera is transformed into a visual liquefaction of space and object. The relentlessly unfolding, unbroken time of the film becomes a landscape, a panorama of a single apartment in a single afternoon.


Although the original film is not terribly concerned with telling a story - the unblinking gaze remains the star throughout - the characters, involved in an almost satanic charade of concealment, continuously appear, dissolve, and reform. The instability of their physical selves, and the monstrous transformations of their visages reflect the hidden agendas and constantly shifting relationships between the characters.


The audio in this work is derived from the sound of the original film as well. Using an analogous algorithm to the slitscan technique used with the video, the actor's words are likewise spread out through time, resulting in shifting textures in which vocal qualities, but not words, are perceptible.



Matthew Ostrowski, The Unravelling--Shot IX, 2013.

A New York City native, Matthew Ostrowski is a composer, performer and installation artist, exploring work with multimedia, alternative controllers, video and theater. Using digital tools and formalist techniques to engage with quotidian materials -- sonic, physical, and cultural – Ostrowski's work explores the liminal space between the virtual and phenomenological worlds. He studied at the Oberlin Conservatory and the Institute of Sonology in The Hague. An active musical performer, he regularly plays in the musical duo KRK, with contrabassist George Cremaschi, and the multimedia ensemble Fair Use.

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