Horror Chase, 2002
Technologies: Lingo, PC with video distribution subsystem, Quicktime
Keywords: cinema, database, installation, remix, time
Horror Chase, an "electronic sculpture" by Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, is an elaborate digital remake of a scene from Evil Dead II (1987), the highly stylized camp/cult horror movie directed by Sam Raimi. Rather than sampling and remixing the original work, as they did in 201: A Space Algorithm(2001) and Every Anvil (2001), the husband-and-wife team re-created a scene in which a man is pursued through a labyrinthine interior by building a 1,000-square-foot movie set where they shot the scene in 16mm film. The McCoys then digitized the footage and played it back on a computer using home-brewed software that switches at random intervals from forward to reverse playback, producing Sisyphean, never-the-same-way-twice sequence in which the desperate man runs toward, then away from, then toward his attacker. Why this particular scene? "We were thinking about Mannerism," Jennifer McCoy explains, "in the sense of a highly (over)developed form... We chose the height of the horror genre, which is the chase, the epitome of horror, and then used software to hang up the narrative."
The McCoys included several takes of each shot, and each is given equal weight by their home-grown editing algorithm. According to Jennifer McCoy, "The piece's variability comes from subtle differences in the performance of the actor and in the lens used (some shots are much wider and reveal the fakeness of the set) and in their relationships to the direction and speed of the playback." As in several other projects by the McCoys, the high-tech hardware is packed in a hard-shelled black suitcase as if ready to conveniently travel the global New Media festival circuit or be transported to various international contemporary art galleries and biennial exhibitions. The video can be displayed on a screen embedded in the suitcase, or projected on a wall.
The duo has been collaborating since 1996, and movies and television are increasingly central to their artistic practice. Horror Chase marks a departure from the McCoys' earlier works, which deconstruct films and television shows by sampling them digitally, placing their constituent parts in databases, and reconstructing the original works in new ways. These earlier projects exemplify new media theorist Lev Manovich's concept of "database aesthetics." According to Manovich, "Many new media objects do not tell stories; they do not have a beginning or end... Instead, they are collections of individual items, with every item possessing the same significance as any other." The McCoys' Every Shot, Every Episode (2000), for example, applies database aesthetics to the 1970s television show Starsky and Hutch. After digitally encoding the entire 20-episode series, the McCoys broke it down into separate scenes, then used a database to sort the scenes according to categories like "Every Ominous Music" and "Every Racial Stereotype." By reorganizing this television series according to their own idiosyncratic logic, the McCoys disrupt the narrative logic of each episode to reveal the show's aesthetic underpinnings.