i and i

Michael Klein’s i and i
Video Pool Media Arts Centre
May 14 – June 11, 2010
Art Space lobby, 100 Arthur St.

Michael Klein’s video-audio work titled i and i invites the gallery viewer to share a private experience that often takes place in public, listening to music on a portable MP3 player. Klein asked people on the street what they were listening to: by putting on headphones, the viewer moves from the public space of the gallery to the private space of the subject.


From Uptown Magazine May 20, 2010:

Private (and public) i
Michael Klein’s video installation i and i explores the private bubble created in a public space by personal listening devices

Michael Klein’s video installation with dual audio channels for Video Pool, i and i, taps into presumed privacy and the discomfort of becoming an unplanned spectacle.

In his book Rock My Religion, conceptual artist Dan Graham traces the history of rock music to the Quakers, who sought refuge from religious persecution in the new world. Men and women in the Quaker religion were segregated at all times except during what Graham describes as orgy-like religious services in which parishioners danced to the rhythm of drum, guitar, bass and piano in order to evoke and exorcise demons. Being possessed by music is an experience I continually seek — to be so seized by the beat that my self-consciousness evaporates and all that exists for me is the music.

Klein has documented nine subjects of various ages in the act of listening to what I can only presume is their favourite songs of the moment on their headphones. The video is projected onto a small screen hanging in the Artspace lobby. The viewer is presented with long and oddly charged shots of balding and slightly prissy Jon, sensual-looking Alex, wholesomely handsome Fraser, intimidating Danny, cute and awkward teen Lily, hipster Bryan, attention-seeking Jessica, deadpan Kelly and nervously eager Phil. Standing in the lobby, one hears only the sounds of street traffic and takes on the role of a bemused by-stander — the sort of feeling you get you meet someone’s eyes on the public bus and aren’t sure if you should look away or not.

Every so often the onscreen subject will flick their eyes nervously towards the camera (and the lobby viewer) or obviously avoid looking at it. During some short moments, you might get the impression that they are truly carried away by the music, unaware that they are in a public space and under a watchful gaze.

The central conceit of i and i is the dichotomy of public/private — using a personal listening device in public space creates a fragile bubble of privacy. i and i, on some level, seems to suggest that it would be better to breach this barrier and engage with others.

Donning a pair of headphones affixed to the wall allows you to pierce this bubble of privacy and share in the subject’s private world. i and i are like twins conjoined at the headphone.

While expressing an undeniable allusion to the ubiquity of iBuds and iPods in our society, Klein’s title is actually lifted from reggae music. Klein states, “it comes from Rastafarian speech which eliminates the pronouns, you, me, us, them, as divisive words and replaces them with communal I and I. I and I embraces unity.”

Of course, merging with others via the video screen, like the iPod, is symptomatic of our cultural moment. While I feel an arousing sympathy, embarrassment or camaraderie with the subjects of Klein’s piece, I am aware that this is a mediated encounter. Perhaps it’s time to abandon screens and headphones for a public space that is also a social space.

– Sandee Moore


~ by cineflyer on May 21, 2010.

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