Installation, 1998

Gregory Barsamian (US)

Taking on the visual illusion known as persistence of vision, Die Falle (German for The Trap), is a large-scale zoetrope of a man’s dream-time reality. A zoetrope is a 19th century optical device that uses images and rotation to create the impression of animation. This piece explores the theories of dreams and the unconscious by replacing images with sculpture, creating a dream world that melds art, science and technology into a shadowy realm.

The persistence of vision principle applies to the subject as well as the mechanics of the piece because the viewer’s mind not only fills in the gaps of the animated sequence to give it visual continuity, but also completes the sculpture with the added dimension of personal meaning. Die Falle brings the sensory world and logic into conflict: is it dream versus reality or reality versus dream? The brain not only fills the gaps between the movements of the sculptures, but between the conscious and unconscious state. Familiar objects face alternative realities and the sculpture allows a glimpse of the shadowy dream world that the viewer might want to escape from—the aforementioned trap—by bringing it into waking perceptions. Rationality is left behind as the fine line between reality and illusion is revealed.

The piece uses relatively simple technology and doesn’t hide behind the mechanics of the work or try to keep its functioning a secret so that viewers understand the working dynamics and can focus on the content of the piece rather than becoming obsessed with how it works. The narratives are open-ended so people can complete the work through their own personal experiences.

The dream sequences provide a starting point for the deep-rooted philosophical questions posed about the universal nature of our existence. Humans tend to define themselves by what they know and understand, but in dreams, there are many things they don’t understand because they are not certain or logical. Die Falle takes a look at the theory that information that has passed through our conscious mind eventually becomes imprinted in the unconscious. The theory says that dreams are records of what has been missed in waking life, making them a more honest record of lived experiences.

Artist's Statement

What I end up doing is mounting three-dimensional, sequentially formed artworks on a motorised rotating cylinder. The cylinder is divided into segments like a piece of pie, in the neighbourhood of sixteen frames. A strobe light is synchronised to flash as each frame passes. Each frame becomes like a single image in a film slightly different from the preceding and following frames. That’s how I create movement.