YYZ Gallery Installation

Between East & West

Between East & West

Between East & West, 1991
2 lightboxes, 2 etched glass panels

An installation on the theme of information exchange during the Cold War, with computer generated images produced by surveillance image processing algorithms. Image generating software were initiated through collaborative actions with a programmer in Hungary, near the end of the Socialist era.

In the spring of 1989 I contacted a scientist in socialist Hungary to transform a mathematical equation into a computer program that would generate textures as seen in the background of these lightboxes. These types of mathematical equations have normally been used in surveillance to enhance photographic resolution. I returned to budapest in August 1989 to retrieve the completed program. A week later, the Hungarian Communist government authorized the release of the first wave of East Germans waiting at the Hungarian, Austrian border, to the West against official East German demand, a political action that initiated the disengagement of the Central European satellite countries from the Soviet bloc.

In the center of each image stands a long rectangular panel that looks like a metallic nameplate. Constructed in computer memory on a digital system used by network television to produce their news logos, the plates were assigned the reflecting properties of chrome on which images from a video I made in Budapest* were "projected" mathematically. The viewer would not be able to decipher what the plates reflected, but because of our general familiarity with the photographic image, the blurred shapes do read as photographic and therefore imply the authority associated with photographic representation.

The two glass panels situated betwen the two lightboxes contain two sets of information. One has keywords related to my history having lived on both sides of the East/West political divide, the other panel has two dates inscribed separated by a "fast forward" sign as seen on electronic audio-visual machines. The first date corresponds to the year of the Hungarian Revolution at which time my family left. The second when the Berlin wall came down. Both dates represent significant moments for reflection in terms of my personal history. I wonder what my life would be like if the time between these dates were compressed into a single day.


*On September 13, 1988, I participated in Budapest, in the first demonstration to be tolerated by the officials of Socialist Hungary. Approximately eighty thousand marchers, including a strong turnout of the Austrian Green party, were protesting the ecologically unsound Nagymaros/Danube hydroelectric works. The project was engineered by the Soviet Union, which contracted with Austrian firms for its construction on Hungarian and Czechoslovak territories.