Pedro Lange Churión
Assoc. Prof. University of San Francisco

When Tanu Sankalia described the project to me: an exhibit on the slots in between Victorian houses in San Francisco, I confess that I was waiting for some kind of punch line. It didn’t come... Then he went on to say that he wanted to curate an art exhibit that registered this generally unseen aspect of the urban experience. A floodgate of suggestions sparked our conversations from then on and we found common ground on our enthusiasm for theoretical and artistic works that had to do with the urban experience He invited me to contribute to the exhibit with experimental videos of the slots. I am thankful to him for inviting me and for his daring eccentricity (literally).

I didn’t know quite what to do, but, bearing in mind the project’s emphasis on the unseen, I remembered what Walter Benjamin had to say about the role of the film camera in revealing to us aspects of the city that, though registered by the senses, don’t get processed by the conscious mind, and thus remain in what he termed the optical unconscious: “The film camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.” One way or another, I believe that this is what we are all doing in this exhibit: revealing the optical unconscious of Victorian architecture in San Francisco.

  • The Slot as Negative Space, plays with the notion of the slot as pause, almost as musical silence, and echoes Elaine Bucholtz lighting reversals. One of the characters in Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood defines an image as “a pause the mind makes between uncertainties.” I could not help understanding the image of the slot in terms of Barnes’ definition: “a pause the street makes between facades”. In this piece I attempted to give prominence to this pause by presenting it in a visually rhythmic pattern. I chose Glenn Gould’s music for this piece and the next, not only because of what Gould has to say about stepping into the negative, but also because his “abstract” interpretation of Bach’s keyboard music has been described as architectural; it seemed so fitting.
  • One Slot in Four Movements, I collaborated with Amie Dowling whose wonderfully evocative and at times uncanny choreography inhabited the slots with presences and movements that seem to unearth the ciphered contents of the slot’s unconscious.
  • This is Public Space attempts to expose the somewhat ambivalent nature of the slot as a public/private space: a slot is like a spillover of the street’s pavement that reaches the private edges of the house. If we wanted, we could stand there and voyeuristically look at and listen to what goes on inside. The sound bytes were chosen from films whose plots deal directly or indirectly with the voyeuristic gaze, a gaze that replicates that of the film spectator and that of whoever stands to watch what happens in this brief video.