Landscapes and Subtitles

2013, 6:16 min, color, sound, HD video

Fictitious subtitles from imagined non-English language films are synchronized to landscape videos shot by the artist on consumer equipment, often using existing structures, such as bus windows, as makeshift dollies or tripods.

Writes C. Spencer Yeh: "These were originally developed as 'station ID bumpers' for a program by the ESP TV project in 2013. In 2014, with the encouragement of ESP TV's Victoria Keddie, they were collected and presented as a single work.

"I have been collecting these sorts of landscape videos for a while, shot on cellphone, mostly using existing structures as 'natural tripods.' At first I started shooting these videos as 'moving' stills, often shot while travelling, for the same reasons anyone may take photos or home video. As they grew in number, I wasn't quite sure what to do with them, though they have occasionally popped up in some performances as a visual element. Presented by themselves, they begged an extra something, without interfering with their landscape/home video quality. I hesitate to say they are bland or mundane landscapes, but I also hesitate to say they can exist wholly by themselves at this point in the history and baggage of the wide shot gaze, and so I continue to look for ways to frame them.

"After years of having worked with non-English language movies as separate video and subtitle files, and often just the subtitles themselves, I started to think about these subtitles as narratives themselves. Though dialogue is often considered the primary driver of conventional narrative, consumed by themselves they take on this awkward and ghostly quality—they do not read as one assumes a script would. Translated movie subtitles don't carry with them the same consideration and quality than, say, translations of other texts and prose. The perceived role of subtitles in being primarily pragmatic results in a stiffness of execution further magnified by the absence of the visual—the framing context of a movie, which convinces the viewer into an agreement in excusing this unpolished language. So these videos are a result of the above—working with fictional subtitles based on fictional movies juxtaposed over real landscape videos intended to evoke widescreen wordless narratives."