Optical Vacuum

Optical Vacuum


Webcams have made it possible for the Internet 'to have eyes', reflecting society from a subjectless and anonymous perspective. Over the past years, Dariusz Kowalski has downloaded surveillance sequences from various public and semi-public locations which in fact were not intended to be used. Work places, conference rooms or even laundromats are the starting point for Optical Vacuum. These are images that were not intended for private experience. The soundtrack consists of personal, almost intimate diary-like commentary which also seems to be not intended for the public. A film about voyeurism, surveillance and voluntary self-exposure – three aspects of the internet that are dependent on each other.

"Nowhere else is talk of the 'panoptic era' – an eye that sees everything yet remains elusive – clearer than in the medium that has taken omnipresence and fleetingness to a global scale: the Internet. On the Internet, the paradigm known thus far for our imaging apparatus has become invalid: there is no longer a single, central perspective, but instead, a myriad of viewing angles that broadcast over webcams, pumping incessant images into the digital data stream. The 'vacuum' in the title of Dariusz Kowalski's 55-minute cinematic essay is therefore not a void, but a powerful generator, an unremitting doubling of the world: in image.

This brings forth a type of surveillance that also has the traces of the word's original meaning: to watch over, sur (over) veillance (watch), a hallucination-generating feat suffered by the eye that neither blinks nor sleeps. Kowalski spent years fishing pictures from the stream, pictures intended as a message in a bottle for no one in particular, available for everyone. They glide by us like dream images, an oneiric panopticon within which moments of disturbing beauty become visible.

The salvation of physical reality, which Kracauer had hoped for from cinematographers, occurs here as a recording in the immeasurable archive of cyberspace. Optical Vacuum opens with views of an endless series of computers, the Internet's picture storehouses. Like the garden landscapes of the courtly era, these server parks follow a strict geometry, and they, too, mediate the experience of the world through seeing. Later, Kowalski shows us winter landscapes, wash salons, workplaces, game tables. A diary written over the course of a year spoken by artist Stephen Mathewson adds in a protocol of a loneliness suffered by people in a world that they know only as fleeting schemes against a never-changing backdrop." – Dietmar Kammerer (Translation: Lisa Rosenblatt)

Film Listing

- Optical Vacuum (2008, 55 mins)
- Elements (2005, 8 mins)
- Luukkaankangas Updated, Revisited (2004, 8 mins)

Special Features

- Ortem (2004, 20 mins)
- Interstate (2006, 10 mins)
- 20-page booklet