Liminal: A Question of Position

By Chris Lane

total-station-robert-rainbow-patrick-rhoden.jpgTotal Station, Robert Rainbow, Patrick Rhoden

Liminal was an exhibition presented in April 2009 at London’s Rivington Place by Iniva. It questioned the thresholds of our perception, the boundaries that mark those thresholds and the opportunities that exist to resist attempts to enforce them. Roshini Kempadoo’s Ghosting used a game – once proscribed because it symbolised resistance to slavery – to engage with hidden histories of Trinidad. Her adapted version involves placing and removing stones within wooden pits to control interactive narrative. The game reminds us of the manipulation of the lowest level digital symbols usually rendered invisible when embodied as electrons or burnt onto the surface of a DVD. Kempadoo appears to present a dilemma arising from an interface which allows the reconfiguration of content by the audience and the offering of a very tightly-scripted cinematic encounter.

With the game interface in the foreground and screen as a backdrop, the spatial arrangement draws attention to the exaggeration of the low-level data’s scale. Viewed this way, we discover that, rather than undifferentiated binary digits, the interface consists of pebbles each uniquely shaped, perhaps by a politically charged Atlantic Ocean.

BallWall by Hastilow, Thomazi-Freitas and Wendt – appeared to offer a comparable means of control. In this case balls rather than stones are pitched at a screen containing portraits of eight Londoners. These portraits are jumbled together on a screen divided into sixteen panels. When a ball hits the screen one panel switches to a fragment from another portrait to produce an almost infinite number of possible ‘Identikit’ images. While play may ensue for the pleasure of producing another random hybrid, an extended encounter reveals that, if all sixteen fragments are matched-up, the game is over. Controversially, there is a sense in which the game is won when hybridity is erased. However a more productive reading might be that the work draws attention to the complex relationships between narrative form and representations of fragmented identities – by contrasting constructed with indexical images.

wall-ball-alexander-wendt-elaine-thomazi-freitas-like-hastilo.jpgWall Ball, Alexander Wendt, Elaine Thomazi-Freitas and Luke Hastilow

In Chollet and John’s Frictions of Distance, the noise – or barriers to communication – presented by the idealisation of social networking is the subject matter. It is played out between Hoxton and Phnom Penh – what would have been a cinema auditorium is rotated through ninety degrees allowing the audience to walk on the screen with the projector now positioned in the ceiling. The spatial and temporal displacement of the separated audience members is interpreted visually as projected data-footprints which are spliced together with the audience’s Twittered utterances.

Rainbow and Rhoden's Total Station - which refers to an instrument used by surveyors - employed proximity detectors to sense movement inside and outside the gallery to navigate urban landscapes displayed on four plasma screens. Rivington Place's monumental windows became a representational and literal reflection of the city in the process.

Disinformation and Usurp's London Underground used recordings taken from rails and reinterpreted them as music to create a tangible record of the electromagnetic ‘signatures’ that would otherwise be beyond the boundaries of our perception.

disinformation-and-strange-attractor-alyssa-joyce.jpgDisinformation and Strange Attractor, National Grid 2005, Performance at Cargo nightclub, © Alyssa Joye

In a final series of interventions involving Larry Achiampong, Iniva’s Youth Advisory Board and myself, visitors are invited to contribute stories of contemporary urban experience to a database that is constantly re-worked and re-played in the mainstream gallery at Rivington Place. In the process the conventional hierarchies of space within the building are disrupted.

Amid these intersecting questions of liminality and identity, there is a particularly important question about how we position ourselves in response to new formal possibilities. Liminal has sought to extend the debate about the political tactics that we use in experimental media practice.

Artists and Participants
• Che-Guevara John & Phillippe Chollet
• Rob Rainbow & Patrick Rhoden
• Alexander Wendt, Elaine Thomazi-Freitas and Luke Hastilow
• Roshini Kempadoo
• Joe Banks and Poulomi Desai
• Oliver Ruellet
Chris Lane
• Larry Achiampong
• Students from London Metropolitan University
• INIvators (Iniva’s Youth Advisory Board)

Liminal ran until 25th April at the Institute of International Visual Arts, Rivington Place, London (

Chris Lane lectures in digital media at London Metropolitan University.