Digital Technology Replaces Slide Projectors
in the New Collected Visions Installation

Collected Visions: Lorie Novak, 2000 with music by Elizabeth Brown
software by Jonathan Meyer, sound design by Clilly Castiglia

Artist and Scientist Collaborate to Create New Software
In her past installations, Lorie Novak worked with multiple slide projectors and music to achieve her vision of memory as a montage of layered, dissolving images. After her last installation, which combined images from six synchronized slide projectors, Novak recognized that she needed a medium with greater creative control and less complexity (and fewer clicking sounds). Video seemed an obvious choice. However, Novak was reluctant to give up the high image quality of projected slides.

After experimenting with video briefly, Novak turned to new software and digital technology to break free from the raster-lined palette of television. Although the new technology is capable of an arsenal of digital effects, Novak's piece retains the visual language of her earlier slide show-based installations, making extensive use of multiple layers and film-like slow dissolves. In the resulting artwork a participant standing in the center of the room is enveloped and embraced by images. As Vicki Goldberg described the installation in the New York Times:

Here family images, once tiny, as in the Cowin Collection, take advantage of multiple new media to practically engulf the viewer. Thus the natural power of photography to metaphorically magnify the importance of imagerySť advances along the path towards total immersion in the spectacle. [New York Times, Nov 3, 2000, Weekend section, page E34,]

The installation is computer-driven and uses high-resolution digital projectors, which present bright images that are true to their photographic originals. At the core of the system is a new high-definition streaming media system created specifically for the project by Jonathan Meyer, a computer scientist and affiliate of NYU's Center for Advanced Technology. "Computer-driven presentations are redefining our concept of mass entertainment," says Meyer. "The latest generation of graphics cards, digital projectors and surround sound systems are capable of delivering incredible, almost IMAX-like experiences, at a price many artists and organizations can afford. However, the multimedia tools out there lag far behind what this new hardware technology can deliver. Most of the computer industry has been focusing on the problem of streaming media over slow Internet connections. We wanted to push the envelope of what a modern PC can do when it has high-bandwidth access to the media. So for Collected Visions we were forced to create our own tools." Meyer collaborated with Novak to develop two integrated tools for the Collected Visions project. The first is a timeline-based editing system, with a familiar artist-friendly user interface. The second is the playback system - the software that actually runs the show in the installation. Meyer created both of these tools using the Java programming language from Sun Microsystems. The player contains a trace of "native" C++ code to accelerate key operations.

Using Meyer's editing tool offers creators of multi-channel works unprecedented levels of control, since all channels of image and sound are edited in a single integrated environment, on a single time line. Meyer's system uses this hardware to assist in real-time effects, which are generated live, as the participant watches, rather than being pre-computed and stored on disk beforehand. This real-time approach saves hours that would otherwise be spent "rendering" to generate the pre-computed images. This translates into a much more flexible system for the artist using the system, since they can see changes instantly. Novak is taking advantage of this functionality by creating a new sequence for the installation with images gathered during collection days at ICP and the other museum venues where the installation will be shown.

COLLECTED VISIONS debuted at The International Center of Photography New York City, November 3 - December 31, 2000 during the inaugural exhibition of the renovated midtown space. It traveled to the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, February - April, 2001 (along with Lorie Novak Photographs 1983-2000), and the Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University, September - October 2001. A video adaption was shown at the MARCO Museum in Monterrey, Mexico in July 2001. See also Collected Visions on the Web

Please email Jonathan Meyer at or Lorie Novak at for more info.