The Stream

Stills from "The Stream", 1985-87

The Stream (1985-87) exists in a number of different versions, with the first completed in 1985 and produced as a two-channel work for tapes to be presented on identical television monitors. After making An Imaginary Landscape in 1986 using the Gemini II, I decided to re-work The Stream, developing a single channel version which explored the potential of the Gemini for producing split-screen effects, image symmetry and mirroring. 1

The Stream is about dialectics, a presentation of opposing parallels, co-existence’s and interdependencies, presenting fluid electronic images of flowing matter (the water of the stream depicted) in relation to a reference to the flow of human cognition. I have drawn inspiration from the work and thoughts of the physicist and philosopher David Bohm (1917-1994) who first posited the notion of a crucial relationship between mind and matter in Wholeness & the Implicate Order. My final version of The Stream begins with a quotation from the introduction to his book:

As careful attention shows, thought itself is in an actual process of movement. That is to say, one can feel a sense of flow in the “stream of consciousness” not dissimilar to the sense of flow in the movement of matter in general. May not thought itself thus be a part of reality as a whole? But then, what could it mean for one part of reality to ‘know’ another, and to what extent would this be possible? Does the content of thought merely give us abstract and simplified ‘snapshots’ of reality, or can it go further, somehow grasp the very essence of the living movement that we sense in actual experience? 2

My intention by beginning The Stream with this quote was to suggest to the potential viewer that the tape was not simply a set of pretty visuals to accompany Reich’s music, but was an attempt to present something much more complex, both abstract and philosophical. The fluid video images should be seen to hold metaphoric and poetic significance, to be understood not simply as the record of something that existed in nature, but mediated via a technological process which ordered them for an entirely different purpose other than to simply re-present them. The images of the flowing river had, like the music, an abstract relationship to nature. I wanted to suggest that the parallel between thought and image in nature was mirrored in the language of the moving electronic image. My intention was to merge the physical, rhythmic experience of the music with the mind’s visual and visceral memory of flowing water. I wanted to make a work which established a set of interdependent relationships between the movement of the music, the flowing water, the video imagery and the flux of thought process and cognition.

1. This was partly a practical consideration, as the use of twin screens made it difficult to show or distribute, but I also felt that a split screen format would be better suited to the ideas and concepts I was interested in.

2. David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1980, introduction, p ix