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Article by Brent Epp
Garnet Hertz's BIG url is, at first sight, a sixteen-foot-wide glowing lightbox-billboard that enigmatically reads, 'http://www.link.ca/ ~garnet/BIG', a single internet address, or URL (universal resource locator). For all its size the billboard says less than it conceals. However, BIG url is an installation that slowly discloses itself after the impact of the initial encounter. The quickest way to find out more about the installation is to go online and to the URL, but Hertz is well aware that access to the internet is limited. BIG url drops hints to suggest its motive.
Attached to the ceiling at the entrance is a video-camera pointing towards the billboard on the wall opposite. Dangling between the camera and the billboard, at waist level, is a small speaker which periodically emits a 'squishy' noise. Throughout the duration of the installation, sequences of digitized photographs are added beneath the billboard. The images are taken from the camera showing people as they bend over to listen to the speaker.
It soon becomes apparent that a joke is being played out on the viewer in the gallery. Every time a noise is made by the speaker, the camera takes pictures and transmits them to the internet address on the billboard. The speaker is positioned to lure the gallery-goers into the centre of the frame of the camera so the that online viewers can watch them.
There are, then, two types of viewers to BIG url: those in the galley and those viewing the website. They are not, however, mutually exclusive. While some viewers might not even recognize the URL as an internet address, others may later access that website; and likewise, viewers to the website, who may have stumbled upon it while browsing the internet, might later go to the gallery to check out the physical space.
Photography has a history of privileging those outside the frame, while subjecting those inside the frame. Hertz inverts the direction of the gaze, so that the gallery viewers, who traditionally do the looking, are now being looked at. Historic ally, the gallery is the institution that does the framing. Hertz compounds this by framing the frame. The gallery-viewer and the act of viewing become the subject for the website audience -- an audience in a non-geographic digital space, outside the physical space of the installation. Although the direction of the gaze is inverted, the structure of privileging those outside the frame is maintained -- in this case, for the sake of an absurd joke.
The spectator, somewhere in the viewing dynamic is never offered a
complete answer: the work's scale, technological construction and
relationship to space remain somewhat ambiguous. In an induced play
between seriousness and humour, BIG url does
not seek resolution -- it never reaches closure, never totally reveals itself.