Trace (2001-2; 2012 KAISER)

Trace was originally a solo narrative installation by Paul Kaiser, commissioned by Bell Labs (Lucent) and by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it ran as an installation during the Next Wave Festival of 2001.

The work enacts a kind of self-surveillance, reflecting memories of the Cold War in Eastern Europe and drawing parallels to the present age of commercial and political surveillance. Most of its sections match spoken word to image in such a way that the gap between the two tells as much as the connection.

Key sections of the work have now been extracted or recombined to create shorter films that can stand on their own or be screened together. Several are presented in the links to the right.

Original installation

Trace originally consisted of a single projection with a spatialized multi-speaker sound system devised by Nicolas Tsingos of Bell Labs. The installation space, designed by architect Marco Steinberg, relied heavily on homasote insulaton material, which not only served to dampen sound but also to evoke the gray that once pervaded the so-called satellite countries of Eastern Europe.

Twenty-seven minutes long, the original piece had 24 scenes. Kaiser narrated most of them, but a few were in a woman’s voice (narrated by Lisa Cunningham, with three written by Siobhan Scarry). The scenes did not advance an obvious narrative; instead, recurring themes (childhood, Cold War, mistranslation, surveillance, etc) interwove unpredictably as the work unfolded.

Noah Weiss modeled several scenes in 3D; Terry Pender created the sound design; Siobhan Scarry advised on all the texts; and Jakub Segen (then of Bell Labs) shared his research.