WAVEFRONT - 2000 On-Line Art Holography Journal


This paper was originally at ART IN HOLOGRAPHY-2, Nottingham, England and formally presented at HOLOGRAPHIC NETWORK conference, Berlin, Germany, Oct. 1996.
It is re-published by permission of the author (in memoriam).


Dan Schweitzer


MY fascination for holography stems from my attraction to the light and the ability to "sculpt" this energy. Light, it seems to me , is the most effective medium to use when attempting to visualize an idea.. Ideas themselves seem to be composed of light.. It is the metaphorical behavior of light that compels me to record it as signposts in my travel to examine thought, reality, and our perception of them. Through this pursuit to portray and analyze the nature of light, I have tried to provide a reasonable context for the abstractions that result. I have attempted to concentrate on creating images that could capture the viewer’s attention and draw him/her into the work and to surrender to the context and reality of the image before them.. I suppose because of my background in the theatre, my choice of presentation of imagery has been, in general, narrative, not necessarily linearly so. As time is often a theme, many of the images involve the use of special effects devices to create some kinetic event. To me holography has always been a kind of cinema. I have counter-balanced this event over time with a static tableaux to allow the spacial relationships to play out as the viewer scans the available parallax from left to right. It was not enough to simply show a new experiment with my devices but I wanted to feature it in a reasonable context. The tableaux becomes enriched and bathed in the presence of the sculpted energy before it. In general, however, it was often the optical animation which propelled me to the holography table. A number of finished artworks resuled from these studies, some of which I’d like to highlighthere in my search for the ultimate tableaux.


In The Tunnel the viewer completes the composition as he/she gazes down the virtual tunnel at someone else gazing back from the other end. The rotating globe midway is the result of an experiment in depicting the passage of time (movement) through the manipulation of space. This "hyper parallax" creates the illusion of rotation because the viewer’s focus is on the "shape" of the event. The globe itself is merely a circular hole in cardboard through which the continent information is projected into the viewer space. Since its parallax does not match with the position of the hole (on the Z axis), but into the viewer’s space, the suggestion to the brain is that the globe rotates.

Another example,"Stargate Revisited", features a point source which is reflected off a fresnell lens and viewed through a holographic optical element, which makes the event repeat , so that several points of light encircle and dart past the viewer’s eye as he passes by. The setting for the effect features a primitive context (scene) for the event. The "Higher authority" is depicted as light, as the cavemen with stone age tools try to decipher the portent of the encounter. Are we not like cave men before the awesome beauty of light?

There is another device I call my "Time Machine". It is a curved mirror with a dent in it. As the dent made it impossible to use as a collimating optic, I elected to capitalize on the unfortunate flaw, and to use it as an object reflector. With careful selection and recording, mundane objects a re elevated o the sublime, as Ruben Nunez, one of my mentors expressed in his "holokinetic" works.

In "The Seed", a kitchen dish drainer becomes music or perhaps an ominous mushroom cloud. Einstein’s convoluted face is revealed studying the flying photons before him as the earth rolls slowly by. It involved six master holograms transferred to the final white light work. "The Survivalists" features an optical animation hologram within the holographic scene itself. As we gaze at the scene the tiny characters in tableaux behind the plate also stands transfixed by the scene (hologram) before them. An Ether Wind dissolves as missiles streak into the distant beyond. In another work, from "The Sleeper" series, I depict the artist, trying to sleep, as his dreams undulate in and out of decipherability to reveal the image-dream is indeed a reflection of the sleeper himself smeared through time. It’s called "Resisting Arrest".

Invention is so much a part of an artist’s work in holography, And at times it can be observed that falling into this looking glass comes not without cost. I cite from Leonardo magazine, Vol. 25 no., 1992:

"I had been staring into those lenses without break...From there events became more and more surreal, as optics were placed into positions already occupied. the event already having occurred. Somehow the eye and brain manipulations in the spacial domain seemed to have "leaked" into the time domain , which also began to alter. Time finally snapped back into place when ...Time itself was beginning to behave pseudoscopically!...As I applied the bandage to my confused and disappointed hand...I decided it might be best to shorten my work sessions..."

Let it be noted that however fanciful my speculations may seem, my impressions do confirm for me that somehow in the fabric of this medium of holography, there lie significant and profound signposts. It is the alchemy of light which the artist has the freedom to explore, fortunately without risk to either scientific or commercial credibility. I am reminded of the remarkable work "Light In Flight" by Dr. Nils Abramson which so dazzled me with its implications. I too set out to record my own version of light in flight, far less profound, but just an earnest attempt to "Map" the path of focusing light as it passes beyond the lenses. I wished to record the tumble of an image as it passes its waythrough its focal point and inverts its orientation in space. An AIR at t he Museum of Holography in New York enabled me to do so in a more traditional stepped animation but not with a fixed screen, but by utilizing a traveling z-axis capture system. There is a liquidity to the traveling light I wished to record. In the 36 exposure recording the shapes can be seen tumbling from virtual to the film plane. In the first test transferthe shapes are multiplied and exposed to a single transfer, demonstrating the entire tumble from back to front. Animation

A number of other works followed, until I received a grant to produce a holographic triptych. I wished to portray a number of elements and issues with which I had been dealing, and to stage an exhibition of my researches in a gallery setting. If it had to be a holographic one so be it. A book could be devoted to this project, whose execution to finality was in excess of two years.

" The Gallery Triptych" is a hologram of a gallery of holograms. At the apex of the viewing triangle, the viewer will be viewing a total of 18 holograms at one time. In Panel #1, "The Barn" is featured as a hologram of a hologram of a hologram of a hologram of a photograph, extending the viewing depth to a meter. The separated and angled plates of the three panels were intended to envelope the periphery of the viewer. Though I consider this work to be one of my most ambitious and most successful, it remains for me a troublesome effort. It was not until I distorted the entire room, for example, by eliminating a collimated reference beam, that I was satisfied with the depth and presence of the scene. The Gallery #1

Still, somehow, the second generation holograms seldom lived up to my expectations. The arduous difficulties of the evolution from concept to fruition were daunting and often disappointing. It seemed that a more efficient method of working needed to be devised. Clearly, to me, things needed to be simplified if I wanted to make faster progress in my work. It would seem necessary to simplify both the message and the medium. To mark this transition, the triptych featured my first real foray into the viewer space, in a finished work. For me, breaking through the film plane needed a worthy context for the transition. Projected images often run the risk of relying on the spectacle alone, without reference to a "raison d’ętre".

In Panel No. 2, the viewer inside the gallery space gazes through the virtual veil of the holographic plate to a point hovering in the real viewer space. Is the tiny viewer in the gallery looking at that point, or is he, in fact, looking at me in mine? For me, the point represented the reference for the three panels, shedding its light into a new arena. This, of course, opened a Pandora’s box of new issues to be addressed on the viewer side of the plate.

Dr. Steve Benton, in his remarkable lecture series accompanying the "Similar Visions" exhibition at the Museum of Holography in New York, referred to the idea of an image capturer that would slow the light to a stop in the glass, thereby capturing the phase and in so doing,"freezing" the three dimensional scene in the glass. Holography, comes very close to this in its ability to freeze the interference pattern of the 3-D wavefront, and it further allows us to stop the light in the real image arena. In panel 2, you can touch the point of light...it will illuminate your finger! This for me, was astonishing in its implication. At the very least it brough t me a step closer to the ability to more literally sculpt the energy coming out of the light source reconstruction of the hologram. The Gallery #2

I completed the triptych with additional projected imagery using one-step techniques on a fixed camera I’d been developing for "The Od Series". I began to more closely examine this volume of space that hovers invitingly before the glass plate. As this system required 2-D masks to make the positive shadowgrams, the limitation led me quite naturally to distill out what most seemed important about the nature of that space. As a result of the technique, the camera as well became simplified to the extent that I could even do the work directly on the basement floor without the need of that massive isolation table. It could allow for multiple colors to be recorded with simple changes that could provide for spontaneity, without having to go back to reshoot a master hologram to accommodate the change. Now I felt I had something to share with other artists that could make the technology of holography less cumbersome, more spontaneous and appreciably less expensive. Though it was only a short step from the Silberman reflection shadowgram idea, the resultin white light transmission opened up for me many new possibilities . I finished my triptych imagery with this newly solidified recording system to project the hexagram in panel No. 3 and for good measure, I projected into the viewer space a phantom of a real viewer, who actually gets in the way of the real viewer’s ability to see the entire gallery space in the panel. I was truly in the viewer space now. And I had brought my characterss with me! The Gallery #3 Though my attempt to bathe the viewer and his periphery in the image was not entirely successful, it opened the door to a new space.

In looking forward to a time when large format might enable me to accomplish this feat, I decided to carry on with the concept of the gallery setting, and to continue a scaled down version of my intention. The subsequent works became sort of maquettes for works I hoped to do in large format, I simply refused to put the ideas on hold till resources for large format became available to me.I would simply render the ideas and allow my characters to experience what the viewer could only vicariously enjoy.


The new series of works which I call holosculptures feature projected imagery that plays with a material context to further explore the meeting of matter and energy in the real space before the plate. Further, the issue of time would be addressed .There is, even in the tableaux context, the implication of time. This would be a way of expressing the sense of time through the seeming absence of its incessant march through our consciousness. By making it a kind of non-time event, as a sculptor might chip away all the stone that was not the figure he might want to render. There is a dynamic tension demonstrated by the very essence of this light in free space, unencumbered by the virtual context. It is its silent presence that in the form of tableaux creates a sense of the stone of which it was once a part.

The first single image to debut the idea in a finished holosculpture work was The Forth Wall. It was the first to finally realize my intention to bathe the viewer in the image, but it would be my characters who would take the swim for us. I surrounded my characters in the image and as an extension of the gallery, they interact with the light itself.the sculpted character with the program pokes his arm through the "wall" of the three sided room. As the viewer of the viewer, we participate in the event; placement of the characters is, of course, critical here, and as I view that delicious moment when the material passes through the intangible barrier, I am drawn to the event--I find myself inside the image. A convenient by-product of this juxtaposition is, of course, the fact that the display format becomes more acceptable to the tradition of sculpture . It is now a reasonable display situation to have a sculpture out from the wall, and lighted from behind. The Forth Wall, Sculpture In addition, there is now something to see when the light is not on. The un-illuminated sculpture is like a one-sided conversation which invites the reply of the light.

As I studied this work, I became more keenly aware of the space the single wall of light occupied. My eye is invited to look into the edge of the light. This issue was addressed more specifically in the second holosculpture, "The Paradox" (left view). Here a simple rectangular slice of light occupies a 3-D space. As one scans the image he finds himself at the edge of the shape and to fulfill expectation one is curious as to what the "other Side" of the 2-D shape is. It is replaced not by its own, but a circular shape. " The Paradox" ( Right view) The transition is a smooth and direct one because unlike multi-channel effects, there is no projected warning for the change. It is accomplished through masking of the image itself. At the border of the shapes each eye sees the opposing shape so that the image is both circle and rectangle at once. Einstein once said that time represented the way of preventing everything from happening at once. It would seem that my preoccupation with time is still with me in this new venture. Are we to assume that this event occupies no time? And furthermore, what part ofthis dilemma is played by the workman on the ladder?

There is little doubt in my mind that we alter time on a regular basis. Large scale events appear to move in slow motion. Moments of disaster seem to slow down, presumably as a self defense mechanism. But here seems to be depicted a curious manifestation of time eclipsed. The circle becomes a rectangle over no time at all, it would seem. Time apparently is not exempt from those subatomic studies that point to a mutable reality. It is some comfort to feel somehow instrumental in visualizing some of those ideas in Physics of which I was so intimidated by as a formal student. Heisenberg’s analysis of the inability to objectify an event seems applicable. "Now" perhaps does not exist, because by the time you are aware of its presence it is past; our very existence is only history. We are riding on our point of view which is transitory at best. Yes Is No. In light of the fact that we create our own reality, my next work allows my characters to surrender to the unlikely. They can now continue the gallery installation. They feverously work to frame the projected image.
The new project in "Window Installation" was to explore inside the non-volume of the 2-D shape. Somewhere in that 2-D volume is now located an entire three dimensionallandscape. The frame carried by the workmen breaks through the illusory projected picture plane, into and through the imagery.

In "Door Way", I have carried the idea of energy and matter juxtaposition to the next logical conclusion, where the characters now "carry" the light over to the frame. Does it have weight? It has been calculated that the earth is bombarded with four and one half pounds of sunlight per day. It is just this challenge to depict the seemingly impossible, to shed light on the possible that moves me on. Life is a dream, says Chalderon. At best life is memory, and all, it seems is quite mutable and subject to interpretation. "Door Way"

More recent holosculptures have become divorced from "The Gallery": setting. A new series of works produced during a recent sabbatical to California breaks free of the requirement to call attention to the film plane, as a veil to the virtual.

"Wish" is a simple bit of romance couched in an extraordinary link between the little girl and her kite. It is a slice of life, as is its companion piece, Intersection. The butterflycatcher is unfixed in the sculpture, as are many of this series which allows for the viewer to toy with the spacial relationships. As one examines th e tension between the light and material sculptural elements, there is an almost tangible feeling of quenching one’s thirst for the experience of parallax. A more recent comedy, "Landscape Painter" is a tableaux of the character "rollingout" the projected three dimensional landscape. "Through the Woods" projects an entire forest into the viewer space; though only a small plate, its dimensions are 11 inches by 15 inches by 15 feet, by about 3 minutes. At last, in a small way, I have made the viewer an integral partof the tableaux.

In "Constellation" the small plate projects the big dipper 10 feet into the room. ("The Landscape Painter", "Through The Woods", "Constellation")

Now that I have finally removed my inhibition with regard to projected images, I am currently working on producing a large format projected moving image. A Shearwater grant has provided me the opportunity to work on this piece with John Perry of Holographics North. The first study, "SPIN", analyzes the rate of movement as it relates to size. In Steven Hawking’s "A Brief History of Time", He speaks of a particle that must rotate two times in order to return to the beginning point. This rotation series promises to produce some extraordinary results. "SPIN"


Most recently I have begun to explore the truly virtual medium of the novel. In the story, I have portrayed an artist who through his holographic research unlocks a door to other realities. In his quest to explore time and space, he applies holographic principles to time and gravity waves and invents time travel. Drawing on the holographic paradigm, the hero feverishy ray traces his way through the holocamera of time, he races to the point source of the reference wave where everything happens at once. He travels via a pseudoscopic time device he has created. Because this story was born as an extension of my technical and personal journal, the extraordinary result is that the story seems to tell itself and ironically seems to back track in time through the creation of the works I have made. The holograms seem to illustrate the story, still unfolding. The perplexing result is that to complete the story I must invent time travel! I am convinced the key is there amongst the photons, and controllable through holographic logic. It appears I have bitten off more than my new virtual characters can chew. The parallel of my own researches that evolved into work - most of which relied on a self-conscious effort to document my research in narrative form was unmistakable. It seemed that all along I was illustrating a story yet to be told - again the remarkable non linear or at least directional time returns to me. It is my plan for an exhibition to install my novel in both holographic and literary form. A unique publishing concept, I think.


I recognize that holography is still being born and that my own researches are of peripheral significance. You might say I am a self appointed peripheral visionary, in the words of humorist Steven Wright. It is clear, in retrospect, that as the technology of holography has grown more complex, I have been running the other way. I enjoy capitalizing on the parameters set for me by technical limitations. It is the engenious solutions in the medium that prove that simplicity is nature’s way... Though it is the directness of the creative energy and the light itself that attracts me, I can easily see that the electronic wedding currently taking place with holography and evidenced in the Akademie of Media Arts in Koln, will eventually distill itself into ultimate simplicity, though it may result in a loss of that directness with the light itself that I personally so much enjoy. As always I remain witness and interpreter before the window. Thendara