Conversation is plentiful after the Eve Sussman|Rufus Corporation presentation of whiteonwhite: algorithmicthriller for Tuesday Evenings at the Modern. Discussions about what constitutes a narrative, how one can create desire, disjunctive vs. linear narrative, the audience or viewer’s role in a work of art, film vs. art, theatre vs. gallery, and so on have replaced “hot enough for you” and other inquiries that would be in danger if there was in fact a lifetime language quota as mentioned by Sussman in the Q&A following the screening.
In spite of all the options, if not requirements, of this unconventional, code-driven film, I have found myself very content with my viewing experience. There has been none of the usual “Now what did he say?” or “What was that reference?” or “Where were they?” that I often experience after seeing a film or hearing a lecture. I was truly consumed in the moment of viewing. I think that has something to do with the way and why of this piece. The impossibility of reading and viewing simultaneously, and the added option of following the code at the expense of missing what is playing on the screen, initially overwhelmed me. But about 20 minutes in, I accepted that it was impossible to do it all and I began to move effortlessly from image to text, letting those two components direct my need to read the code. With that, a narrative grew and characters developed, which is why I would argue that more than 20 minutes is needed to appreciate the potential and find personal satisfaction in this piece. I also feel that the theatre setting contributed to my ability to surrender to the beauty and intrigue of the images and script, resulting in the satisfaction I have felt since.
whiteonwhite: algorithmicthriller has prompted some interesting discussion among its viewers (including the museum staff!), so please feel free to join in the conversation and post your comments!