Still Moving: Four Sides of a Japanese Language School (1998)

This piece was made from 1130 "still" camcorder shots composed in a rhythmic mapping of the exterior of the Japanese Language School once located in Tacoma, Washington. Each "still" is composed to exist independently as a photograph while representing a point in a real-time narrative of the overall structure. Perception is therefore pushed to consider simultaneously the literal, contextual, rhythmic and kaleidoscopic as accentuated by the 4 turned monitors. The piece is edited in-camera but shot over three days. The rhythms you see are those which have been performed by the artist as he turned his camera on and off rhythmically as if he we tapping the surface of the building like a drum. For this reason, Senn refers to this type of video, made to be seen over a cluster of video monitors, as "percussive video" as they are directly informed by Dan Senn the classical musician and composer. From 1992 to 2000, he shot numerous "percussive videos," almost all of them on Hi8 and edited without the use of an external editor. This provided a kind of real-time pressure otherwise known to musical improvisation, where everything counts and the mind must remain keenly focused during the creative act. 

The Japanese Language School, which had been used by a large and thriving Japanese community up until World War II, had been established as a means to retain cultural connections to the old country. Many of Tacoma's Japanese immigrants had come to the US in the 19th Century and by the early 20th Century were indistinguishable from their non-Japanese friends in dress and language. Therefore, the school was setup to counter this trend, which made all the more absurd their eventual interment. Once taken from their jobs and businesses, mortgages went unpaid and so went neighborhood. The Japanese Language School remained unoccupied, except for vagrants, until it was razed in 1994, six years after this video was shot.

Before the Dan knew the background of the school, he had become interested in the Japanese Language School as a beautiful structure because its straight roof line, simple windows and four sides which had been unpainted since the late 1930s. As the many years passed, the sun gradually circled the building season after season after season and each side took on a unique and distinctive patina.

Versions of this piece exist for standing installations, as in this case, for video and violin in concert performance, and was made while artist-in-residence at the University of Washington-Tacoma in May of 1998. (see video) (read review)