On A
1992, updated 2024

Slippery Surface (see video)
Video and Sound by Dan Senn

duration 7:07

On A Slippery Surface (1992) was filmed at my Commerce Street Studio in Tacoma, WA soon after arriving from the midwest where I'd been an Associate Professor of Music and Head of an Interdisciplinary Computer Lab at Ball State University for years. Just before leaving the University, I placed my face on the lab scanner taking numerous photos as the scanning light passed. Hi res scanning as not yet available in Lab then. Even so, the scans were, by chance, uniquely expressive of the time I was living through as I decided to leave academe. Once in Tacoma, before building Shy Anne Studio on the north side, I lived with my family in a 1000sf loft in Commerce Street close to where the UW-Tacoma is now located, where I began making videos. These were still primitive days in this are for inependant artist as my camera could only shoot 720x480 pixels and I had no editing equipment. The best I could do was to edit in-camera, this including titling and credits copying this to VHS tape for concerts. Adding sound was equally cumbersome so much of the work was accompanied, sometimes remaining silent for 8-20 years.

The upside of editing in-camera was that it was, ironically, difficult forcing a much heightened real-time consciousness while shooting. It force me to work with quirks in my gear, for example. My Sony video camera in 1992, for example, featured a start-stop button that could grab as little as 1/10th of a second of video if the trigger was pressed twice quickly. This feature led to me mapping
rhyhmically objects closeup as I "scored" rhythms out of realtime. From this one anomaly, I made numerous works for many years as I located and bounced over buildings, automobiles, territory, etc. deconstructing these in visual rhythms for reassembly by the viewer. None of it could be edited meaning I must always be "performance ready" for evert shoot in a way not unlike my sound improvisation mindset. In the last year, now February 2024, I returned to a variation on this mapping technique while altering the method of synchronization of the accompanying sound track due to ubiquitous out of camera editing.


As this film, On A Slippery Surface (OASS), was the first I ever made, it explores rhythmic mapping of these face scans made just before leaving academe for a freelance existence. This versions, having been copied to digital 30 years later from the original Hi8 cassette has only been edited here to remove the occasional distortion flicks, the result of age and the inherent wear of in-camera editing.

This version of OASS is effectively the same as the original, perhaps, 1 second shorter, but for the Shmoos Harp
Improvisation sound track I've added that is period correct. This instrument, the Shmoos, was developed in about 1991 and, along with other sculptural instruments from that time, would've been improvised live. Here, the Shmoos is improvised live in one of the many studios I've maintained over the years.

Note: I bought the Sony Hi8 camcorder to document my fluxus orientation in the arts and ongoing sound installation work in 1992. Having been a capable photographer for many years going back 20 years, with this Sony in-hand, it was only a matter of time before I would make use of it especially as I had become close friends with Phill Niblock (1933-2024) in NYCity. This was my first attempt at moving picture art and is naturally somewhat clumsy.
DS Prague, 022524

Dan Senn (Prague-Watertown) is an intermedia artist working in music composition and production, kinetic sound sculpture, experimental and documentary film. He has been a professor of music and art in the United States and Australia and travels internationally as a lecturer, performer and installation artist. He lives in Prague where he directs the Echofluxx festivals, and Watertown, Wisconsin, the USA. Dan's work moves freely between expressive extremes and languages depending upon the aesthetic joust at hand. Dan is cofounder of Roulette Intermedium in New York City, Cascadia Composers of Portland Oregon, and the Echofluxx media festivals in Prague. (read more).

Another scan from this piece