Telling Motions

Telling Motions

Bill Seaman

1985-86, 20:10 min, color, sound

This dreamlike, hypnotic work is structured in four sections, each of which repeats, in various permutations, key visual and verbal systems. Part One introduces the main theme — a poetic text, music, and a set of images that relate to language play in the text. The sections Key/Code, Translations and Adagio systematically translate and abstract these elements, as in a theme and variations. Images and spoken text are subtly interwoven in an insistent rhythm of sonic and visual codes, a language of "telling motions" and gestures: A gyroscope turns in a shaft of light, hands twist in slow motion, a figure signals with flags on a train track. Seaman writes that he "explores repetition and change based on context and treatment, (and) the relative nature of time."

Camera/Text/Music: Bill Seaman. Editors: Bill Seaman, Daniel McCabe. Trumpet - Mike Majoras Description Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix

In Telling Motions, which was my MSVisS Thesis work at MIT, I was exploring the creation of a specific audio/visual alphabet. Part 1 set up a series of images playing off of the history of alphabets and communication systems. I wrote a poetic punning text with word and sound play. I also used image puns and word plays - like “boring book”. Part 2., Key Code, I took 26 sections of equal length derived from the video/sound in part 1 creating a substitutions cypher for the alphabet. This was also a compositional music system. Part 3., Translations took fragments of the poetic text, sound and video from part one, and translated them using the substitution cypher, presented in the Key Code Section. This was a way to nest meaning where things could both be a word with meanin,g and then a substitution cypher which carried it’s own recursive set of associative meanings. Part 4., Adagio, returned back to a very slow, sung rendition of the image/sound/text from part 1. In terms of a future computational generative video system, the idea was that using the cypher system, any text could be translated by this cypher system into a new work of art.

Concepts: the history of fragments from some alphabets abstracted, puns and word plays, visual puns, codes, cyphers, music composition system.


Revolving drums, revolving drones, carriers
Mapping the light trappings of a loss of resolution
I resolve to revolve in the realm of telling motions
For instants the incidents of coincidence at a distance
With lily light lies letting levels slide
A floating vessel side slipping against the tide
Teeter totters, seesaws, back and forth... back and forth
Drifting and shifting on a rotating schedule of skids
The gist is mist or moist with the tumbling twist of telling motions
The puzzle of puzzles is presented through sets of swollen notions
That swivel off the light machine, calculating error as an entrance
The shadow of a word from the glass wings of a housing
Is cast in darkness, setting in motion a sonic vision
Through systems both nervous and circulatory
With a balance beam, the diver, bit by bit, bit by bit,
Room reconstruction
A turn of events with circular breathing
Adds an air of tumbling willy nilly
From signs to sighs things go the way of pressure...
The path of least resistance
Mistaken identities and mixed metaphors are mumbo-jumbo
At the core of a boring book with splintered words
And enterings of dust
A scatterbrain scheme to simply dodge and weave
While boxed boxing terms tell telling motions to collide and generate sparks Floaters and bobbers were born building histories on the fly
In the light of sound substitutions
The grafting of the glancing shivers and shunts
Casting reflections which are gathered and gone over
 A true wheel within a wheel, pivots, crosses over, switches back, turns in on itself A spine of light binds and blinds as telling motions turn 

Bill Seaman 1986