Catch 32 Bit

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Catch 32 Bit is one of a series of Studio interrogations aimed at exposing the digital within sculptural practice. (See PhD abstract.)

Excerpt from catch/bounce: Stack Overflows and Digital Actions.
This essay contextualises Catch 32 Bit within the context developing notions of digital movement.

As the body extends beyond itself through the inter-subject gestures, it occupies a liminal state – or rather, as Nathaniel Stern explains with his Implicit Body framework, the body is in a constant state of becoming (Stern, 2013). Building an argument around Massumi’s analysis of movement and affect, Stern posits the body as constituted by its relations with subjects – subjects that it cannot quite reach.

Reminding us of Zeno’s arrow paradox – the impossibility of an arrow ever reaching its target – Massumi and Stern present a conception of time as a point, rather than a line, that parallels the construct of the point vector in which movement is defined by start and end points, rather than by the line-duration itself.

Zeno’s paradox then serves as a conceptual model for the simple action of throwing a ball that is found in 32-Bit Catch (2013). Although perhaps surprisingly it is not the ball that occupies the duration-less moments along the vector path, rather it is the body that becomes the arrow that never quite reaches the target.

In 32-Bit Catch a ball is thrown against a wall and caught again thirty two times. The arm is shown disembodied by the framing of the camera. It is an arm not a specific arm. The body it belongs to is never declared, although it is in fact the arm of the artist. The video starts with a blank wall indicated by the optically distorted corner towards the left of the screen. The footage is highly compressed and the almost monochrome image is reminiscent of pre-digital video works. Only when an arm enters the frame on the right of the screen are we aware that the video is in slow motion. The hand holding a ball slowly primes itself to throw. In the moment preceding the release of the ball the video cuts – we hear a dull thud and the ball is suddenly hitting the wall on the left and bouncing back. Until now the video has been silent. No sooner has it bounced back than the video cuts again and suddenly the ball is back in the disembodied hand. This cycle is repeated thirty-two times, punctuated by the sound of the ball hitting the wall.


auto playing auto muting video


There is never the narrative potential in 32-Bit Catch that we find in its obvious reference points – Richard Serra’s Hand Catching Lead (1968) and Surprise Attack (1973). Unlike Hand Catching Lead we are not aware of content or action outside the frame – all potential within the work is completely self-contained. The image is discrete – even its repeated narrative is contained within a single phrase – catch/bounce. This contrasts with the leaden sheets that constantly pass through the frame in Hand Catching Lead, and the disembodied voiceover in Surprise Attack and reminds us that this cinematic image, at least, is not encapsulated.

Initially 32-Bit Catch may seem to operate in complete contradiction with Zeno’s paradox as the vector has been edited out. All we are shown is the ends of the vector – the points, the moments of contact between the ball, the hand and the wall. This is certainly true if we focus on the trajectory of the ball. However we never actually see the ball in flight along its trajectory – rather we are shown the points of contact between the ball and body and between the ball and wall. The moments of physical overlap in which the two subjects form and inter-subjective third subject the ball-body / ball-wall.

James Charlton – Creative Practice