Youngblood on Milton Cohen

Cohen’s most recent presentation was Centers: A Ritual of Alignments. Here the projection surface was a translucent circular core from which eight triangular screens radiated. Behind each screen was a photoelectric cell that activated sound and strobe-light events at various positions in the performance area. (Cohen often employs the amplified sound of the projection equipment itself as the aural complement of the imagery.) Behind the core, also described as the ”target” area, was a slide projector.

Film imagery was basic to the performance. Cohen adapted projectors to handle twelve-foot film loops projected sequentially on the fanlike screens, making one round every twenty seconds. Simultaneously various geometrical target patterns were rear-projected onto the core. The audience is seated on revolving stools in the twenty-foot area between the projection system and the screen. Their attention is polarized between the gyrating film and the free-floating slide imagery registering on walls and screens that define the total enclosure.

The multi-channeled sound is electronic, instrumental, and vocal, and moves in complex trajectories from speaker to speaker. The effect, according to Cohen, “is one of sound in flight; sound seeking target.” This theme of seeking out the target is carried over into the visuals through the manipulation of the projection console in a discrete sequence of maneuvers that search out the center. “When and if this centering is won,” Cohen explains, “the performance may proceed to the next film loop. But also ways must be discovered for other performers (live dance, live music, etc.) as well as the audience to contribute to the audiocentric and luminocentric probes. Ultimately there must be a common voyage for all to that identifying place which describes at once the center and the whole.”

Youngblood, G. (1970) Expanded Cinema,  P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York.