benj gerdes

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Cops Out of Order: One Shot at a Time

Two-channel projection with digital video, Super-8mm film, and non-synchronized two-track audio; projections separated by a built wall. 70-minute loop, 2005.

A looped video projection and a Super-8mm film projection are installed next to each other with a wall in-between. Two non-synchronized voiceovers (of the same voice) play from a stereo sound source, each track hard-panned to correspond to one of the projections. These are not the same durational length as the respective projections. The projections are small in size. The sound coming from the speakers (one installed on either side of the partition) bleeds across the wall, but each side privileges a single intelligible sound source. Because of the wall it is impossible to view both projections simultaneously.

The video projection is a work editing together shots of uniformed police in public urban spaces taken from commercial narrative films, documentaries, and activist videos. The earliest clip chronologically is a Lumière brothers film—the first film to show a movie camera within it (in the context of the filming of a parade being protected by a police officer). The most recent clips chronologically are from sources such as Spiderman2 and the 2004 Republican National Convention in NY. The voice-over is subjective, fragmentary, and personal.

The film concerns sites relevant to the May 1857 police riots in New York City (between the city’s Municipal police force and the state’s Metropolitan force, both claiming authority over the other) on Chambers Street. The film documents a walk from the site of the riot at City Hall to then-mayor Fernando Wood’s gravesite at 155th St. and Broadway (which turns out to be unmarked), as a reconstruction of an event that originated in the state police force’s attempt to arrest a sitting mayor. I shot a single frame of film for each step taken walking in-between these sites. The film is projected at 5fps as a clumsy mechanical approximation of the duration of the walk. The voice-over is an almost straight documentary historical reconstruction taken from historical and primary texts. As I did not encounter any officers during the walk, there are no uniformed police depicted in the film.

Initial Exhibition: Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program Studio Exhibition, May 2005

Film projection excerpt (mock-up).

Video projection excerpt (mock-up).


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Cops Out of Order | 2005 | projects