Bioscope (2022 onwards)

work in progress

Bioscope, a box of wonders, is an old form of traveling cinema that fed the imaginations of a generation of children in the global south through the magic of moving images and the stomachs of those laborers that wheeled the cinema around. The tradition is still alive in India, in the form of experimental but ingenious bioscopes traveling in city neighborhoods and villages, seeking flat ground and natural darkness under the skies.

 

The name Bioscope came about from a hybrid word composed of bio, meaning life and scope, an instrument for observing, alluding to the ways that these machines came to be in the homes of urban neighborhoods and, more so, as small-scale theatrical inventions that occupied smaller spaces, and, perhaps, shared more intimate proximity with humans and less with technical wonders.

This project is an attempt to hold on to the ingrained presence of these traveling cinemas, the experience of watching films in the interstices of everyday life with an organic unity of communal experiences. It is an attempt to protect its simple values as passed down to me in oral accounts by a generation that witnessed its decline. 

The traditional bioscope functioned through a reel of images that were cranked fast enough by hand to create the illusion of a moving film. Without disembodying the illusory experience of viewing a film created by still images, the bespoke digitized bioscope would be controlled by a hand crank and the films would be animated frame by frame. Relative to the speed and direction the viewer turns the hand crank, forward or in reverse, the film will unfold/fold. The Bioscope demands its audience to engage with speed and chronology in order to actually see moving images. Here, the act of seeing is subjectively constructed through each frame and view. 

By enabling a frame by frame viewing of (digital or digitized) films through the turn of the hand crank, the viewer becomes active and can speed-up time, stop time, reanimate time, as well as reverse in time. The Bioscope treats the movie not as a fixed narrative, but as one that is subjectively constructed through each frame and each view, engaging us to notice the discreet relationships which manifest personal meaning.

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