Mishap, 2011 Video Installation at PØST
A few years ago I hired a SCUBA instructor to take me underwater so I could see what my sister might have seen when she drowned in 2001. I'm not a good swimmer and can't even go under without plugging my nose, but I was determined to shoot a video from the point of view of someone under the surface. I found myself squeezed into a rubber suit and hindered by so many pounds of gear, and mask and gloves, that once in the water I gave up trying to press the ON button of the camera through its waterproof apparatus. My instructor volunteered to drag the camera by its leash around his neck to free me to concentrate on diving.
I breathed awkwardly through the SCUBA hose and was able to follow my instructor under water for about twenty minutes before I lost sight of him in the murky water. My nose suddenly sucked in water that had gathered in my mask and I pulled the hose out of my mouth to gasp for air reactively—except that there was no air, I was under water. I mashed the UP button on my belt with my thumb to inflate my vest to make me rise to the surface, but it was too slow; by the time my head broke the surface I was gasping and choking.
Once up, I wasn't able to raise my face above the choppy waves that overwhelmed my nose and mouth repeatedly. Above my panic, I was slightly amused that I would drown only yards from both the shore and my diving instructor—wouldn't he be embarrassed! Eventually he swam up behind me and lifted my head above the waves until I could restore my composure.
Once I returned home and unpacked my equipment, I discovered that I had, in fact, successfully turned on the camera. The entire SCUBA experience was recorded from the point of view of a directionless and bobbing lens with underwater sounds of burbling and gasping.
Video installation offers the opportunity for the kind of immersive viewing experience I was seeking at the inception of my desire to understand by seeing through someone else's eyes. As it turned out, the camera with its random point of view and sound-without-object (though it is in fact diegetic sound) represents the sense of the experience for me better than had I held it to my eye and composed through the viewfinder.