80 Washington Square East, NYU

Patricia L. Boyd


September 22 – November 11, 2017


New York-based British artist Patricia L. Boyd will exhibit Operator (2017), a single-channel video from which the title of the exhibition is taken. Positioned in a space not much wider than a corridor, the video – which Boyd refers to as an ‘exhaustion engine’ – is structured according to a rule-based scheme whereby the duration of each section is determined by the mathematical calculations of a specific loan repayment plan. Both debt and interest are payable quarterly over a period of three years and three months, which is the interval of time since she started preliminary research towards the commission. Sections of footage are carved up according to one parameter, namely the amount of debt that has been paid at whatever moment the ‘payment’ appears in the duration of the video (12' 56", looped).

Operator was shot using a custom-built system of four video cameras fixed into motorized rigs to produce up-down and right-left tracking shots. The cameras were designed to run in constant motion and to repeatedly scan the room they were situated in. Within the context of a commission from a highly resourced media arts production facility, one way of looking at this setup would be as an expenditure of resource without any apparent object.

The system somewhat exhaustively makes a record of itself. As it moves through space, the frame of each camera captures its counterparts and the elements working in their support (stabilization devices, static lighting, other technical equipment). The edits between cameras provide a shift in point of view that only serves to emphasize how restricted each one particular perspective is. There is a sense of totality that is again and again evaded, even as the limit of the system as a whole—the extremities of the room—is extended. In cinema, PoV shots are used to get inside the subjective space of a character, to represent what they are ‘seeing’. The cameras in Boyd’s video appear to operate themselves, moving in an often gestural fashion over and towards a scratched floor. However, at moments, there is a distinct sense that something or someone is driving the cameras at a distance and that there is some kind of intention behind the movement.

These hyper-vigilant cameras, their footage seen through crosshairs, suggest all sorts of anxieties about production and productivity, the saturation of time and space with sensory overload, and our being monitored by ever-present surveillance. The structure of the loan repayment plan to which the footage is put in service suggests a broader economic context to these questions and our entrapment within a constant accumulation of debt.

Curated by Nicola Lees, 80WSE. This film was commissioned by Vic Brooks, EMPAC.

A camera on a moving rig is mounted directly in front of a large projection.
A close up of a a camera on a moving rig mounted directly in front of a large projection. The camera is focusing on a small white cross.
Two corridors on either side of a dividing wall have large projections.
A wall with a large projection of a camera rig.
A wall with a large projection of a camera rig.
A black fan on wheels with a handle in a dark corner of the gallery.
A black fan on wheels with a handle in a dark corner of the gallery. Shot from behind, a room with a projection on the wall can be seen in the distance.