:    Remarks on ABC

A metaphor for linearity is the term ABC, that we are used to taking for an alpha-
betical order. As a linear listing of persons (and sometimes things) it is common,
polite and political correct, because there is no ranking. The term ABC in our
language means
a) the alphabet children are taught, and
b) a basic knowledge about something that must be learnt first, if one wants to
get closer and to work with it, for instance the classes of the non-linear web-

My work has two aspects of a non-linear web-movie:
a) interactivity - when the user clicks on the centre of the letters, the letter
almost fills the whole screen; I thought about learning, about repeating and
transparency of a letter, and about the phenomenon that there is a flow of letters
one takes an element from and does something with it; when we start learning
how to write, we begin with big letters;
b) the way, how the order of the letters changes by chance and without the inter-
action of the viewer.

When you go to the cinema, you see a film once; in exhibitions and on the web
films are running in loops; for me this constant repeating doesn't make sense. A
random factor gives something accidental to a work, like the surface of an oil
painting for instance, it gives a human aspect as well. Strangely enough the term
ABC has three letters, whereas the word alphabet has only two (A - the alpha and
B - the beta of the Greek alphabet). Alpha is used in bitmaps and movies for an
invi-sible channel for creating masks. Beta stands for the test versions of a
software allowed to be used by anyone as a feedback for the software developer,
who wants to get a general idea of the problems having occurred. Gamma - the
third letter of the Greek alphabet - is the name of colour management in images
and for monitors. Correcting the gamma means changing the position and - saying
it more easily - the amount of the white. In this work the letters are digital
photos of neon signs on a metal holder. I guess I saw them without their origina
l context left on a building that had been a food store once. As the neon shine is
not visible on a photo I had to change the gamma a bit in my work to make that
light spread out on the letters and the metal.

About László László Révész' online work ABC

by Heidrun Quinque-Wessels, 2004

Révész collects photos of things and situations that attract his attention. Not
following a certain concept, this can be photos he shoots himself, or a collection
of postcards, personal photos of a friend or even photos found in journals. A
typical language of images, that could possibly lead way to interpretation, he
thus avoids. Even images that are used with a piece of art at a later time are not
really selected, they are rather picked out by mere chance. The collection of such
material is not be seen in context with an artistic approach. It only receives
meaning when he computerizes, compiles and works on it for one specific piece of
art. Sometimes Révész combines it with elements generated by computers.
Throughout the last years he used a digital camera, which enables him to take
short video sequences. To my opinion Révész chose the letters ABC not only for
the reasons he mentioned in his own text above, but also because of their
triviality and their lack of a deeper meaning. The symbols mean nothing but what
they stand for. By doing so he forces the viewer to concentrate on the symbols
and on their movement on the monitor; he avoids associative ideas, that would
lead the viewer away from what might be Révész' interests: to address and link
common and antagonistic issues of linear and non-linear codes and make them a
subject of discussion.

Because the letters mean nothing but what they stand for, they can be used
universally. Révész has listed a general use of ABC as a concept and its single
symbols, applicable for all groups of population and areas of life, and one speci-
fically applicable for the software/web area. In these areas ABC and its elements
appear as signatures with which we (all or only certain groups) deal with on a
daily basis. Something we always meet, leaves our attention, as we tend to
notice only deviations of the normal. The letters in the end-product do not appear
as pre-requisite of many kinds or - if so - only as a triviality. They are part of the
founding stones of our world. Aged for millennia, yet highly progressive, and then
like today of highest importance.

For Révész such apparent discrepancies are interesting phenomena, like any anta-
gonism in general. In many of his works we can find them as an important issue,
especially when he displays pairs. He relieves the letters from not being noticed
by letting them change into an other and different colored symbol of the ABC,
displaying them as neon signs with a different flash-frequency. With their dimens-
ional order, their colorful light, their non- textuality, they remind of a picture, on
the other hand in every one of the letter fields a short "letter movie" is presented.
Thus, ABC could be described as a picture made of movies. A picture or a scene is
synchronized and therefore it is non-linear. We view it as an entity and - by mov-
ing our eyes between the single parts of the picture - we try to gain an overview
of the interrelation of the single parts, thus decoding the picture. By creating a
sequence of letters or words of a text or even a sequence of pictures of a film it
merges from a non-linear into a linear - chronological - act. However, the single
frames of a film are pictures and non-linear, their chronological succession is

The content of a film is another genre, where linearity and synchronism and
therefore non-linearity meet. Normally levels of different paces exist in a film;
these need to be decoded: Moving parts with their related pace successively,
stills are being decoded like a picture. With the use of a computer it has become
possible to intervene with the linear movement of a film and - by doing so -
influence its course. This can be done by so called interactivity but also by a
chance factor. Both possibilities Révész has built into his work. On the one hand
the user can view the single "letter movie" in full screen size, in which he follows
our way of reading and writing from top left to bottom right. That means that if
you start clicking the first film top left, you can only see that part of letters that
fits into the size of the letter frame - the remaining part is hidden behind the
following letters. Only when the last letter frame bottom right has been clicked
the letter is fully visible in the foreground.

This alludes to the non-linearity of a picture for only in something synchronized -
a scene - one can steer to different parts, e.g. by use of a mouse, on the other
hand it displays the linearity of a script code. But we uncover the letters step by
step in a linear way. ABC, however, does not carry a text, for the letters only
display themselves, as the succession A - B - C is no longer observed, every
attempt to interpret the term ABC is stopped abruptly. What I have described as
"letter movie" are frames in a succession, however, they are presented at
different paces (something that is only possible in a computer-generated work).
Sometimes we can see a letter for a longer time span, sometimes it vanishes
quickly to make place for another one. There is no real movement in the film: with
the frame only the letter changes, there is no continuous meaning, no action, no
story; the succession of letters is ad libitum.It seems to me that the chance
factor that operates the little films enhances this effect.

Révész mentions capital letters a school beginner has to deal with. Teaching the
ABC to little girls and boys shows how important and basic for life the alphabet
is. Children see the elements of the ABC as images first, then they learn to use
them linearly. By doing so they get used to the text mode modern societies are
based on, they are on the threshold to become a member of them. In the
scientific-made world of modern societies observation and experience are ana-
lysed rationally and acquired by their conception, that means abstractly. Letters
belong to the level of abstract thinking. They are the basis for transferring an
image into text. In many cases we are not able to understand images without
text. We are permanently transferring non-linear scenes to terms and sequences
of words. This is the way that fits to the structure of our world. But doing so we
notice very quickly how difficult it is to express in linear words what we see as a
non-linear image and that we are not able to create a scenic co-existence by
means of a textual one-after-the-other.

Révész' work ABC seems to have the question at its core, what art might be, and
which way to show the result of the artist's observations so that his piece of work
can be called art. It is a question of form and not a question of content; it's a question of the role of antagonisms, of image and movement, time, chance…
Basic questions of art.

Heidrun Quinque-Wessels' text was translated by Frank Siebold