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By David Finkelstein | August 25, 2005

This abstract video work consists of 24 short sections, each between one and two minutes long. The soundtrack comes from the actual telemetry of the Cassini space probe, as it sent back data from its journey to Saturn, provided to the artist by a Dr. Gurnett of the University of Iowa. The images consist of lines of intense pure color, moving over a black background. One section has yellow lines arranged into moving curves, another has red rectangles arranged in arcs. Some sections have billowing curtains of light, or oceans of light which seem to rush towards or away from the viewer at terrific speed. These lines create extremely varied and dynamic compositions throughout. In some sections, the lines have shaded edges, giving them a sculptural quality. Their movement creates a remarkable illusion of depth and of 3 dimensional movement.

Betancourt has created a second layer of visual complexity by superimposing a layer of floating, irregular rectangles over the lines. These rectangles are not outlined or directly visible to the viewer, but they merely demarcate spaces in which the underlying image has been altered: blurred, spatially or temporally displaced, or rescaled. The interplay between the floating rectangles and the underlying lines of color creates a complex, engaging counterpoint.

The soundtrack itself is remarkable and absorbing. The extremely varied sounds resemble crickets, electronic music, flowing water. They are surprisingly musical, but perhaps this shouldn’t be so surprising, since they are transmitting data about the “music of the spheres.”

The 24 sections (from Alpha to Omega) flow immediately into one another, with no transition, but they are clearly distinct, each with its own color, visual scheme, and sound quality. I’m not sure if the sounds were directly used to generate the images in some way, but changes in the sound are closely reflected by changes in the images.

“Telemetry” is exhilarating and gorgeous. This video reminds me that abstract film and video, when it is made at this kind of high artistic level, is dramatically gripping and keeps me on the edge of my seat. The shortness of each section left me always wanting more, which in itself is an effective dramatic strategy. Betancourt has a subtle eye and ear for balancing simplicity and complexity into a satisfying composition. Just as the eye begins to feel the need for a fresh challenge, one appears: stationary rectangles begin to drift, or established spatial relationships are disrupted. He also uses the black background space effectively to highlight and frame the action. “Telemetry” is a thrilling vision of cosmic dynamism and balance.

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