In “Stochastics,” a new 6 minute short, French artist David Kidman takes a simple idea and expands it with fascinating results. The film is made of many still images of the artist walking, almost always through large public squares, situated in many different cities from around the globe. (In his notes for the film, Kidman mentions that these public squares almost always commemorate military victories.) The stills are shown very rapidly intercut, and arranged so that the walking figure remains in the center. His steps are arranged into the natural physical sequence of the action of walking; the result is that, like a flip book, the man appears to be taking a stroll, but the backdrop and the city behind him switches constantly, almost frame by frame. An electronic score emphasizes the jerky rhythms of this artificially re-constructed stroll.
The film is almost like an enormous expansion of the sequence in Maya Deren’s seminal work “Meshes of the Afternoon” (1943), in which a woman takes a short walk, with each step landing on a different surface. “Stochastics” reminded me, more than anything else, of our dawn-of-the-internet-age experience of being on-line, where we are simultaneously present in every part of the globe, always a quick click away from switching locales. The jerky, imprecise representation of walking in the video reminded me of the way that on-line experience usually tries to mimic or recreate physical experiences, always with a patently artificial feeling. (Compare throwing a piece of paper into a garbage can in the real world with dragging a file to the “Trash” on your Mac.) The video makes no overt references to the internet, and there are many other possible ways of reading the imagery.
In “Stochastics,” David Kidman uses digital tools to create a kind of 21st century puppetry, and a potent image which evokes the ghostly nature of on-line experience.