Scott Billings is a visual artist and mechanical engineer from Vancouver. His art practice centers on issues of animality, mobility, and cinematic spectatorship. Through video and installation, Billings’ work examines how the video apparatus itself reveals both the mechanisms of causality and its own dormant animality. Billings has exhibited throughout Canada and internationally. In 2010, Billings attended an artist residency in the Czech Republic where he explored the old sewage tunnels under Prague and produced a solo show at the Communication Space Školská 28 Gallery. In 2011, in collaboration with Josh Hite, Billings constructed a 70-foot helical camera rig in a ‘hidden’ stairwell inside the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver, a stairwell which has been closed to public access for over 80 years. Billings holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia, a BFA from Emily Carr University, and a BASc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.
Giacometti’s Foot: Automobility and Cinematic Causality
In this presentation I examine the gaze between motorist and pedestrian as a complex intersubjective transaction mediated by the link between automobility and cinema. First, I propose that the distanciative effect of cinematic spectatorship can be likened to the fleeting view from inside the automobile: a protective screen fostering an increasing slippage between distance and proximity, contact and visuality. I suggest that this mediating screen manifests a spectre of contamination and fear embodied in the visible figure on the side of the road. Within this context I examine the side-of-the-road as a discursive site in which specific socio-economic transactions between motorist and pedestrian transpire (e.g. hitchhiking, jaywalking, ‘squeegee kid’ solicitation, prostitution, and day labourer pickups). Secondly, I argue that the very act of driving through the structure of the city grid (constituted by the nature of line of sight) is to engage in a consumption of space-time synonymous with filmic montage. The motorist not only accelerates physically but also propels along the narrative lines of cinematic causality—where the intimacy of the chance event of the automobile accident reifies the irreversibility of cause and effect. Instanced by ad-hoc roadside memorials and traffic warning signs of “children at play ahead,” the side-of-the-road is littered with traces of the figure, haunting the temporal pivot between past and future. As a framework for my argument I refer to specific artworks (Ken Lum’s Entertainment for Surrey, Francis Alys’ Turista, Douglas Gordon’s Psycho Hitchhiker, and Roy Arden’s Citizen) in which the artist stands on the side of the road as a performative social intervention. Through the photographic and filmic property of indexicality, these artists evince the socially coded infrastructure embedded in the act of looking – seeing and being seen – and expose the ideological forces that obscure and normalize it.