The Refractive Kinescope

A gallery installation with live performances

Commissioned by DownStreetArt

The Installation

The history of silent cinema, projector devices, and a curiosity about the persistence of vision are sources of inspiration for "The Refractive Kinescope". Our installation is conceived as an organism that puts the viewer in the belly of a film projector offering metaphorical interpretations of film experiences and exposing the choreographic nature of early cinema. 

Riffing on the form and function of an actual film projector, "The Refractive Kinescope"– both fragile and robust, is brought in motion by model steam locomotives and by the spectators themselves. The locomotives transport the projector bulbs illuminating over 200 celluloid oversized film frames selected from the silent films (1910-1928) that form a ribbon spooling between two reels, spanning the entire space.

The moving lights invite the viewers to walk along. Following the lights, the viewers become the mechanisms of the projector and bring the frames into motion. In front of them, scenes filled with the expressive dance of gestures, looks and postures by famous and forgotten silent era Hollywood stars pass by. The action in every selected frame – whether in a solo or a duet, was originally choreographed with great dramatic precision to express the full spectrum of human emotions. Moving through the installation, our viewers, like film editors, assemble frames into the scenes: they actively engage into re-interpreting and creating new meanings out of the historic material. "The Refractive Kinescope" revives, inverts and manipulates spectator-performer-image-projector relationship rejuvenating the perception of the art of motion pictures

On July 30, 2009, Kinodance revealed the second part of "The Refractive Kinescope" installation. It is the "OKNO-Scope." "OKNO" is Russian for WINDOW. So it is not surprising that the front window of the Gallery 51 Annex hosts the new piece. The OKNO-scope is an illuminated film poster in motion comprised of 48 frames from silent films. The frames are arranged into 6 vertical filmstrips. The wandering light projects a glow through the images onto the evening street. A kinetic sculpture behind the glass directs the light from frame to frame, revealing both short fragments and elaborate scenes from the silent film era. A human drama unfolds with full force: love triangle, fiasco of wedding arrangement, crime scene, burlesque and flirtations... The fragments tantalize viewers' imagination guiding their mind to piece together stories about the long-forgotten but strangely familiar world. The OKNO-Scope is on view after sunset until one in the morning (6pm-1am, Wednesday-Sunday).

The Performances

For the live performances we mine selected sequences from early silent films and reconstruct embellished gestures, zealous eye movements, exaggerated postures and dramatic spatial pathways with manipulations of speed, focus and movement quality influenced by Butoh and contemporary dance forms. 

On June 25, July 30, August 27 and September 24, Kinodance presents durational performances that continue Kinodance's choreographic explorations in the context of the installation "The Refractive Kinescope". Alissa Cardone, a choreographer and co-founder of Kinodance, creates a duet between a man (Michael Jahoda) and a woman (Ingrid Schatz or Alissa Cardone). The duet explores human emotions that are both clearly revealed and meticulously concealed in face and body. The performers draw their inspiration and physical vocabulary from silent films – when emotion and movement were explicitly amplified in order to communicate a story. They bring the silent film world to life making it present, palpable and knowable while fighting the sense of nostalgia, romanticism and decay which pervade times gone by. The performers invite the viewers to re-interpret the meanings of early cinema in the context of today.


Concept: Kinodance Company
Sculptural Installation: Dedalus Wainwright and Alla Kovgan with contributions from Bryan Long and Gideon Weisz
Performers: Alissa Cardone, Ingrid Schatz and a guest artist Michael Jahoda


The source silent film stills were generously provided by Bruce Calvert (Silent Film Still Archive), Derek Boothroyd and Ken Winokur (Alloy Orchestra). Kinodance Company would like to thank Stuart Cody, Anne Lilly, John Powell, Jeff Cleary, The JMRI community including Ken Cameron, Walter Thompson and the Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT.

DownStreet Art is a program of the MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center and its partners, MASS MoCA, the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Scarafoni Reality and the City of North Adams. The program is made possible through lead sponsorship support provided by Greylock Federal Credit Union. Additional support is provided by: Adams Co-Operative Bank, Berkshire Bank, Edward Jones Investments, Gramercy Bistro, Papyri Books, Photoworks and The Porches Inn at MASS MoCA.