Based on Ed Ruscha‘s famous accordion-fold Leporello book Every Building On The Sunset Strip (1966), I fifty years later approached the Sunset Strip from yet another medial perspective. By quoting Ruscha and, so to say, reenacting Every Building On The Sunset Strip to be able to record multipe 360° videos of it for a “Virtual Reality“ exhibition setting and installation, we get the possibility to oppose two timeline-based media works with each other, that deal with the same surroundings but at a different time and in a different visual medium. Making it not only possible to compare the “Then & Now“ aspects related to built environment and lived space, but to also oppose different visual media and apparatuses capturing it.

Both, photography and 360° video aim to document our surroundings at a given moment for a spectator to later plunge into what has been documented. Both aim at making a „re-enter“ for the spectator possible. In photography by choosing the most accurate frame and constellation to define what is visible for the spectator to interprete. In 360° video by literally documenting everything that is visible for the camera and making the spectator his/her own director of photography that chooses which frame is visible when looking in one direction or the other.

The essence of my continuation of Ed Ruscha‘s approach on the Sunset Strip, in my opinion, lies in the necessity of an artistically-reflected step from one media into the other that leads to scrutinizing both, based on the visual landscapes they create. A step that can beautifully be shown and contextualized by applying the concept of the accordion-fold Leporello book to 360° video. Realizing the project 50 years after the first edition of the book was published, has been a conscious decision. It adds another layer in terms of how visual technology has progressed and changed in that time span.
In 1966 one crucial part of Ed Ruscha’s concept in documenting the famous strip along Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles was the technical aspect of experimenting with how to actually be able to document it and make it access- and to some extent experienceable (as a strip). Ruscha therefore mounted a motor- driven Nikon on a pick-up truck that shot single frames facing the left side of the sidewalk, going up and down the Sunset Strip. From these photos he selected those most suitable for a collage and glued them together to what has become his famous accordion-fold book Every Building On The Sunset Strip.
Fully unfolding the accordion book the specator drives up and down the Sunset Strip. The timeline is defined by Ed Ruscha being the driver of his pick-up. Like that he defines from where the spectator sees what and when. The spectator can not intervene with the given chronology of the timeline. (Note: This is conceptually important for my project and for choosing 360° video over a 3D rendered model of the Sunset Strip. In VR-environments or -simulations the spectator can potentially influence all directional axis and the dynamics by actively moving. In 360° video this is not possible.) The spectator has to submit to the dynamic of the car-ride and is stuck on the driver‘s timeline. 2016, 50 years after the accordion book was published I applied one of the most current visual technologies to the concept of Every Building on The Sunset Strip. Reenacting Ed Ruscha‘s performance from 1966, I mounted a 360° camera-cube shooting in all 6 directions on a pick-up and drove up and down Sunset Strip with the aim of creating multiple video-collages for a 360° experience of the Sunset Strip.

Staying true to Ed Ruscha‘s timbebased media concept we drive up and down the Sunset Strip on a timeline defined by me being the driver. We are again stuck on a timeline. Mine. The fundamental differenence between the 360° video collage and the photographical collage lies with the spectator himself. He/She has the power to actually define his/her frame. While Ed Ruscha‘s work is showing a defined and self-contained detail of the Sunset Strip in 1966, the 360° video potentially shows everything there is and surrounds us with it, providing that we use a VR-goggle. If our field of vision was not limited, we would be able to literally see everything. It feels a little bit as if we were able to actually revisit the Sunset Strip at the time of shooting: May 11th, 2016 in the early morning and after sunset respectively, with a little bit of afterglow light and the neon street signs already switched on. (2x 360° videos: „Early Morning“, 2x 360° videos: „Afterglow“)

The strange feeling one can get by being sucked into a 360° virtual environment and by the fact that it (untruly) seems possible to achieve the impossible — to revisit a place again by going back in time and space — is something that made it a very interesting and powerful medium for me to experiment with. It carries incredibly huge potential as to how to make documented and virtual 360° environments visible and experienceable. While looking at a photograph, book or film we still find ourselves surrounded by our actual environment. The photograph or book represents a defined window into another reality and time. With Virtual Reality and 360° video this experience goes further. The spectator wearing a VR-goggle is visually sealed off from his environment. He/She can get sucked into the alternate reality that is offered and may associate with it, if ready to do so. Even in a way that involves the body of the viewer as in creating a phenomenological response. (Example: While wearing the goggles and looking back during the ride — against the ride‘s directional axis so to speak — it can feel as if one is looking outside the rear window of a car while somebody else is driving. In this case we might or might not fear dangers that might or might not approach from the front and potentially harm our body.) The body responses to it as if it would be a real situation, although we, thinking about it, know that we are not really driving right now but standing or sitting at home, in an exhibition, etc.


Markus Oberndorfer: Artist with a primary focus on photography and audiovisual timebased media. *1980, Ohlsdorf


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