Digital video, 2005
Ralph Ellison penned The Invisible Man in 1947. In the first eight pages of his novel, Ellison eloquently writes about his protagonist’s struggle to find identity in the darkness of a damp basement. On the set of Invisible Man, Pinder wired light inside a small room, depicting a well-known scene from Ellison’s classic novel. The room, “warm and full of light” in which Ellison’s narrator lives, comes complete with 1,369 light bulbs. Energy and light, stolen from the electronic company, illuminate not only the character’s basement dwelling, but also the truth of his existence. He tells us, “Light confirms my reality, gives birth to my form… Without light, I am not only invisible but formless as well; and to be unaware of one’s form is to live a death... The truth is the light and light is the truth.”
Starting in darkness, Pinder is gradually exposed to light, one bulb at a time. The intense light becomes too much for the digital camera to handle and gradually he is forced into a subsequent white-out. There is no video editing; the special effects happen purely when the camera is over-exposed to the 1,369 lights on the ceiling. Pinder’s performance is minimal; he doesn’t act or move. His job is to breathe and allow himself to be a prop, allowing the lights to control his existence and to confirm his reality.