Between Windows & Frames


A Review of Jacks in Slow Motion

What about thinking on a beyond-multimedia CD-ROM? On a cultural background of hypermedia experience? What does it mean? What is the difference? Jacks in Slow Motion, a book and CD-ROM by Brazilian anthropologist and videomaker Kiko Goifman, co-directed by Lucas Bambozzi and produced by Jurandir Müller, is a good point of departure for that discussion, from the very beginning of its title.

"Jack" concerns to a prison slang. In overpopulated prisons like Carandiru, Sao Paulo House of Detention, prisoners sleep in the same bed, step to foot, like jacks in a card game. "Slow motion", as everybody knows, is a video effect. It refers to a delay in the image movement.

It is a result of a MA Thesis on the experience of time in prison which included a documentary in videotape ("Tereza", 1992) all shoot in Carandiru prison, in the city of Sao Paulo. Both works are reproduced in the CD-ROM in their full length version.

If it were only that, the CD-ROM certainly would be very good. The textual content is a result of a serious academic work and faces one of Brazilian most incandescent social problems _ the violent detention system.

Moreover, the video, "Tereza", became a kind of cult documentary that collected awards and honor mentions in different video festivals between 1992 and 1994.

But the CD-ROM Jacks in Slow Motion is much more than a juxtaposition of media. The unusual composition of its title indicates an hybrid form of knowledge. Cultural codes interact here.

It means, following French philosopher Jacques Derrida, that the media used in the CD do not act as supplements (something that stresses an excess of information) neither as complements (something that denounces an absence in the original idea) of each other.

Besides those conceptual features, the CD was enriched through the incorporation of works created by other artists, like photographer Rosangela Renno and the rappers Racionais MC's, who have been dealing with the prison thematic.

Their works were redesigned for the CD-ROM and combined to some topics of the thesis, which received a new approach in the CD, like "Panopticon" (one of its highlights) and "Slow Time".

All together they do not ordinate a "Treat on Art&Crime". Nevertheless, they introduce a disconcerting dimension on the cleanliness of the screen. Not just because of the thematic. Also because of its navigation, conceived by Bambozzi, that literally jails the reader.

If you do not click, it plays continuously, autonomous, like a videotape. Everything runs slowly. The display is dark and black screens intercept the topics. An image of a lonely prisoner punctuate the segments.

It would be easy to make a straight association between that and the fact that videotape is the background of all the main team of Jacks in Slow Motion. Between its slowness and the weight of Tarkovsky for the author, (Goifman) who quotes the film director in important moments of the dissertation text.

The question is more complex. According to Goifman, what is astonishing in the experience of time in prison, is its disconnection from the metropolitan time. It is an inactive time, a suspension between nothing. A prisoner tell us in "Tereza": "A thief with nothing to do can even bite his finger just to see it bleed, sure he does, just to pass time in jail!"

But if you click, what is much more better, you face an overlapping structure. Media are linked, crossing their own limits by the establishment of their impossibilities, a concept present in almost every byte of that CD.

Jacks in Slow Motion is built upon confronts. To the tension between the experience of time in and out of prison, others can be added: the loneliness of the academic work and the collective work of the CD-ROM, the elegance of the thesis and the prisoners rough, the sophistication of digital media and the sordid world of prison.

The videotape "Tereza" constitutes the body of the research. Its title also concerns to prison slang. It designates a string of tied clothes, used by the prisoners to escape prison. It is an effective metaphor to Jacks in Slow Motion architecture.

First of all because there are not language borrowings between its parts (the dissertation text, other authors' essays, the invited artists' works, "Panopticon", "Tension", "Slow Time", "Order/Body" and "Tereza"). Media are tied, forcing nodes without merging.

In between them, the same cutting testimonies of the prisoners in the documentary. Those testimonies are revisited in the thesis text, where they seem to fade in the analytical movement of the research, and in small interactive pieces, like "Order/Body" and "Tension", specially conceived for the CD-ROM.

Through all those different approaches, "Tereza" can be understood as an anchor for the meaning of the work as a whole. Nevertheless, it does not suggest a reading direction.

There are no back icons, no forwards, no exit in Jacks in Slow Motion. "Tereza" is just an alert: there is no escape beyond multimedia. Except between windows and frames.

Book/CD Jacks in Slow Motion

(Death of Time in Prison: Images and Texts)

Direction: Kiko Goifman

Presentation: Arlindo Machado

Interface Design: Lucas Bambozzi

Coordination: Jurandir Muller.

Development: Caio Barra Costa

Design: Katia Limongelli

CD-ROM for Windows 95 and Power Macintosh. System Requirements: 24 Mb of RAM, 16 bit color display, CD-ROM drive 4x.

Available at:

Giselle Beiguelman is Ph.D. in History and web publisher. Author of For Whom the Bell Tolls? (Ernest Hemingway and the Spanish Civil War) among others. Directed: Urban Interventions 1.0 (hybrid CD-ROM. Arte/Cidade/SESC, 1997).

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