The Player Played

The Player Played is an installation looping the famous opening shot of Robert Altman's The Player and played across five translucent screens.

There is a screenwriter behind every film, a translator behind every subtitle. I am always fascinated by the onscreen letter, which has been suppressed from cinema since the coming of sound. It is why I have always been attracted to credit sequences and subtitling.

The Player Played contemplates the multi-staged, creative process of making movies, focusing on the famous opening of The Player (1991)—an uninterrupted, 8-minute shot. The Player is a savage critique of Hollywood’s paint-by-numbers approach to filmmaking by Robert Altman, who was famous for his highlighting of collaboration. Drawing on the director’s personal papers—which are housed in the Mavericks Collection at the University of Michigan Library—The Player Played tracks the film’s production, presenting versions of the script in chronological order: from Michael Tolkin’s initial treatment to shooting script, through to the post-production scenario and the eternal proliferation of translations and digital copies. As an artist, Altman brought strict planning and unpredictable serendipity into productive tension. The scenarios for the first shot evidence this, alternating between scripted dialogue and ad-libbed bits (“He begins pitch”). And whether he liked it or not, that wayward production of meaning continued on in the contributions of anonymous translators.

This 5-screen work pushes the words behind and on the screen to the foreground. They are both images to be read and words to be seen, and hint at the radical complexity of making meaning in cinema—starting with the glimmer of an idea committed to paper and culminating in the shimmering subtitled version projected in some far-flung place on the planet.


  • The PUPP [Pop-Up Projection Pavilion]

  • The PUPP [Pop-Up Projection Pavilion]

  • Each screen has its own sound

  • Floor become screen

  • The Script for Player Played


  • Dedicated to Matsumoto Toshio

  • Back-Translations by Tony Demko (French), Mario Sanchez Gumiel (Spanish), Steinar Dahl (Norwegian), Akiyama Tamako (Chinese), Google Translate (Greek)

  • Original Altman scripts from the Donald Hall Collection, University of Michigan.

  • Additional footage from The Man With the Movie Camera (1929) by Dziga Vertov