Film/Photos: M1 CRT Triptych

by Beauchamp Art

M1 CRT Triptych

Documentation of the M1 video displayed in triptych across three CRT TVs on a landscape plinth.

The video featured four clips from different angles playing through the M1 sequence once, so it plays consistently across the four perspectives. Two feature the televisions centralised within the frame, filmed from a few feet away using the zoom to crop the images in order reduce the perspectival distortion of the camera lens, to lend it a flat aesthetic (though not used as overtly as Wes Anderson’s one-point perspective in a number of his films, reducing the content within the frame into a more painterly composition). This also meant that the imagery continue from one screen to the next fluidly, with only the vertical bands of the edge of the screen disrupting the flow, as the video was being played from one device then sent from on TV to the next.

Two of the other shots made use of more dramatic perspectives, looking across and down onto the televisions, with the areas outside of the screen darkened. This was accomplished partly by the camera set up, given the CRTs require a moderate to high exposure to reduce ‘banding’ appearing, but also made to contrast with the screen more in post-production, though as I still wanted the frame of the TV screens to be somewhat visible, as a means of representing the installation, not just as a means of producing a new film (which could just as easily be made out of a digital composite).

Minor colour adjustments, including some chroma specific alterations, where the bluer tones of the the screen images were masked out and neutralised to be a plainer white tone, to lend the video a level of neutrality that is more easily accomplished in the RAW adjustments of photographs. However here, both the screen images and surrounding areas needed to be neutral, but the contrasting light sources were not equal, hence this had to be adjusted for in post-production.

Ideally, I could have displayed this small triptych as part of an exhibition, but as this was mostly resolving ideas from the previous unit, I felt that time spent producing and progressing new work would make better use of the term, though I still believe this was a successful work and I may return to it at a later date, or produce something similar using comparable methods.

Since this was not exhibited externally, then I decided to test the work within the student gallery. However, as all the gallery slots and projects spaces were booked out at the time, I proceeded to install my work as a sort of pop-up installation alongside a performance by Filipa, that I had been asked to document, on the first-floor landing of the St Georges building. As her performance was starting on the same day I wanted to install the work and take it down as quickly as possible. This required getting the three CRT monitors, video cables, extension lead and media out in the morning to have them returned before lunch time. As I already had an appropriately size plinth to rest the TVs on and there was no sound to e of concern, the rapid installation and documentation was completed highly efficiently (despite various minor technical problems, broken cables, etc.)

M1 Triptych [Stills] - 02

M1 Triptych [Stills]

Stills from a display of the M1 film across 3 CRT TVs on a landscape plinth.


 

M1 CRT Triptych - 02

M1 CRT Triptych

These photos, alongside the video document the installation of the M1 video across three CRT monitors, creating an aesthetic continuum with the images looping round and feeding from one screen to the next, punctuated by the TV frames. The moiré rich imagery came across as particularly vibrant on the monitors, which were formally used for working on particularly colour-sensitive video works, but at now used more for the novelty of seeming like an outmoded, ancient medium, rather than a fairly recent item in the history of screens and the transition from analogue to digital interfaces.

However, with the imagery being displayed on the screen being so overtly digital, given the composited multi-layered repeatedly re-photograped process used to create the film being somewhat outside of the realm of analogue (though not completely, but the technology has mean that such reprocessing can take place rapidly, the remediation creating a more repeatable feedback) then it is worth considering how the unique features of each media relates and replicates the properties of older media. As Eagleton noted,

“Aesthetics must always be regarded as an ideologic and historically conditioned set of discourses. ‘The construction of the modern notion of the aesthetic artefact is […] inseparable from the construction of the dominant ideological forms of modern class society, and indeed to a whole new form of human subjectivity appropriate to that social order” [Eagleton, 1990, 3].

Despite adequate preparation and comprehension of the nature of photographing CRT monitors that I have developed over the degree from documenting various people’s video installations, particularly Henry’s multi-screen set-ups, there was still some seemingly inevitable ‘banding’, where the exposure time of the camera was slightly faster than the refresh rate of the screen. However, in these images it is not too disrupted, and could be seen to add to the aesthetic of the cathode-ray rendered image.

Evidently, the compatibility between the mediums of the digital camera and the analogue television is tenuous. Indeed, for the installation, cable converts were required to get the more modern wires to work with the old inputs. Relative to the history of man, the distance between cathode-ray and digital television is minimal, but in the exponential terms of twenty to twenty-first century  machine acceleration, even the smallest difference can result in total incomprehension. Moore’s Law makes the outmoded come faster each day. Digital files may be preserved for millennia, but the probably will be totally indecipherable in less than ten years. This could be seen to turn Warhol’s principle of fifteen-minutes of fame for everyone on its head; everyone may be famous simultaneously (via social media) but the media may become redundant in the time it takes to transmit the message.

The imagery at the heart of this work, the distorted images of the M1 just out side of Milton Keynes taken from Google Maps could be seen to reflect this form technologically induced anxiety. Man fears the speed it longs for, it hankers after the atom bomb but is terrified by its mutually assured destruction. “Speed is violence […] The transfer of energy […] Movement-of-movement” [Virilio, 1983: 37, 38]. The shutter snaps but the images is fragmented, even the cameras sense of instantaneity is not enough, it lags behind. Perhaps like the refreshing screen, “the ego is not continuous, it’s made up of a series of little deaths and partial identities which don’t come back together” as Lotringer suggests [Virilio, 1983]. The disjointed images of the three screens struggling to remain consistent reflects the plight of humanity in modernity, a collage scrambling to hold itself together, the glue unsticking, the mask slipping, the death throws kicking.

 

M1 CRT Triptych - 03

M1 CRT Triptych - 06


 

Reference:

  • Eagleton, Terry. (1990) The Ideology of the Aesthetic. Wiley-Blackwell. Malden, MA and Oxford. Cited in Creeber, Glen. (2013) Small Screen Aesthetics: From TV to the Internet. Paperback Edition. Palgrave Macmillan. British Film Institute. London, UK: 5
  • Virilio, Paul; Lotringer, Sylvère. (1983) Pure War. Semiotext(e). 1997 Edition.
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