Films: Feedback I-II
by Beauchamp Art
Video feedback projected live into my mouth. The footage was cut to fit NIN’s Closer, so each clip became 2 seconds and 17 frames to conform to this rhythm. The original song to which the piece was set was then abstracted and distorted, withe sections slowed dawn massively to make the video throb uneasily, with the high pitch ringing of the closing melody elongated over the length of the piece giving it an disturbing, horror film-like aesthetic, with references to homoerotica and a slightly cyber-punk stylisation (caused by the techno-teals and greens), which also played on the lyrics of the song, such as “I want feel you from the inside”, although as these became increasingly obscured in the reprocessing, the connection there may be lost. Nevertheless, the foregrounding of consumption may be subtle furthers by the small number of crumbs outlying the mouth, evidence of recent eating, being fed back down the gullet.
Capturing the footage was somewhat difficult, as firstly the room was not dark enough for the desired effect (as I was using the stuido, rather than a dark space, as the two project spaces in the university were fully book for the term), like that of the performances of Samuel Beckett’s 1973 poem, Not I, with a mouth isolated amongst the darkness, speaking its way through a rapid script. However, this was not too detrimental, as this was only originally intended to be a trial of the piece, to be remade later (though this has remained unrealised for the time being). If I were to attempt this again, I may also ask for assistance with the filming, as operating the two cameras (one to film and produce the video feedback, the other to take pictures and document) and the projector whilst attempting to position myself; proved difficult. However, I managed to achieve some success. It also worked well as part of the PS5 Projector Experiments, displayed on multiple hanging screens, utilising the layering effect that was amplified by the video feedback.
From the footage gathered, I selected a number of clips and began to cut them into equal length sections, then arranging them. Initially, they were positioned chronologically, however, with one minor adjustment there was a loose narrative holding the clips together: the mouth opens slowly at first, the tongue protrudes, teeth gnash, the tonsils are presented, the mouth closes. I applied a black layer to each section of footage that increases in opacity towards the end of each clip the lighting darkens, making the oral sequences slowly oscillate with the light falling in a reversed sawtooth wave form (falling the descending sound of the reverberating bass drum thud). I also applied colour correction to the footage, to create a more cohesive aesthetic, bringing out the greens and flesh tones using chroma masks.
Where some of the clips were more zoomed out than the overall trend of the series, they were excluded from the video, and put into the second variation. The soundtracks multilayering of the single piece of music meant that a fairly diverse soundscape could be created from minimal elements, transforming music into noise. With the shifting panoramic stereo audio, the desired outcome would be one of a dizzying tinnitus and unearthly drone, like a migraine slowly create a sensation of the skull collapsing in on itself.
A pause was used at either side of opening titles, with FEED appearing first, before BACK, highlight the etymology of the word (and possible a subtle allusion to the talking tapeworm that narrates much of Irvine Welsh’s 1998 novel Filth, which repeats ‘eat’ and ‘feed’ throughout its monologues), but this also means that the video opens in darkness, then is brought to a close by the growing sound of a deep drum, a throbbing machine hum (as if hearing music from inside the body, a very slow heartbeat). The fill of the text was taken from one of the video clips, set to ‘stencil luma’ opacity, that removes the type, and replaces everything else with matte black. This was later used for most of the other video projects, as it formed an effective opening that relates the written content back to the footage.
As a self-effacing repetitive mediation of the foremost orifice, through which matter may be entered and expunged alongside formations of language, then this could be seen to be demonstrating an extension of man that envelopes itself, demonstrating how “in the electric age, when our central nervous system is technologically extended to involve us in the whole of mankind and to incorporate the whole of mankind in us, we necessarily participate, in depth, in the consequences of our every day actions” [McLuhan, 1964: 5]. But like the Ouroboros, (which has formulated its on narrative feedback, having “bread and prospered through the retelling of stories and legends”, each retelling reasserting the form of the mythic creature) with “its tail firmly clamped in its jaws to form an eternal circle. […] Should it ever stop eating its tail, the circle would be broken and time would end” [Howe, 2008: 18, 40], it could be argued that in this video a similar reciprocal process of consuming consumption is taking place.
The feedback loop does not close or collapse, as Stelarc remarked, “Oscillating in ambiguity and anxiety keeps the body on edge – neither as a body that was, nor as a odd that will be. But rather as something Other” [Stelarc, 2005: 241]. But here, not only is the image become ‘other’, distorted by the live reprocessing, but it consumes these deviations of the performed self, thereby informing the manufacturing of an identity that hinges on “an apparently paradoxical combination of sameness and difference,” where “ho I am is the embodiment of the various relationships in which I have been and am embedded, including my place in the social world.” [Lawler, 2008: 2, 40]
Stills from the Feedback film, make from a compilation of clips of video feedback been projected directly into my mouth.
This was made from the same sequence as the previous film, but a compilation of the more zoomed out, less intimate, and somewhat less successful footage, clips featuring more of my head rejects from the primary sequences, and the general video giblets. As this film was shorter than the first variation, its soundtrack had the various elements compressed into a shorted time frame, and the main drum beat tenser in its increased rapidity. Also, the title sequence starts with FEEDBACK, before adding the II and my name underneath. Should this have been filmed in total darkness, besides the illumination of the projector, it made have worked considerably better, unfortunately the surrounding space was not conducive to the benefit of this experiment.
Stills from the second Feedback film, using the less successful clips from filming video feedback being projected into my mouth.
- Howe, John. (2008) Forging Dragons: Inspirations, Approaches and Techniques for Drawing and Painting Dragons. Hardback Edition. IMPACT Books.
- Lawler, S. (2008) Identity: Sociological Perspectives. Polity Press. Cambridge. UK
- McLuhan, Marshall. (1964) Understanding Media. Routledge. London, UK. 5
- Stelarc; Smith, Marquard. (2005) Animating Bodies, Mobilizing Technologies: Stelarc in Conversation. Stelarc: The Monograph. Ed. Smith, Marquard. Hardback. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. USA.