At the start of my PhD studies at Aberystwyth university I began working with media archaeological ideas, which emphasise the importance of the material past when considering the history of media. These ideas were combined with a concern for the medium of the moving image brought about by an acute awareness of the artistic limitation of digital video – that there is no prospect of material intimacy and all the messiness that such intimacy implies. By returning to the very first medium of the moving image (cardboard), I devised an apparatus for producing abstract moving images that drew on pre-celluloid inventions. My initial inspiration was to somehow reproduce the ‘dirtiness’ of early (damaged) celluloid works as a way of injecting some life into the relatively sterile, clean surfaces associated with digital video.
I have become aware since the beginning of this project that adding a distressed surface to digital video is common practice and can be seen every day in television advertisements, documentaries and the like. Digital video software will commonly include filters to enable the addition of such layers. My practice, however, is not intended to deceive the viewer through implied historic authenticity, but to make them look more closely or in different ways at a moving image and hopefully question what they are seeing.
My apparatus is at once analogue and digital – 7 x 70 cm cardboard strips (loaded on to the apparatus and serving as unique individual pieces) are an analogue for celluloid film, whilst the apparatus itself mirrors the cylindrical or circular rotating mechanisms of proto-cinema. The effect can be enjoyed by positioning one’s eye close to the strip mounted on the wheel of the apparatus. However, by framing the effect through the use of a camera phone, a digital record is produced that can take advantage of all the ‘packaging’ benefits of the digital (you can watch these works in the comfort of your own home if you have an internet connection).
Each strip was a blank canvas to be worked on. Once the strip was mounted on the apparatus, the variables of speed, direction and motive power (human or machine) were available.
I first added a simple pencil line:
Then I added coloured tape in various patterns:
I experimented with lichen:
Then I glued on empty blister packs:
I returned to tape to reference the ‘wipe’ transition commonly used in film editing:
Here are the strips featured in the videos. Can you match them up?
Why not add to this project by making your own ‘cycloscope’. Turn your bicycle upside down, make your own decorated card strips, load them onto your apparatus and film the results.
I see this project as an example of ‘material thinking.’ I have found a way to make something born of reflection upon the relative immateriality of digital video, by applying the principles of media archaeology, thus revealing the materiality that lies at the heart of the moving image.