Set-top Boxes, Computers, Carpet, Sofa, Table, Remote control, TV
Commission by All Arts Initiative, Amsterdam, 2012.
177 x 157 x 47 inches
450 x 400 x 120 cm
Ed. of 1 + 1 AP
- Description →
The viewer can experience normal TV broadcast from a standard set-top box with the channels available in the area of exhibition. From time to time the broadcast is altered and intermixed with unrelated audio or video from another channel. The mixing of content is orchestrated by a complex editor algorithm that by imitating normal editing behavior, attempts to disguise these mixes as normal broadcast, blending seamlessly back and forth between normal and manipulated content to play with the viewer’s own creation of meaning.
Extract from catalogue interview w. Jitish Kallat:
JK: What you say about not being wedded to a single process or medium makes me think of your most recent preoccupation, the âNisse TVâ project. At one level,I can see in this work your continued fascination with the uncanny. And yet this work has posed many technical challenges as you intervene within the inflow of a cable TV broadcast in real-time, creating a virtual dam that sifts through this fluid stream of information causing partly planned and largely unforeseen AV mash-ups. Here the viewer is provided a couch to recline and partake of a TV transmission gone awry. Can you speak a bit more about this project and the Scandinavian folklore that find reincarnation in the form of the intervention unit you have developed?
Â P&R: Well, the whole thing started back in 2004 when we were playing around with some real time editing tools for pre-recorded video loops. We noticed that by allowing chance encounters of unrelated video and audio tracks, some interesting mash-ups occurred. For example there was a video sequence with Chuck Norris killing off some bad guys that mixed with the audio of some CNN reportage from Baghdad, and a Discovery clip of a journey over the moon that mixed with Bridge Over Troubled Water -played in reverse. Basically the same video sequence would keep giving off new meanings when paired with different audio tracks.
The results ranged from the deeply strange to the hilarious to divine to boring to disturbing to confusing to nonsensical and sometimes almost nauseating events of cognitive dissonance, but we felt that some of these automatic creations were incredible presents that we could never dream up ourselves; also, we loved that the mixes were completely free of intention, and we had this ludicrous notion that this could somehow form a new type of playful cognizance -an audio-visual way of thinking that incorporates chance events.
So anyway, a couple of years later, with the help of an engineer, we developed a device that allowed us to change the audio and video tracks of TV channels independent of each other, so we got a chance to study what worked and what didn’t with real time TV broadcast. This experiment then hatched a notion of a kind of autonomous being that lives inside the TV hardware and tampers with the broadcast without your knowledge.
In Scandinavian folklore there exists this figure called a ‘nisse’ -a kind of hybrid being with the stature of a child and the looks of an old man -kind of horrifying and laughable at the same time; and when things went wrong or something unexplainable happened, people used to blame it on this imaginary being. So in the final version of the project we have loosely used this notion of the ‘nisse’ to get a handle on the nature and behavior of the editing algorithm.
Another useful concept was this idea of smooth chaos where the edges of something that seems overwhelmingly chaotic is filed off and smoothened in order to enter our minds without being too troubling to digest. We tried to achieve this by analyzing and filtering the content in the video and audio, so that we could edit in a more intelligent and undetectable way -trying to blend in with the rhythm of the editing patterns.
Our minds make meaning out of this deeply strange world around us by distorting our impressions to fit convenient neurological patterns; and we kind of enjoy that the algorithm has a similar way of distorting a video sequence to match the duration of an unrelated audio sequence, so the start, middle and endings meet each other. But these editing interventions only happen some of the time, so that one can never be completely sure when the broadcast is normal and when it is manipulated.
The version we are exhibiting has seven ‘channels’ that one can sift through via a remote control. Each channel attempts to combine content from two actual real time TV channels -well, almost real time, since the content is delayed about 30 seconds, but we have a back-up function that bridges these gaps with content from the past hour or so.
It was quite an odyssey to reach this final form. On every level the project turned out to be a riddle of unexpected complexities and overwhelming technical obstacles. Lately, the whole thing has become more synonymous with a certain state of mind that we keep finding ourselves in, a state where you are unsure of most things and shift between confusion, momentary certainty and a yearning for meaning and escapism; a kind of open and anxiety ridden state of possibility. And perhaps this feeling is the real nature of the beast.
Quotes about metaphors from catalogue interview w. Jitish Kallat:
“We approached the TV with all its channels as a kind of relentless river of images and sounds that just keeps flowing, and our algorithm as a sort of dam or maybe more like a sluice construction that changes the flow somewhat and allows for the confluence of unrelated streams of meaning.”
“We have also thought of the algorithm as similar to the making of a braid, where the channel content is first unwound or combed, so you have all these different colored strands of audio and video which are then interlaced in a way that almost looks like the original braid or weaving pattern, but with different strands in different places, so a new pattern could emerge.”
“Sometimes the algorithm will repeat a particular audio-visual mix a couple of times, and the effect of this is really interesting because every time this chance meeting of audio and video is repeated it seems more and more intentional. It’s like this synchronicity-effect in the brain, where just because two things happen at the same time, a neurological bridge is built between them, and if the event is repeated the bridge becomes stronger, and a new meaning has been created.”
“In the Grimm Brother’s fairytale Rumplestiltskin, a miller has bragged to the king that his daughter can turn hay into gold. And she is then forced to try to do it in 24 hours, otherwise she will be decapitated. And then this strange nameless imp-like character hears her desperation and spins all this mountain of hay into gold. We often wondered to what extend we could make something similar happen, even just momentarily.”