Horizontal & Vertical

Still from "Horizontal & Vertical", 1978

My work with the Videokalos IMP began in my second undergraduate year when I began working on a video tape called Horizontal & Vertical which was completed in 1978. In making this tape- my first in colour, I deliberately avoided using the image processor to produce highly saturated or bright colours, choosing instead to work with monochromatic hues to differentiate the passages from one section to the next.

All the material to be treated was shot in black and white, using a Sony ‘Rover’, a second-generation portapack. The Videokalos Image Processor had been recently installed at London College of  Printing film School where I was studying and I was the first student to use it in any systematic or consistent way. In Horizontal & Vertical and subsequent tapes in the same series (Scanning, On The Pier and Clockwise and Counter-Clockwise, all 1978-79) I worked with the colourising, mixing and image-wiping facilities using the Videokalos as a self-contained video mixing and image-processing device. All four of these video tapes were produced using a similar technique. In each case, the tapes were recorded in an exterior location using a single camera, the resultant video tapes subsequently reprocessed in the studio. During the post-production phase, the ‘raw’ video recording was displayed on two identical video monitors rescanned by two monochrome TV studio cameras which were then fed into the first two input channels of the Videokalos IMP. These signals were ‘looped through’ (i.e. fed in sequence from one input into the next) to the additional input channels of the image processor, so that each of my rescanned images were available on 4 separate video channels each. As each input channel could be treated separately, I was able to adjust them in relation to each other, and to mix from one channel to the other in sequence during the recording session, building my final tape in ‘real’ time via a ‘live’ mix. Thus each tape was the result of a ‘best take’ process, produced after a number of trails and rehearsals, the colours and transitions (mixes and wipes) gradually introduced across the duration of the tape. In using this process I was influenced both by the configuration of the Videokalos IMP, and by the working practice of it’s designers, Peter Donebauer and Richard Monkhouse, who had originally built the instrument for their particular purposes. (As discussed in Section One.) The origins of the image-processor as an outgrowth of practices derived from audio technology and ‘live’ broadcast television were also inherent in the Videokalos. As I have written elsewhere, this working practice was itself drawn from sound recording and live television studio procedures, and was inherent in the instrument I was using. In these video works I was not particularly concerned with the audio, simply allowing the ambient sound produced at the time of the recording to provide the acoustic element.

In Horizontal & Vertical the landscape image was recorded using a slow and gradual pan from a position at the side of a rural lane looking across a wheat field and slowly panning left, eventually coming to rest before zooming in towards a farm gate. My intention was to produce a video ‘landscape’ work, drawing inspiration from a number of avant-garde films particularly Seven Days (1974) by Chris Welsby and Michael Snow’s La Region Centrale (1971) .

In my own work I was conscious of the electronic nature of the video medium, and interested in establishing ideas about the relationship between the ‘natural world’ and the technology I was working with. At the time, video was far less portable, and much of the manipulations and interventions I was interested in working with in relation to the image were accomplished at the post-production stage. I was particularly interested in the idea that certain technical manipulations specific to video- the enhanced perception of the video raster and scan lines, the shifting colours, the video wipes which played with the horizon line, and the punctuating rhythm of the deliberately maladjusted vertical hold (I was also in this respect influenced by the mesmeric power of Joan Jonas’ Vertical Roll 1972) could have aesthetic significance. I wanted to use a slow contemplative pace, a gradual shifting movement and colours to make a work which would hover ambiguously between abstraction and representation. I wanted to make a contemplative landscape work which, through its use of duration and the slow manipulation of basic video elements made reference to a contemporary sense of a mediated experience of landscape, and to the subjectivity of the individual viewer. I also wanted the work to refer to its medium of transmission, to develop a language particular to video with reference to the subject matter (in this case, the ‘natural’ landscape elements) it was representing. I was also very conscious of wanting to make something, whilst entirely and obviously video, had no relation to broadcast television, either in terms of its content, form or in terms of its intentions. I wanted to make a work which was emphatically ‘video’ and just as clearly not TV.

Horizontal & Vertical is built entirely of rescanned video material, the original monochrome tinted sequentially so that the electronically generated colours gradually shift across and throughout the duration of the piece. In deciding to work with very desaturated colours I was in part reacting to the intense and somewhat artificial colours of many of the so-called ‘abstract’ video compositions I had seen, which included work by Nam June Paik, Brian Hoey and Peter Donebauer. It was not simply that I did not feel comfortable with this vibrant palette, it was also because I did not feel I could conceptually justify the use of these intense colours in my own work. I felt that this kind of colour was unsuitable to my approach and would appear arbitrary. The muted colours that I chose to work with were used as a way to differentiate one transition from another- to create passages or episodes throughout the continuous single ‘take’ of the original video material, reconstituting it as a sequence of fluid relationships.