exhibition text Video Vortex


by Annet Dekker

The exhibition Video Vortex is the response of the Netherlands Media Art Institute to the Web 2.0 phenomenon. Web 2.0 stands for power to the user and democracy for everyone. It has led to innovative forms of media use in which an open and playful collaboration can lead to critical positions and new ideas. Sites such as YouTube, Flickr and MySpace, where users can freely participate, upload and broadcast their own material, are the most famous examples of the success of Web 2.0.
The Netherlands Media Art Institute seizes upon the Web 2.0 developments to introduce a new exhibition model. In addition to the presentation of existing installations, short workshops and presentations are given during the course of the exhibition. Every week another group, person and/or subject will be presented. In some cases the artworks form the starting point for a workshop, while in other cases the medium used is the subject of a workshop. Furthermore, for the duration of the project everyone can take on the role of curator in Curator for One Day. During the whole period of Video Vortex the Netherlands Media Art Institute is making its whole collection available to the public. Through the Institute's online catalog one can make a selection from the more than 2000 video works. By means of a specially developed interface one can choose a maximum of six video works to be shown on a day one selects. The only condition is that a statement is given for the selection. This statement and the video works selected are then screened for the rest of the visitors for a whole day. Afterwards the selections will be placed in an archive on the internet.

The works in the exhibition Video Vortex explore how media art is being affected by the development of a ubiquitous online video practice. The focus in this exhibition is on the structure and use of Web 2.0 strategies by artists responding to developments such as YouTube, MySpace and Blogger, mobile videophones and the influence of live web cam streams.


Béatrice Valentine Amrhein
(France) thinks of the mobile telephone as a symbol for intimacy, intrusiveness and directness. She sees the video in the mobile telephone as her third eye, with which she looks at reality in a different way. More than a communication tool, new generation mobiles allow us to capture our own environment as well as being a part of us. The installation Video Lustre (2007) is comprised of dozens of mobile telephones that hang from the ceiling like a chandelier. The mobile videos show various fragments of the body in close-up. Through this network of mobile telephones, a new interpretation of the body is created.

Giselle Beiguelman (Brazil) makes (de)generative video that disintegrates and changes as a result of input from the users. In the interactive installation Sometimes (2006), video images that were made with a mobile telephone can be integrated through bluetooth in the installation and then edited with a keyboard and mouse . Once finished the original film starts with its new design and a new montage is created live, in which the order of the original frames changes. The installation is made up of two parts, Sometimes Always and Sometimes Never.

Sometimes Never is a (de)generative video which is decomposed through the inputs of its users. Video images shot with mobile phones can be manipulated and edited by the audience in real time. The installation is in dialog with the series Sometimes Always, where the audience can themselves shoot images with mobile phones to be deconstructed in the installation. In Sometimes Always the manipulation of images produces an entropic mosaic, while Sometimes Never creates instable saturated palimpsests in which it is impossible to repeat an action.

The mobile telephone is one of the first electronic devices which the general public has personalized with sound. The ringtone has become a mark of recognition. It is a unique opportunity for composers and for the public to experiment with sound. Coming from the world of art, Sonic()bject's mission is to build on this common interest to present the public with unheard-of experimental sounds, and to confront the designers with new ears. Sonic()bject uses the new generation of mobile telephones, offering ringtones in the form of samples, allowing all sorts of sonic objects. The Sonic()bject artists are professionals from the world of sound creation: sound designers, sound artists, contemporary composers, classic or electro-acoustic, jazz, electronica and vocal art ... true 'sonic objects' their ringtones with their roots in the history of the art of sound. Timbres or melodies, instrumental, noise or pure vibrations, recorded or synthetic, these sounds have a strong aural identity and were conceived to ring. These ringtones can be downloaded from their website.
Sonic()bject was founded by Antoine Schmitt and Adrian Johnson.

Susan Collins
(United Kingdom) has been investigating the collision between the real and the artificial or virtual. For her work Fenlandia (2004-2006)) she set up a webcam on the roof of the Anchor Inn, a 17th century coaching inn in the heart of rural England, part of an area known as Silicon Fen overlooking an area where technology is literally embedded in the flat horizons of a reclaimed landscape of canals, sluices, dikes and ditches. The result is Fenlandia, a series of gradually unfolding, classically romantic landscape images harvested and archived over the course of the year, a new way of landscape painting. The work is intended to be slow, a reflection on the ever-increasing speeds we demand from the internet. Time becomes intrinsic to the work as the previous 76800 seconds or 21.33 hours - just under a day - is displayed pixel by pixel within a continuously updating time lapse film caught in a single frame.
The Spectrascope (2005 - ongoing) is a similar live pixel by pixel transmission from a 'haunted house' in Berkshire, England. Here she uses the same technique and likewise time is as intrinsic to the work. Poised between the still and the moving image, the lens and the pixel, the installation explores how images can be coded and decoded using both light and time as building blocks for the work. The image is accompanied by the 'fear frequency', an audio frequency of 19hz, which is just below the range of normal hearing (infrasound). This sound has been linked to distorted vision, discomfort, and 'irrational' fear and has been found to be present at sites of apparently haunted locations.

Everywhere we go today CCTV cameras are watching us. They have become so common that we ignore their presence. Who is watching us? Why? What do the cameras see? How is this information interpreted? The UK based collective MediaShed decided to make use of the CCTV networks readily available within the environment as a way to make films. By hacking and hijacking the cameras MediaShed creates its very own television studio within buildings, shopping centers or the streets of any town, thereby eliminating the need for expensive cameras – all that is required is a way into the system and a recording device. The term 'Video Sniffing' stems from this practice: picking up signals broadcast by wireless CCTV networks using a cheap video receiver. The film The Duellist (2007) is one of the first results. Made as part of the Futuresonic Festival in Manchester, the film combines free-media with free-running. Free-running, or Parkour, involves fluid uninterrupted movement adapting motion to obstacles in the environment. Like free-media, free-running uses and re-energizes the infrastructure of the city. Working with the professional parkour breakin'crew Methods of Movement a choreographed performance was filmed in a shopping center over three consecutive nights. The Duellists was shot using only the existing in-house CCTV network of 160 cameras operated from the central control room. The Duellists was directed by David Valentine with a soundtrack by Hybernation.

How is a network image created? NetMonster, 'Me myself I' (2004 - ongoing) is a software developed by Graham Harwood (Mongrel / Mediashed). The software was designed to generate, edit and continuously update content, creating a composite image made up out of the results of internet searches guided by various keywords. The NetMonster will continuously rebuild itself based on users' edits and changing search parameters, offering up new content and configurations. The outcome is a complex of visual compositions comprised of results from internet searches. Collectively individuals build a 'networked' image that consists of a collection of pictures and texts that come from all over the internet. The work displayed in the exhibition is a documentation version of the way a NetMonster works. http://netmonster.mongrel.org.uk

People are creating and collecting information all over the world. Blogs, online photo albums and social bookmark pages such as del.icio.us supply an enormous diversity of data. The installation No Place (2007) by MW2MW (Marek Walczak & Martin Wattenberg) uses the raw material from all these data streams to create various versions of a paradise. New worlds are created, built up in an architecture that refers to the future. No Place exploits the popular RSS feeds as the raw material for living utopias. As the feeds produce data, they cause the architecture to grow autonomously, eventually cross-fertilizing to create a shared vision of paradise. The work was inspired by advanced architecture projects from the 1960’s, such as Cedric Price’s Fun Palace and Constant’s New Babylon. At Video Vortex the betaversion of No Place will be presented; the final version of the work will be shown at the Olympics in Beijing 2008.

We Feel Fine
(2006) by Jonathan Harris (United States) and Sepandar Kamvar (United States) is an exploration of human emotion. Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases 'I feel' and 'I am feeling'. When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence and identifies the 'feeling' expressed in that sentence (sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.

The result is a website, a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 - 20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions. At its core, We Feel Fine is an artwork authored by everyone. It will grow and change as we grow and change, reflecting what's on our blogs, what's in our hearts, what's in our minds.

YouTube Selection
For the YouTube selection, ARGOS Brussels has invited artists to compose their very own compilation of internet videos. The result are six very diverse selections, each addressing a different topic. The programmes were made by Ana Kronschnabl & Tomas Rawlings, Andrew Lowenthal, Angelo Vermeulen, Floris Vanhoof, Keith Sanborn and Nora Barry.

Video Vortex is a collaboration of the Institute of Network Cultures with Argos Brussels and the Netherlands Media Art Institute in Amsterdam.
Special thanks to:
Powered by BeamSystems, VSBfonds, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst