#72 June- July 1999


A Collective Memory

VinylVideo™ is a fake archeological relic of media technology, a revision
in the record of technological progress that bridges a gap in the history
of consumer technology while it provides a unique new viewing experience in
the medium of video.

In collaboration with Guenter Erhart, Martin Diamant and Best Before, the
Austrian artist Gebhard Sengmueller has created a technique for storing and
reproducing video signals (moving image and synchronized
sound) onto conventional analog long-playing vinyl (LP) records with a
running time of approximately 8 minutes per side.  With the VinylVideo™
Home Kit, a "black box" that transforms the audio signal back into a video signal,
the VinylVideo™ Picture Disk can be played back on a standard
turntable with an ordinary diamond needle and a conventional black
and white television set.  The black and white images of the VinylVideo™
disks appearing on the monitor are of reduced resolution and low frame rate
while the synchronized sound is reproduced in telephone quality.
The resulting drastically reduced picture quality creates a new perceptual
mode of accessing video works, creating a time-bound medium that both
references the earliest television pictures at the same time as its uncanny
combination of the familiar and the novel summons up fantasies of other
possibilities in the continuum of technological progress.

As a hybrid of different technologies, VinylVideo™ reveals and connects a
variety of media history alignments, combining art, science and technology,
low- and high-tech and analog and digital elements to create a new vision
(a breaking-open) of the limits of a medium, of consumer technology and of
the artifacts of everyday life that quotes the contemporary renaissance of
vinyl as the same time that it questions the expiration of technologies.

The historical background for this video disk technology is the
discontinuity in the development of electronic video technology.  While the
electronic transmission of images has been possible since the late 1920s,
the reproduction of such stored images only became possible with the invention
of the videorecorder in 1958 and recording for private use only became available
in the 1980s with the mass introduction of the VCR.
(Footnote: As early as 1927 John Logie Baird invented an apparatus called
"Phonovision"that recorded moving images on the wax plates that were then
used for sound recording.  He was unable, however, to play these recorded
images.  References to the age of wax plates may perhaps be found even
today in names like "nightmares on wax" and "mo wax".)

Playing the VinylVideo™ Picture Disk on a regular audio turntable results
in an audio output that reflects the constantly changing visual content of
the recorded video. VinylVideo™ thus encompasses contemporary forms of
DJ-ing while at the same time making new forms of "videoscratching" available to
VJ-s. The simple placement of the needle on different points on the record
makes possible a random access manipulation of the time axis. The picture
can also be manipulated by changing the speed at which the record is

VinylVideo™ is an ongoing collaborative project. International artists are
invited to produce works for the VinylVideo™ record edition. The artists
engage and reflect on the specific qualities of the new medium using a
variety of different artistic approaches. Consequently, while the resulting
VinylVideo™ record edition has in common a curiosity about and a
willingness to explore the possibilities of the medium, artists have chosen
to engage aspects of the technology as varied as the interconnection
between sound and image, the manipulation of the time axis, the use of
VinylVideo™ as a VJ tool and the connection to the ASCII code.

The VinylVideo™ record edition includes works by Heimo Zobernig, Oliver
Hangl, Annika Eriksson, Monoscope, Harald Hund, Visomat Laboric/Gereon
Schmitz, Cut-up/Geert Mul, Vuk Cosic/Alexej Shulgin, Andrea Lumplecker,
Peter Haas, JODI, Lampalzer/Oppermann, Olia Lialina, students
of the HGB Leipzig, Nuno Tudela, Kristin Lucas and Cecile Babiole.

For additional information please access or

VinylVideo™ is an Austrian cooperation between: Gebhard Sengmueller, an
artist working with new technologies, Guenther Erhart, an information
scientist, Martin Diamant, and experimental physicist, and Best Before, a
curatorial collaboration by Rike Frank and Stefan Gyoengoesi.


Osnabrueck, Germany
May 5-9, 1999


Some Reflections on the EMAF Exhibition in the Art Gallery in the
Review by Michael Boyce

At the EMAF exhibition, the Art Gallery in the Dominikanerkirche was
devoted to five installations:

System Maintenance by Perry Haberman
Time Machine or The Present is an Accident Between Past and Future by
Egbert Mittelstadt
200 Bells - Hyperscratch Vers. 9 by Haruo Ishii
Scanner ++ by Joachin Blank and Karl-Heinz Jeron
VinylVideo by BestBefore/Gerhard Sengmuller
Flies by Michael van der Leest

All of these pieces were interactive in both conceptual and tactile ways
(with the exception of the Flies). They lent themselves to a coordination
of both physical and mental engagements, and further, consigned nexus
relationships between virtual and actual, organic and mechanical as well as
abstract and concrete ideas and positions. This all proffered a broader
understanding of technology in general and media technology more
specifically -registering it with a sense of an aesthetic and philosophic

The pieces could variously be received as installations, as games or even
as experiments. Here, for the sake of brevity, are (just) two examples.

(...) The festival in general, it seemed, was taking to heart the more or less
strict (if not common vernacular) sense of media as a middle quality or
degree -a species of conduit or conductor (which should be read with some
sense of impersonal agency). There was, actually, no direct address of
agency. Rather, there was instead a consequential formal complicity between
the user, the object, and to some extent (although not so much) the
producer-engineer-artist. A complicity, then, to the very idea of - and
possibly an investment in - the engagement with a system and its management.

This piece is a neat encapsulation of the general idea.

Likewise, with VinylVideo?. Here was an interesting intersection between
old tech objects and new tech ideas. They were married by way of a sell job
which registered itself more as sell then as object. The aesthetic of the
sell and its elements are put into relief because of the home-spun
familiarity and established (user) friendliness of the object itself. It is
an ideological aesthetic of novel technological facility.

The installation is interactive, again, in a variety of ways.

There is a small but comfy couch. An old black and white television set and
an old style record player (with speeds variable 16, 33, 45 and 78 rpm) on
small shelf stand level with the couch. A larger bookshelf with some 12
recordings displayed and stacked. The recordings are vinyl and each has a
individually designed jacket with a recording artist's name, a recording
name and a brief and oblique conceptual rendering of the recordings premise
or interest on the backside. A little further off there is a computer set
up on a column. The screen is set to an online web page advertising the
VinylVideo? system with links to specific artists and recordings as well as
a company bio and history of the development of the system -framed as
revolutionary and convenient. Beside it, on another column, is another old
record player (with the same variable speeds) and a pair of headphones.
Here you can listen exclusively to the audio portion of the recording (a
repetition of a sequence of a few different tones). Beside it, on still
another column, is a television monitor playing a testimonial video and an
infomercial about the system. It lasts about 10 minutes and plays on a
continual loop.

The record at the turntable/television station plays back a combination of
murky sound and video. Each track offers a slight variation in the sequence
of video and sound/music. Both sides of the record play. The correspondence
between the poetic descriptions on the back of the record-covers and the
actual VinylVideo? seem to be in sync with respect to their being equally
oblique. It is their overall resonance which matters; their atmosphere, if
you will.

Interestingly enough, the only clues to the fancifulness of this
installation lie in the apparent poor quality (measured against a criteria
which by its very second nature belies a complicity to it which can only
after the fact be displaced) of the product, and the comfortable
familiarity of the play-back device, the viewer, the viewing setting and
indeed, (with maybe the exception of the web page) the sell and the medium
of the sell itself. In fact, the very idea of its convenience seems to hark
back to another more naive era (i.e. the fifties), as though it were
describing a household appliance. The contemporary sell on technology is
not levied as convenience so much as facility.

Nevertheless, it registers as a rather amazing thing. Video coming off the
old record and off the old record player. It is a curious conjunction
between old and new which precisely because of its apparent failure to meet
up with current video technology (MPEG, DVD and web-casting, say) draws
into relief the equal if not greater (under certain circumstances) value of
the concept and ideal implication of the system which is communicated as
and by rhetoric. Or, in other words, it is the orientation to technological
advance which is as important or interesting as the actual development. It
registers what you might call the complicit thrill of technological novelty
and evolution. It is the very attempt to make apparent the dream of
progress, even if it is truly a crass expansion of consumption and
entertainment that doesn't even really deliver its promise, which is
exciting and which invites participation. And that joy of participation,
even its disappointment, is the sign of complicity. It is a complicity that
is unheralded and perhaps unknown, yet nevertheless present to such an
extent as to be taken as natural or organic.

All these pieces possess and invite a kind of playfulness that at once
occasions and displaces a philology of media. They are exemplary, also, of
no necessity to re-inscribe the body into technological media. For, it is
apparently participating already. And the meaning of that participation is
no more settled than is the body's own relationship to its own mechanical
operations and organic being. It is also already engaged with and complicit
with a division between its abstractions and its concretizations.

Dr. Michael Boyce is a philosopher, videographer, musician, video editor,
writer and media artist living in Montreal.


ISEA NEWSLETTER============================================
Editor: Katarina Soukup / Translation: Natalie Melancon
Collaborators: Eva Quintas, Atau Tanaka, Sylvie Fortin, James Wallbank,
Michael Boyce, VinylVideo- A Collective Memory, Amanda Aronczyk, Kathy Rae

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