to do or not to be




1:  Videokunstarkivet can be used for browsing: as a tool it goes well together with curiosity and a search for previously uncharted terrain. Since there are so many holes in the information that has been preserved about early video works, it was possible for us to digest video after video with no other information but the video signal.

2: It’s a bit strange to think of an archive that is not complete, didn’t you also think that?

1: It’s a matter of what the aim is, I think. The function that I assume you’re asking for is something like an index, a structure to how the knowledge is sorted out and arranged that creates certain lines to differentiate between the cannon and sub-genres. Something that guides you to the information that is more or less historically relevant. This is something more associative.

2: There is something immediate and fearless about the way the artists we found there approached video technology, thinking of how expensive it was and how hard it was to get a hold of in Norway. When FRANK invited us to collaborate on this exhibition with them, they explained this to be because of how, as a new medium, it was free of tradition. The time-frame we decided to stick to (talking about parameters for searches) was guided by this unhindered search that the artists did with the videocamera.

1: When we speak of video it’s taken for granted that the video camera and the human eye are two parts of the same knowledge base and the same structuring of knowledge. Morten Børresen speaks of the video camera as a device that tells you the truth: when you see your own image on a live video-stream you connect with yourself on a different level – the camera somehow cleans all the social layers off of you. Video can do this because of the fact that a video signal can be played back to confront you in realtime.

2: The sensory circuit of the video feed is not isolated anymore though, it’s dependent on a new social condition with rules of its own and circulation through networks. Video has also become synonymous with image producing devices, like our phones, that have an intimate relation to our bodies - their closeness to us, accessibility, size, surface etc..

1: But the signal is a source material to be interfered with and it is, by default, always interfered with. Even when we don’t have the tools to perceive it. When Kjell Bjørgeengen makes us see the interference as image, he assumes the signal to have a perception of its own. In an interview with Marit Paasche he tells the story of how he for some time worked with blind people on audio-navigation techniques and got interested in exposing some of the norms of how we learn to perceive things because of our sensory apparatus and how it functions. Videocameras come hardwired for their commercial use.

2: So noise becomes signal through the apparatus. Do you see me as noise or signal?

1: Intuitively I want to say that I see your body and the color yellow: our bodies as shapes or nuances of colour, flickering light patterns that constitute a different body from what we knew. The technology changes fast, but really fundamental changes still happen with enough time between for us to internalise the way we appear through them. A special kind of perception. Look at how Terje Munthe introduces us to the device as a body that sees! While the video often camouflages itself as an add-on to our human perception, Munthe suggests a non-human form of perception.

2: Understanding what the device looks at and what it sees is a question of politics as much as it is a question of perception. Hito Steyerl outlines this condition in her text Proxy Politics: Signal and Noise. Especially when we speak of our contemporary companion, the phone camera. She writes:

"The camera turns into a social projector rather than a recorder.It shows a superposition of what it thinks you might want to look like plus what others think you should buy or be. But technology rarely does things on its own. Technology is programmed with conflicting goals and by many entities, and politics is a matter of defining how to separate its noise from its information.”“The question concerns where and how to draw the line, as well as who draws it, and on whose behalf. Who decides on signal vs. noise?” 

There are countless people interferring with images before they are visible and this network of interference has it’s own hidden norms and parameters.

1: That’s a matter of representation. I see my body clearly because I feel it directly.

2: Is it really so that what you perceive is directly linked to the sign that the body sends you? I am questioning this more and more often. During an interview with Susanne Winterling, Gayatri Spivak told a story of her first period to explain perception of ones own body:

“Women in fact can have two signals from inside the body” her father said to her “men only have one. Both men and women feel hunger when the stomach twists; women also feel cramps when the uterus twists. (...) That was advice from a father to a daughter, and I learned incidentally that you interpret what happens inside your body. This is why Nietzsche said that the human being is tied to the back of a tiger – The body is an abstraction. We think it is the most concrete thing in the world because we need to say so. Indeed, the way we interpret our bodies is historically, culturally, anthropologically determined. For example: starving, fasting, anorexia may be seen as basically the same physical phenomenon. Yet our interpretations of these are diverse, including ab-normality.”

Maybe the body is not as concrete as you think, it could be a first-hand abstraction.

1: If the body is a device through which we distinguish signals from noise, is video today a body in its own right? Like Ann-Elise Pettersen says in her video: Du har din blyant, jeg har min kropp, sammen skriver vi skapelsesberetningen.


This text was performed FOR THE OPENING OF TO DO OR NOT TO BE - AN EXHIBITION OF NORWEGIAN VIDEO ART on January 19, 2017. The exhibition – which included video works by Kristin Bergaust, Kjell Bjørgeengen, Morten Børresen, Ann-Elise Pettersen, Terje Munthe and Camilla Wærenskjold – was co-curated with FRANK for Kurant Visningsrom during Tromsø International Film Festival, January 2017.

An interview with FRANK and Louise Dany about the exhibition can be read here.