Pulsating colour, rolling scan lines, noise and crackling sound – In Tor Jørgen van Eijk’s video series “Infinite Monologue” the video signal is in dialog with itself. One of video’s distinctive qualities is the ability to manipulate the video signal in real time, without any form of external reference. By pointing the video camera towards its own playback monitor – like van Eijk has done here – electronic feedback occurs. The feedback effect can then be modulated through minute adjustments of zoom, aperture, camera position, as well as colour and level-adjustment on a colorizer.
The above methodology has roots in the beginnings of video art, which emerged alongside the first commercially available portable camera in the mid 1960s. In parallel with the emergence of video art as a critical counter to mass media, a significant interest in the aesthetic possibilities inherent to the video signal itself developed. Artist such as Nam June Paik, Steina & Woody Vasulka and Peter Campus, as well as institutions like Experimental Television Center, The Kitchen and The Department of Media Study, University of Buffalo were crucial to this trajectory.
Working within the signal focused tradition today can seem like an anachronism, as digital work flows have long since replaced many of the techniques that van Eijk makes use of in his work. The signal focused tradition was never very particularly prominent in Norway, with only a few exponents, such as van Eijk’s artist colleague Kjell Bjørgeengen. For his part, Bjørgeengen has been a central influence on van Eijk’s practice over many years of friendship.
To work with analog video in 2017 is to work within a limited formal and technical framework, often with equipment that requires specialized knowledge and maintenance. Van Eijk’s use of old and impractical technology may seem uncompromising, but it is worth noting that he doesn’t shy away from showing his work on LCD-screens or as projections rather than on classic tube monitors. His work builds on the specificity of video, but isn’t exclusively nostalgic for media of the past. As such, van Eijk’s work is first and foremost an exercise in making use of a limited set of techniques.
If you spend enough time with “Infinite Monologue” the feedback can be experienced as a meditative reset where perception is gradually dislodged from the every day. The video artists of the 1960s and 70s saw the opportunity to generate aesthetic experiences in context with forms of inner vision, closely related to psychedelia. Today, the value of this “inner perception” or formalism lies in the ability to slow down; to escape the many technological distractions that constantly surround us.
The video triptych “Infinite Monologue” in RGB changes from red to green, green to blue and blue to red. Although restless, these works are reminiscent of monochrome paintings. Like the zips in Barnett Newman’s paintings the flowing scanline in van Eijk’s composition are neither figure nor ground. This ambiguous status is connected to the idea of the video signal as an inner monologue – a space rather that surface.
The sound – a constant, relentless buzz – originates from the image. In video sound and image are both waves and are thereby interchangeable. By placing a contact microphone on the monitor glass during recording sessions van Eijk has allowed the video signal to modulate the sound. Sound follows image – these are works that primarily speak to themselves.
— “Infinite Monologue” was created at Signal Culture in Owego, New York.