"The Empress of Forgotten Time"
The idea for our Video Pictures arose from our love for video photography and from our subsequent despair over the loss of these images when turning them into a film.
What we call the "Video Picture" is a displayable motion image that bridges the recognizable gap between photography and narrative film.
Simply put, a photograph is a single suspended sliver of time; a film is an edited narrative. In between these two temporal extremes exists the "extended photo" or what we call the film "take", which is a recorded moving image that constitutes the raw material of the film.
For all intents and purposes the individual images that render the visual language of a narrative film or a televion show pass by. The average length of an image on television is three seconds, in feature film usually even less – before it is substituted by the next one.
So, the raw material of a television or film document always serves another purpose, that of the narrative or whatever flow of meaning it has been shortened – edited – into. This raw material never has value of its own.
Our Video Pictures arose from the desire to actually see and linger with the individual images, to pay attention to them for their own sake, to allow them to unfold their own intrinsic beauty by letting them stand alone.
In freeing the individual images from the context of a value judgement induced by edited film, it is our desire to attract new value to them – value without judgement.
Our Video Pictures don´t mean anything specific. They are not put to use, they are simply shown.
Television´s prerogative is to commission shows that are normally based on preconceived ideas or themes which in turn need to exist within very confined contextual and technological boundaries. In this respect television, whether public or commercial, succumbs to fairly rigid rules that don´t allow experiments, coincidents, or individual initiative. Anything more adventurous is more or less cynically left up to the wild-life documentarians and the crazy people from art school (who have no access to broadcasting, so they are useless anyway).
The craft of the television film maker is directed towards achieving a broadcast product as quickly as possible. It is like informational "fast food".
In order to understand the nascence of our Video Pictures one needs to know that in television production it is unthinkable to record images without dialog or music for very much longer than ten seconds. This is the approximate time ratio generally considered sufficient to give the editor enough space for cutting the shot or angle desired into the film assembly.
Everything in film production is aimed at keeping this shooting ratio, as we call it, as low as possible, for the simple reason of saving time and money. Furthermore, no matter how much raw material is shot and minimized into the film product, it is destroyed immediately after broadcast since the broadcaster doesn´t see any reason to store or save it.
Thus, countless documents are lost forever. Within such a television climate any idea that a film document or the image itself could contain emotional significance is thoroughly wasted.
When Van and I first met we immediately discovered – equally as film makers and film viewers – our mutual love for these lost images, these pictures that always pass.
Coincidentally, that same year Van and I met, in 1989, the advent of professional broadcast video tape (Betacam Sp) allowed shooting continuous images of up to 35 minutes in length without interruption, and this was not previously possible either with film stock (too costly), or with prior video formats (too poor in quality).
However, the creative possibilities of this crucial detail of modern video technology remained a mystery to the broadcasters. No television channel would ever show a single continuous image of 35 minutes length – but to us that possibility was the gateway to a new and fascinating universe of imagery.
Almost immediately, Van and I began recording images of extended duration, knowing that only a sliver of these images would be used for the resulting tv shows we had been commissioned for. These were the images we wanted to see more of.
Paradoxically, in taking advantage of high qualilty, professional television production within the demands of television we could see these lovely moments that weren´t meant for anything, and inadvertently we began producing waste for our own enjoyment.
Creating waste on purpose is our revenge on the system because it is our belief that the only way to affect change is from within the system itself.
Simply enough, breaking the time barrier of precious film stock suddenly allowed space for random events to manifest themselves for us film makers. Within the frame of the locked-down video camera, over time, they sometimes could be caught. Little random everyday events that we normally don´t pay much attention to.
In one way, we are finding chance. For instance, thanks to professional video tape it is possible to leave the camera on before and after interviews so as to catch little trifles. Or, when on the road, paying attention to forgotten landscapes; places and spaces that one would otherwise easily drive past, as they lay on the roadside of touristic exploration.
As for the choices of our Video Picture images: we surf the waves of popular culture. We have travelled the world; we´ve taken the camera to Japan and Hong Kong, accross the United States, Latin America, and to nearly every country in Europe.
We go where everybody goes – or potentially can go. We don´t go to war zones or to distant, uninhabited places where we could likely die before getting back home. We visit places that are, in some way, familiar and accessible to everyone. That´s exciting and sensationalist enough for us. It is also, in a way, a prerequisite for discovering the interesting within the obvious, uncovering delightful aspects in the ongoing rhythm of the everyday.
Over the past 20 years we have collected more than 1000 hours of video footage (and we expect to do the same for at least the next 20 years). The extracted Video Pictures from this raw material are the result of questioning, over the years, whether these images still resonate with us, whether they retain the ability to continuously fascinate us. In reliving these pictures we are looking for an ongoing emotion. And, we worry about them again and again.
Our Video Pictures result from the simple desire to show something beautiful, something interesting and hopefully elegant, a picture worth looking at.
Van and I began our Video Pictures for our own enjoyment; and although we always wanted to do something with them, it was due to the help of others that they can now be seen. To those, we send our gratitude.
Henning Lohner New York, NY 22.01.2009