Nielsen Slit

Nielsen Slit

Nielsen Slit is a generative analog sound piece consisting of a portable TV that generates a new soundtrack to the over-the-air programming it receives based on the luminance values of the video image as detected by sensors attached directly to the screen. Sadly, the piece ceased to function as intended on June 12, 2009 when NTSC broadcasts were suspended in the U.S.

sound object
Media: portable television, custom electronics
Dimensions: variable
Year: 2007
As exhibited

© 2018 chad eby

1’05”

1'05"

1′05″ explores and embraces the contradictions of the German V2 rocket: an object of great formal beauty, ugly purpose and uglier production methods. Developed toward the end of the Second World War, the weapon caused many more deaths in production than deployment, and would go on to form a significant part of the foundation for the U.S. space program.

light object
Media: electroluminescent panels, ink on vellum
Dimensions: variable
Year: 2007
As exhibited

© 2018 chad eby

CC

CC

Narrative reflexes that have enabled us from the beginning of time to connect dots, fill in blanks, are now turned against us: we cannot stop noticing: no sequence too absurd, trivial, meaningless, insulting

Rem Koolhaus, Junkspace

CC (for Closed Captioning) is a piece that explores “looking at looking,” as well as this human propensity to find patterns, and also begins to work at dismantling the text-image relationship as an unproblematic binary through mediated observation.

The piece consists of a 27″ CRT television with a translucent overlay to soften and distort the screen except for eight small windows cut in an uneven row across the bottom of the mask. A tiny camera on a tripod observes just the part of the screen exposed through each of the eight windows and sends the image, unaltered, through exposed cables to one of eight 3.5″ LCD monitors mounted on the wall to the right of the TV. The TV is tuned to a talk-heavy broadcast channel and the closed captioning is turned on. This arrangement results in three possible conditions for each of the small LCD monitors: 1) the monitor will display a single character of the white-on-black closed caption text stream, 2) the monitor will display black, because the window is currently positioned above a space between words or at the beginning or end of a sentence, or 3) the monitor will display a small fragment of an image. The horizontal arrangement and tight spacing of the eight LCD monitors invites a left-to-right sequential reading of the characters that appear in them, as in conventional signage. By chance, intelligible “messages” periodically appear as words or short phrases to those experiencing the piece in this way. 

The philosopher Lucretius is said to have remarked that if all of the letters of the Homeric epics were cut loose from the page (Lucretius lived in a time when the epics were being written down), jumbled together in a sack and then poured out again that they would recreate the universe. Chance again; like Babel, and also the suspicion that the alphabet has the capacity to describe everything. Even when the characters fail to form recognizable words, there is still an insistent textual momentum. The degree to which each viewer believes meaning in CC to be intended will certainly color his or her perception of the piece.

The alternation between text and image on the small monitors accentuates a text-image opposition, but the occasional absence of either (in the case of the black field) tends to destabilize a rigid dichotomy. Closer examination complicates this relationship and further undermines the transparency of the text by revealing that the text is, fundamentally, an image: jumping and flickering with the brightness level of the image, its pixelated edges fraying in the high magnification caused by the differential in size between the portion of the TV screen viewed and the LCD monitor. Conversely, the images, stripped of context and similarly optically enlarged, become obvious slaves to the grid of the shadow mask (rows of sequential dots) not unlike the characters that make up a body of text.

installation
Media: surveillance cameras and analogue televisions
Dimensions: variable
Year: 2006
NTSC cameras

© 2018 chad eby

Long ‘A’ Says Its Name

Long ‘A’ Says Its Name

Without a body, the alphabet hovers like a hungry ghost above a stagnant well, wailing in an eternal twilight

Dale Pendell, The Language of Birds

Long ‘A’ Says Its Name is a piece standing squarely at the confluence of written and spoken language.

The work dismisses the 21 consonants and sometimes-vowels, and unites the sound of the long vowels (through utterances captured by spectrograms), the names of the vowels (through their eponymous pronunciation), and the visual forms of the vowels (through sonified graphic letterforms). More importantly, Long ‘A’ both overdetermines and hyperrationalizes the breath by inscribing it in a technologized graphic form, while at the same time insisting on a particular and non-generalizable image of an utterance that perturbs and destabilizes a classic letterform—all in a way that recreates the mystery of speech and invites the reader’s completion for comprehension.

The verticality of the vowel images are due to the mapping of the frequencies and time—the voice is female, and so the spectrograms rise quite high in proportion to the width of the characters. The cylindrical shapes are reminiscent of Edison’s original phonographic cylinders, as well as seal cylinders designed to roll across wax or clay (leaving a repeatable impression in a very early form of printing), but more importantly, the forms allow one to walk among the vowels, creating relationships between the columnar prints and one’s own body.

object
Media:PVC pipe, large format digital prints
Dimensions: 300 cm x 15 cm x 15 cm
Year: 2007/2008
Spectrographs

© 2018 chad eby

Babel

Babel

“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

Genesis 11:5-7, New International Version

In the piece Babel, a decommissioned coin-operated pachislo (a Japanese hybrid pachinko/slot machine) is repurposed as a speaking device. To elicit an utterance, a participant inserts three coins, and then spins the three reels together by nudging a lever; pressing an illuminated button under each reel stops the reels one by one.

I have replaced the familiar bells, watermelons and sevens on the reels with Andrew Comstock’s 1846 engravings of lips and mouths, frozen in the process of pronouncing the sounds that make up English words. When the machine utters a recognizable English word, coins pour out of the machine into a bin below.

This playful piece also requires more active participation from the viewer. Until activated by inserting coins, it stands silent. That the participation takes the form of gambling is a reminder of the close ties between language, chance, and divination. Also the metaphorical similarity between language and money (exemplified by the English idiom “to coin a phrase”) was argued for by Boethius, who compared the transformation of sounds into words to the transformation of metal into coins through a significant impression.

sound object
Media: microcontrollers, altered gambling machine, custom code
Dimensions: 15 x 18 x 32 inches
Year: 2006
As exhibited

© 2018 chad eby

coffee:Paul

coffee:Paul

I like having coffee with my friend Paul, but haven’t managed to do so for years now. In 2005, I made a low resolution grayscale image of Paul by constructing a grid of variably creamed cups of coffee. Up close, you can’t recognize Paul in the rows and columns of coffee cups. But from an out-of-focus surveillance camera above, you can see Paul’s face on a nearby monitor. This early piece playfully examines the pitfalls of “the digital” and the return of recognizability through the analog artifact of blur.

installation
Media: coffee, milk, surveillance camera
Dimensions: 114 cm x 160 cm / variable
Year: 2004
Grayscale value tests

© 2018 chad eby