Video Silence


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(Examples separated with fades – No hand-editing between the fades.)

Video Silence harvests an ongoing compilation of quiet moments from broadcast television.

Film theorist Michel Chion asserts that sound “vectorizes” moving images, creating the feeling that each shot is aligned towards an imminent dramatic goal. Television producers rely on this vectorization to keep viewers glued to their sets, even during the most banal moments. Visual programs like weather maps and program-guides always include background music to keep the viewer “tuned-in”. (The Weather Channel even publishes CDs of the music it plays behind automated local weather maps.)

Video Silence re-orders this domain of nearly 100% sonic saturation. It discards the dialog and preserves the moments of aural subtlety. Custom software “watches” a local TV channel through a digital TV tuner, recording the clips with the quietest sounds. A television in the exhibition space displays the most recent clips in an ever-changing loop, updating whenever new clips are recorded. The piece runs constantly without user intervention, devoid of words but filled with background sounds. The disjointed loops reveal the sound/image priorities of different programming. In most shows, dialog is the primary sound, but what can we discover when the dialog is removed?

Sitcoms and “court tv” shows are recorded “live-to-tape”, meaning that the action unfolds on a stage in front of multiple cameras. Edits are made in realtime by switching between cameras, so there are few opportunities to compress time within a scene. This has interesting aural implications. The quiet moments are often banal mise-en-scene (character walks to the door, character crosses to the other side of the room). Dramatic programming is usually shot “single-camera” like a feature film. Each scene is recorded in several different takes from different angles and assembled later in the editing room. These programs usually employ quietness differently; as a tool to focus the narrative (misty eyes, trembling hands).

Video Silence - TV Close-upVideo Silence - TV and PersonVideo Silence - InternalsVideo Silence - First Opening

High-resolution video and photos are available here.

Exhibition History