Compactor, The Machine

Description of the video installation "Compactor {The Machine}" of Gunter Krüger, published in "The Art of the Accident," 1998.

COMPACTOR {The Machine} straddles the early days and the future of television, collapsing its content and technological development into a barely decipherable bundle of fast-moving images. Sitting in the casing of a piece of television furniture from the 1950s, the Compactor Machine compresses television images at an extreme rate, making it possible to view material of an original length of several hours in 10 seconds and less. Different genres of television programming (talk show, news, sport, documentary, porno, action, etc.) can be selected and replayed at five different speeds, ranging from a compression rate of 60.000 per cent to almost 2 million per cent.

Through the temporal compression, the images display a level of accidental abstraction that tests the viewer's competence in recognising certain genres and decoding, or constructing, a narrative from the rash image sequence. This is digital television with programmes that can be demanded and viewed on the fly, and a highly economical way of presenting the standardised contents of single-genre TV channels.

The history of many media and other technologies begins with a disappointment. Paul Nipkow, inventor of the 'Nipkow disk' and one of the key figures in the development of television technology, recounted his disappointment on witnessing the first public presentation of his system: 'The television sets were placed in dark cubicles with long queues of hundreds of people outside, patiently waiting for the moment when they would see tele-vision for the first time. I was among them and I became more and more nervous. I was about to see for the first time what I had been thinking about for 45 years. Finally it was my turn and I entred. A dark curtain is drawn and before me I see a surface of flickering light, on which something is moving. You couldn't recognise much.'

At the beginning of most imaging technologies, such a diffuse, grey flicker of light has been the only faint promise of the potentials of the new invention. Yet, it can always be the flicker emerging from a bifurcation, the flicker of a lucky historical accident having happened, an accident that bears the potential of spinning the technological development off in a new and unexpected direction.

COMPACTOR {The Machine} is a ficticious warp in the time-line of television culture. It tests the TV viewer's limits of cognition and recognition by pushing the moving images to their dromoscopic extremes. In the 'real-time' of the Compactor, the reproduction of reality is plunged into an almost absurd mix of visual abstraction and content redundancy. Sooner or later, this fast-forward culture will demand a new aesthetics, an adjustable real-time button and a reality that is 'up to speed'.

1998 V2_

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