Sightlines Journal, issue 1, 2015
Author: Tim Howle (music) / Nick Cope (video)
Globus Hystericus is an inter-disciplinary collaborative video production between electroacoustic composer Tim Howle (Professor of Contemporary Music, University of Kent) and film-maker Nick Cope (Associate Professor, Communication Studies, Xi’an Jiaotong – Liverpool University).
Tim Howle suggests the work can be considered as an audio-visual artwork that utilises the two media of sound and moving image in an equitable way. The principles of acousmatic music are extended to incorporate parallel ideas found in video art. By taking these ideas beyond diegetic/non-diegetic and simple underpinning or reinforcement, the sounds are imbued with multiple meanings. Therefore, the piece exploits post-acousmatic possibilities. The primary objective of this investigation is to examine the creative relationships between visual and audio material in terms of hybridisation, the research seeks to establish an equitable, collaborative, approach typified by the ‘audio-visual contract’ (Chion, 1994), where ‘source-recognition’ and other ‘dislocations’ become a series of creatively exploitable parameters regarding the relationship between untreated and treated and sounds and images.
Nick Cope describes the work as revisiting and examining Scratch video methodologies within a visual music practice collaboration. This work derives from a body of work which originally featured in the screenings of the 1980s British Scratch Video Art movement, and in which Cope was an early participant. In this piece, off-air footage, initially edited in 1986 to the soundtrack ‘Hypnotised’ by post-punk musician Mark Stewart, was re-worked and re-edited using digital non-linear editing equipment in 2007, when the original analogue footage was finally digitized. Subsequently, this edit has been re-worked in conjunction with a whole new electroacoustic score by Tim Howle. The resultant work explores the visual music potentials of Scratch video that Andy Birtwistle addresses in his book, Cinesonica (2010). The politically driven themes of much Scratch work are also engaged here, the title intended to allude to global hysteria in financial systems, as footage from the stock-market crash of 1929 is intercut with scenes of crowds from a 1980s Open University programme examining mass hysteria, amongst other sources.
Globus Hystericus is the sixth piece in an ongoing collaboration commenced in 2002 between the composer and film-maker exploring the conjunction of electroacoustic composition and creative moving image practice in the production of work where sound and moving image are commensurate.
Through the process of collaboration, and subsequent national and international screenings, and with both artists based in academia and engaged in the bureaucracies and markets of research within the emerging British university research environment; research agendas arose and presented themselves subsequent to the creation and exhibition of initial works. A process which they have called ‘Praxis as Research’ in a number of papers given at conferences seeking to address the collaboration within academic research contexts. This addressing of the critical and historical contexts of the work became the basis for a PhD by Existing Creative Work, Northern Industrial Scratch: the history and contexts of a visual music practice (University of Sunderland, 2012) completed by Nick Cope in October 2012. A paper derived from this work, and concentrating specifically on the collaborative work with Tim Howle, Electroacoustic Movies: A visual music practice and its contexts, was published in June 2014 in the University of Huddersfield’s online peer-reviewed journal Divergence Press: Issue 2 – Sound. Music. Image; http://divergencepress.com/Journal/JournalIssue/tabid/85/ID/14/Electroacoustic-Movies-A-visual-music-practice-and-its-contexts.aspx.
The work has wilfully and knowingly explored synaesthetic and kinaesthetic, film and video making practices. It explores not only the significative functioning of moving image practice but also the affective level too and has been presented in performative contexts as well as on the single screen, and in gallery and non-gallery environments.
Reflecting on the practice has enabled key themes to come into focus. Notions of audiovisuality, cinesonics and visual music begin to contextualise work, which has engaged in exploring the transsensory and intersensory affect of audiovisual practices. Expanded cinematic and audiovisual performative practices are significant, linking earlier analogue multimedia events with digital audiovisual and VJ cultures emerging in the 1990s. A number of significant texts addressing the critical and historical contexts of video art have emerged in the past decade supplementing the paucity of writing on artists’ film and video prior to then (see for example; Cubitt and Partridge, 2012; Rees, 2011; Curtis, 2007; Hatfield, 2006; Meigh-Andrews, 2006; Elwes, 2005). However, many of these texts have tended to neglect film and video art’s relation to sound and visual music, a relationship that is only recently being redressed. It is hoped that in writing about the work, this may contribute to critical discourse emerging in this area.
Much of the collaborative work with Tim Howle as well as Nick Cope’s wider body of film, video and digital media practice, and contexts for this work are available online at www.nickcopefilm.com.
Peer-reviewed invited screening of work;
The Noises of Art: Audiovisual Practice in History, Theory and Culture conference convened by the School of Art, Aberystwyth University in collaboration with The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, and Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 4-6 September 2013.
Seeing Sound, practice led international research symposium, Bath Spa University, November 2013.
International Computer Music Conference and Sound and Music Computing Conference, University of Athens, Department of Informatics and Telecommunications, Athens, Greece, September 2014.
Scratch Video Revisited, MeCCSA 2015 Annual Conference, Northumbria University, January 2015.
The International Festival for Artistic Innovation, Leeds College of Music, March 2015
(Extract screened at Sightlines, RMIT Melbourne, Australia, November 2014)
Birtwistle, A. (2010) Cinesonica: Sounding film and video. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Chion, M. (1994) Audio-Vision : Sound on Screen. New York: Columbia University Press.
Cope, N. (2012) Northern Industrial Scratch: the history and contexts of a visual music practice. PhD Thesis, Faculty of Art, Design and Media, University of Sunderland, UK. [available online: https://www.academia.edu/3771947/Northern_Industrial_Scratch_the_history_and_contexts_of_a_visual_music_practice]
Cope, N. (2014) ‘Electroacoustic Movies: A visual music practice and its contexts’ Divergence Press: Issue 2 – Sound. Music. Image, University of Huddersfield Press [available online: http://divergencepress.com/Journal/JournalIssue/tabid/85/ID/14/Electroacoustic-Movies-A-visual-music-practice-and-its-contexts.aspx]
Cubitt, S. & Partridge, S. (eds.) (2012) Rewind: British Artists’ Video in the 1970s and 1980s. London: John Libbey Publishing.
Curtis, D. (2007) A History of Artist’s Film and Video in Britain. London: BFI.
Elwes, C. (2005) Video Art, A Guided Tour. London: I.B.Taurus.
Hatfield, J. (2006) Experimental Film and Video. London: John Libbey.
Meigh-Andrews, C. (2006) A History of Video Art: The Development of Form and Function. London: Berg.
Rees, A.L (2011a) ‘Expanded Cinema and Narrative: A Troubled History’ in Curtis, D. & Rees, A.L. et al. (eds.) (2011) Expanded Cinema: Art, Performance, Film. London: Tate Publications.
Rees, A.L. (1999, 2011b) A History of Experimental Film and Video. London: BFI Publishing.
Hypnotised (1986/2007) Directed by Nick Cope
Scratch Video begun in 1986, cutting off-air footage to the track ‘Hypnotised’ by Mark Stewart and the Maffia… finally completed in 2007…
Electroacoustic Movies (2003-2008) Directed by Nick Cope
Four collaborative works with composer Tim Howle.
Globus Hystericus is a moving image and sound artwork which (re) explores the history and significance of ‘Scratch’ video practices via a contemporary framework of digital cinema, as a research-led investigation into new questions of aesthetics, production, exhibition and distribution of the moving image today. The Scratch Video UK video art movement represents a significant landmark in experimental and artist video practice as both a continuity of 20th century practices and momentum towards practices of sampling (image/sound) and appropriation that have become widespread today. This is an important work in the revisitation, and revitalisation, of the archive in this context for new and expanded audiences and screening spaces from the academy to the screen festivals/events and gallery installation potential. The politically motivated themes of the Scratch movement remain intact and are revisited in Globus Hystericus for the contemporary malaise of global financial inequity, excess and cycles of crisis. Globus Hystericus samples images of financial rise/fall and crisis across the 20th century to remind us of recurring cycles of greed in late capitalism are nothing new. The work situates itself with conviction in the histories of 20th century punk, outsider-art, anti-art across both thematic and technique — and revives this for the digital age.
The execution of Globus Hystericus is realised as a layered channel of sample-based moving images, sometimes one, two and multi-channel. The images have a history as being televisual (broadcast) with subsequent digitisation. The colour, patina, grain and dirt/dust/scratch are retained as material properties of the archival moving image. Bold colour images are used sparingly to effect to punctuate a stream, or flow, of monochromatic moving images.There is a deliberate excess, speed, and fast-cutting which appropriate MTV style commercial forms to critical ends. The work has a psychedelic quality that lets one ruminate on the themes at play. Here, ‘scratch’ is updated to new modes of thinking about the heterogeneity of the moving image, particularly as we understand in the gallery-based and experimental context. Globus Hystericus works across scale for online, screening and live-event sound and vision mixing as per the description by the artists. The 7-minute work has the capacity to both loop and/or form part of wider project Globus Hystericus takes on texture as a key mode of relating to the work as a moving image experience. The work is also important in its capacity to remind us that avant-garde/underground experiments in televisual modes of audiovision were (hard to believe today) once broadcast on television. Video artists and collectives in the 1960s and 1970s were given space to participate in what would soon become a commercial monopoly and closed field. The digitisation, and return, of the televisual images ‘twice-sampled’ in Globus Hystericus form a testament to this ‘secret’ history.
Whilst the focus of this review is towards the image, this is largely due to the reviewer’s own expertise/experience. It is expected the second review may carry a closer reading of the sound. Saying this, Globus Hystericus is a manifesto for an equivalence of sound and image. It is aligned with conceptual frameworks akin to the ‘audio-visual contract’ (Chion, 1994) and the manifesto of appreciating ‘cinema’ as ‘100% sound and 100% picture’ (Brophy). Globus Hystericus is a two-person collaborative work where image/sound relationships are interrogated – as experiments in acousmatic sound – plus vision to produce unexpected and heightened juxtapositions of sound and image, as expanded cinema.
by Paul Fletcher
This work appears as a self-contained fully formed work in its own right but equally can be viewed as a snapshot of a moment. It is a record of one moment in a long and continuing evolution of collaboration between a musician and video artist; Tim Howle and Nic Cope. More broadly Globus Hystericus can be viewed as a snapshot of a moment in the long and continuing collaboration and dynamic interactions between the phenomena of recorded and live performance. Most obviously it is significant for the interplay, transmutation and productive relationships between analog and digital image, sound and motion. As such it is of great personal interest and relevance to my own interests in moving image, sound and animation. I think the work is however of significance for anyone involved in the reception and creation of music, sound, moving-image and audiovisual artwork. Its purposefully constructed density, woven texture and contrasts of material also gives an invitation for any viewer to interact with the work in an interactive open manner regardless of whether their own predisposition is to be looking for narrative constructions or an existential experience.
A most interesting aspect of the work, impossible to comment on from the online video recording alone is the comparison of this snapshot with the affective difference, inter-subjectivity and completely dynamic parameters of actually being in a live performance of this work. Another understated aspect of this work that I feel would be interesting for continued research and comment would be the relationship between improvisation and composition both in the moment and over a number of years in this case.
The work lives up to its potential and presents with a confidence that acknowledges its social artistic and theoretical context present and past within its own style and via extensive openly accessible clear and considered writing and video archives online.
Whilst clearly drawing on the experience of video and sound practices of the recent decades since the advent of accessible video and sound editing technologies, the work develops new audiovisual insights through its synthesis of many styles of film, video and sound techniques. There is a deep and varied palette of screen composition techniques within and between the frames. Globus Hystericus employs the stylistic approaches developed in ‘scratch video’- deftly creating the affective result of media bombardment, and over saturation, repeated build ups to explosive crescendos of rapid fire images and sharp sounds perhaps capturing or creating the feeling of the anxiety state of globus hystericus. The work builds on this foundation now with the digital stylistic choices and technical and creative possibilities of further intricate time edits across frames and within frames, layering and multiple divisions of a screen. This overload strategy is also contrasted with its logical extreme which becomes close to an audiovisual white noise which returns us briefly to an apparently simpler more meditative visual drone; a comparatively gently flowing field or blend of pure color in sound and video.
With its associated writing and ongoing development in live and pre-recorded forms of both text and audiovisual forms, this work, along with a groundswell of international interest and practice in this field, is definitely addressing the previous neglect of investigation into film and video art’s relation to sound and visual music rightly identified by the authors of the work.
‘Scratch video’ techniques developed from the advent of cheap video editing hardware in the 1980’s became an impactful change on film television motion graphics and editing. It is interesting to ponder what effect the current digital technologies and their resulting creative applications of new understandings and appreciations of audio-visuality will have, and maybe already have had, on mainstream industrial and open source collectively developed emerging and existing screen and audio contexts of all shapes, sizes and functions.
Author response to reviews
I would like to thank both reviewers for the considered viewing of the work and thoughtful responses. From my perspective both reviewers ‘get’ the work, and its direct and indirect links to the media and video art histories it arises from, contributes to and addresses, and it is welcome to see this. I personally have little further to add than has been written in our supporting statement for the original submission of the work, and welcome the response and reviews the work has elicited in this first instance. I would also like to draw any interested parties to the further written contexts for our work, available online and linked to from our supporting statement. Further examples of work from our ongoing collaboration are available online at www.nickcopefilm.com