26 million images in one. A month in a moment. A human in a frame. ‘eigen’ is about visualising time itself. And about me sitting on my sofa.
Five light boxes, 120 x 60 cm, Duraclear chromogenic prints, aluminum framed. One 24 hour video loop.
‘eigen’ had its premiere as part of 48h Neukölln’s main exhibition 2019 at the Kindl Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst. The five motivs depict ten minutes, one hour, one day, one week and one month.
A 24 hour long video shows the complete source recordings: 30 days, 00:00–24:00, synced to the time of day in the exhibition space.
‘eigen’ started about as a rather personal investigation – sometime in 2018, I figured I spend too much time on my couch. Wondering what I am doing there, I decided to watch myself closely by installing a simple CCTV-like system in my living room. The device records whatever happens on my sofa, and at the same time replays what happened yesterday, a week or a month ago at the very same time of day, thus doubling as a clock.
After half a year of me scrutinising myself and my contraption heaping up video footage, I started to wonder: If I look at these thousands of video clips as a data set, can I process this in a way that shows an essence of me over time? Can I visually compress time?
Digression: You are a tourist visiting the Brandenburg Gate. You want to take a nice, kitschy photo, but all the other annoying tourists with their brightly coloured rain jackets ruin the view. An elegant solution is to put your camera on a tripod and shoot a series of photos. Back home, you digitally stack these pictures in layers and then process pixel by pixel saying: ‘Give me the median colour value of this pixel across all photos.’ As tourists tend to move but the Brandenburg Gate does not, the median will always show the latter and the result will be a clean, timeless display of Prussian architecture without contemporary sightseers. And the same way one uses ‘median’, one could also say ‘give me the brightest pixel’, or ‘the darkest pixel’, or ‘subtract one pixel from another’, or whatever math operation one can come with up.
Based on this approach, I wrote some code and started to mess around with the footage of me idling throughout August 2018 – which came down to 26 million single images to process… For instance, the picture above (a single morning) is composed of an average pass from which a median pass of the same data is subtracted. In the resulting image anything not moving (like the bookshelf to the right) is canceled out and becomes black, and only what changes in time remains visible. That is me shifting on my sofa and the morning sun passing through the room leaving these nice grid shapes on the floor.
At the 48h Novosibirsk Arts Festival, Russia (a cooperation between 48h Neukölln and the Goethe Institute Novosibirsk) ‘eigen’ was presented in original soviet era slide viewers, in combination with a projection.
‘eigen’ was featured in the 48h Neukölln calendar 2020.
Some experiments with machine learning (which was not used in the end though).
Trying to make sense of all this data my apparatus is gathering… How can one compress a day or month into a single picture?
My custom-build recording device in my living room, built into an old radio tuner which happened to break down just as I was wondering what to use as a case.