Zoltán Szegedy-Maszák
Sub Voce
performance, 1991

To understand the broader context of this work, please read my essay "Three Early Works".

For Sub Voce, the first large-scale Hungarian exhibition of video art in 1991, I made a large-size painting on the wall of the Budapest Kunsthalle, in the form of a performance for the opening of the show. There I utilised one of the drawbacks of analogue video technology, i.e., its tendency to degrade in quality every time the tapes were copied.

SUB VOCE, performance, 1991

The starting-point of the performance was a few dozen scribbles in felt-tip pen that I had recorded on a VHS video camera, and then copied the tapes repeatedly until I got a faded, blurred, and vibrating footage. Borrowing the method from my painter friends, who often used slide projectors to enlarge their drafts or redraw photographs, I projected this approximately twenty-minute video footage onto the wall of the exhibition space. With a thick paint-brush and black ink, I tried to depict the lines as they emerged on the wall. Independent of their original situation, however, the lines kept appearing in a horizontal stripe, confined to the middle of the frame or close to the centre. The phenomenon in question owns its existence to the shortcomings of analogue video technology, namely, the usage of a synchronizing signal marking the margins of “half-frames” (more precisely, the margins of the interlaced even and odd fields). With each copying, this mark becomes weaker and weaker, or at times disappears altogether. Consequently, the image details are vertically “floating” across the screen, but before they would find their place, the apparatus is already busy with flashing the upcoming “half image”. Thus, the interlaced scans result in a moving image with only a horizontal band carrying something of the recorded material, as demonstrated by the twenty-minute act of painting on the wall.