HC Gilje

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Work on the Myth

On HC Gilje and the relation between interface and image

by Gerrit Gohlke


This article appeared in the Be Magazin # 8

They are there. Already among us. Since the end of the 90s - largely unnoticed by the traditional artbusiness -, artists have been publicly emerging who are beginning to handle the visual image more and more like acoustic material: as a store of signs with no prior significance, available for free and unrestricted combination. After further development of the video medium, techniques like sampling, which were originally the privilege of sound montage, could also be applied to pictorial material and film sequences. The digitalisation of the video image, the cheaper availability of digital editing techniques and the wider distribution of uncomplicated software led to a development towards a kind of sound archive of digital images; at first this was tested with stills and miniature fragments, but increasing computer capacity meant it was extended to include entire video passages. Film components could therefore not only be recorded, kept in store and replayed. They had also become so easy to handle that an invisible co-ordinating point might be viewed as the actual, new pictorial medium: the digital interface between the producer, the image and the public.

Foreshadowed by technoid patterns in the music industry, this shift of emphasis made something possible which had long been proclaimed, but had been limited by the available technology. Increasingly complex multimedia protocol made it possible for film particles to be transferred between computers, manipulated, combined and then presented in changing sequences. Video is now no longer a mere illustration formusical sampling, making series of background images available during public performances, it can be sampled itself with increasingly virtuosity, becoming the material for a quasi musical improvisation.

By linking several authors and locations, it is possible to connect completely heterogeneous picture-like sequences, thus creating tracks which can be replayed; these resemble musical or theatrical performances rather than video films, which have long become museum pieces."I like the idea of an inconstant medium, the notion that a work only exists for a brief period of time and among those present", says H C Gilje (1), and indeed he provokes the disintegration of his work in temporary actions and with a background archive of institutional references, archive pictures, catalogues and documentation. The video sequence does not have an author, but an interpreter, and in order to characterise his move into an existence combining authorship and mechanisation, one must make use of an old metaphor of Internet culture, the "Cyborg: the instrument is an extension of human actions, whilst at the same time man is the sensory apparatus of the machine"(2).

But what sounds like no more than a repetition of the Internet community's machine fantasies during the early nineties is in fact the more sober announcement of a re-evaluation of the artistic image.For the computer and the artist are actually not the focal points of Gilje's imagery, but his work; a project he is constantly continuing. "VideoNervous", according to its inventor, is developing into an "extended central nervous system" of which the perception of its viewers, the artistic material economy of the initiator, the sensual perceptions it touches, and manipulative alienation are all different external branches. The work itself is the continuity of the process.We should not be astounded here by the recollection of more traditional art forms, which were a step ahead of media art in the development of such a pathos, but by the attack on the classical picture medium by means of a devaluation of apparent meanings.

In H C Gilje's installation work, the kind and the number of picture controlling impulses are variable. The cycle of a series of pictures may be organised according to the movement of the viewers in the room, it may be captured by sensors, or by the acoustic signal of a participating musician. In the same way, the images and series of images are called up largely by technical chance, and are forced into sequences as if through the input of signals at a keyboard. In their portrayal, the messages which are intuitively connected to the images, the suggestion of emotions or the aesthetic enigma constantly refer to chance and to temporal elements. The mythical archetypes Gilje shows, therefore, acquire an ambiguous appearance.

In "Shadow Grounds" (3), the over 10m long video projection installed at the end of August, for example, Gilje combined thermal images of a walker figure in a forest with pictures of aeroplanes suddenly appearing from the darkness. The series of images continually form new groups, whilst the pool of images supplying the work remains unchanged. The aspect of unpredictability with which the passenger planes, solemn images of fear, descend upon the public as they approach the projection is abolished in the technical state; here the shots are merely components of a flowing, combination art.

As well as referring to fear and to physical movements, to expectations or dream experiences, the image is simultaneously the simple décor of a spatial situation. The motif - as a component of an exercise in composition - and the emotion in face of its elegant and monumental presentation enter into a loose connection, from which something else could emerge at any time. The image proves nothing. It does not disappear with the fulfilment of an illustrative purpose. It is an individual note in a mechanical movement which may be played in a different way at any time. A metaphor for the huge number of media images and a short, exonerating experience: the image whose fixed meaning has been abolished is no longer evidence within the media and their information farce. Perhaps here, at the cost of meaning, art has created a free space in which media images may be viewed with amazement, in renewed autonomy.

But autonomous to what degree? Gilje's projection was still running on the day after 11th September. The method of preparation remains unwavering. But now the plane looks like evidence for the truth of an apocalyptic prophecy - an irritation, since it seeks to prophesy nothing. It is a note in a linked sequence of images akin to a concert, and it is unaware of either the viewer's horror - provoked by involuntary experience of a terrorist attack as the fulfilment of conventions of pictorial dramaturgy - or of the apocalyptic myth into which the real New York planes developed on their flight path into the real office towers. A form of contractual symmetry is revealed as a precondition to the new interface choreography: those watching must view things with the same stoicism as the projecting machine receives its impulses to motion. Should we reject this? Or is the use which has been made of pictures of the 11th September an argument in favour of the qualifying compositional technique with which Gilje's installation, as a cool fairy-tale world, confronts reality?

* A version in German language is available at


Published in February 2002 in Be Magazin # 8, presented by

Künstlerhauses Bethanien, Berlin. © 2002 by Gerrit Gohlke and

Künstlerhaus Bethanien GmbH. All rights reserved.



H C Gilje: Shadow Grounds. Ex. Cat. Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin 2001.

The statement quoted originates from an interview with the artist by

Andreas Broeckmann.




"Shadow Grounds". A "nato.0+55"-based video/audio installation

consisting of a projection that fills the entire wall in a white box,

giving an image 10,5 metres wide and 4 metres high. The core sequence

consists of footage shot in a forest using a thermal imaging camera. The

piece is constructed as a continually changing cycle of spaces.

Künstlerhaus Bethanien. 20.8. - 16.9.2001

lysfanger nr.1
by Hanan Benammar

Pings: Matter, Environment and Technology in the work of HC Gilje
by Mitchell Whitelaw

Conversations over time
by Anne Szefer Karlsen

Siding with the light
by Joost Rekveld

Conversations with Spaces
by HC Gilje

TIME, SPACE, CHANGE, SPEED, MOTION - Interview with HC Gilje
by Nicky Assmann

Right Here, Right now - HC Gilje´s Networks of Specificity
by Mitchell Whitelaw

Within the space of an instant
by HC Gilje

HC Gilje – Cityscapes and the 
cinematic avantgarde
by Per Kvist

preface to Shadowgrounds catalog
by Jeremy Welsh

interview with HC Gilje
by Andreas Broeckmann

Work on the Myth
by Gerrit Gohlke

by HC Gilje