[Fig. 01] Pivot, Forward, Collapse, 2018

Rembobine, avance, vidéo séance: Fifty Years of feed-back

Sam Meech

In 1972, Jean-Pierre Boyer, a recent art history graduate working at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC), met with a young artist by the name of Gilles Chartier, who showed him a series of very unusual photographs. They were, as Boyer immediately saw, incredible. The photos were the result of an experiment that Chartier had been developing in which he pointed a live video camera at its own monitor in order to produce new images. The photos were alien and yet, at the same time, oddly familiar in their organic geometry.

[Fig.02] L'Amertube, 1972.

Boyer was fascinated. This encounter would spark his interest in video art and lead him to organize both a séance d’animation (1972) and a conference, “L’image électronique”, held at the MAC in 1974.  In the process, Boyer reached out to Steina and Woody Vasulka, who, in turn, would go on to collaborate with James Crutchfield, a physicist who was inspired by the works emerging from the experimental video milieu to develop his theories on chaos. Video feedback impacted both art and science.

This essay is about technological analogical experimentation in video art, both within and beyond the Vidéographe collection. How do artists apply strategies of invention, reconfiguration, and outright misuse to experiment with video technologies? What are the effects that can be manifested or meanings that can be interpreted from such approaches? How do artists working with video today differ, in their intentions and techniques, from those fifty years ago?

Reaction Diffusion: The Strange Loop of Video Feedback

Optical video feedback1—pointing a video camera at its own monitor to generate a looping cycle of complex forms in real time—is the most fundamental2 form of video art. For Gilles Chartier, it was a revelation. Jules Arbec wrote of his first encounter:

In the company of a few friends, Chartier was working one day on a video recorder when he turned the camera on the monitor to capture the light beams that he recorded on tape, on the one hand, while at the same time sending them to the screen. It was therefore a closed circuit inside the camera. This trivial incident might have gone unnoticed by most, but Chartier saw in it a phenomenon that already constituted a range of possibilities that he put to use.3

[Fig.03] Optical video feedback diagram.

Chartier’s “discovery”4 of video feedback illustrates some important characteristics that we see across other forms of video experimentation. First, he was creatively curious about the potential of this new video technology. Second, his discovery was an accident—unplanned but acted upon opportunistically. Finally, his experiments were an explicit misuse of video, a technological taboo5 beyond the conventional or professional workflows of television or video — a practice regarded as potentially damaging to the equipment.

The images he made were both captivating and confounding, ever-evolving and ephemeral. Arbec tried to describe these feedback forms:

They are born, grow, and then burst, only to re-centre themselves in an indefinite cycle of variations…. Chartier’s attempts make us participate more actively in the liberation of the form, since we witness its genesis and elaboration in an undefined time and space.6

[Fig.04] Reaction 26, 1972.

Cartier’s experiments appear to be the first accounts of this mesmerizing practice in Montreal, but it soon began to bind other artists to its spell, such as Boyer and also Charles Binamé. Binamé’s Reaction 26 (1971) is the earliest recording of video feedback in the Vidéographe collection—a fantastic montage of optical video feedback experiments set to music. A variety of forms are conjured: expanding zebra stripes, spinning whorls, and turbulent clouds. They evolve in real time, phasing between order and chaos, at once unruly and harmonious. Using only the camera and television, and by experimenting with brightness, contrast, rotation, and zoom, artists such as Binamé and Chartier were able to render extremely intricate phenomena in light, such as reaction diffusion patterns, morphogenesis, and emergent complexity. These are the same phenomena that would later be explored by physicist James Crutchfield in 1984, in an effort to analyze nonlinear systems and chaos. He, too, would be moved to turn his video camera toward the screen and generate strange loops. And he, too, would add psychedelic music to his recordings.7


[Fig.05] Libidante, 1972.

Sensitive Bodies and Performative Practice

In 1972, optical video feedback was given a broader symbolic function within narrative in Micheline “Mousse” Guernon’s Libidante, a film about two lovers who are physically separated yet together in their desire. The feedback in Libidante initially manifests through throbbing visual echoes of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam (1508–12), on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (c. 1484–86). Later in the film, as the performers’ naked bodies writhe alone, yet superimposed upon one another, they generate more distinct feedback patterns. Feedback is the radiating sexual energy and eros, a generative power between and beyond sensitive bodies, connecting lovers across time and space.

[Fig.06] Ring/Lovers, 1975.

Feedback itself can be regarded as a “sensitive body.” While working at the Experimental Television Center at Binghamton, in New York state, in 1974–75, video artist Carol Goss recalled “the sensation of interacting with a live force, which was my equal.”8 Her film Rings/Lovers (1975) is an early example of colour feedback, created using an RF tube camera and the David Jones Colorizer.The film carefully explores the balance and tension of feedback—the sweet spot—as a circular ring is formed from revolving elements, and slowly manipulated by the artist. Goss elaborates on this relationship in her 2004 essay “Evolution is Relentless: Analog Is but a Dream”:

Motion resulted from the interplay between the artist and the feedback loop, which was alive. The analog image creation process relies more on aesthetic intuition than rational technique.10

[Fig.07] Sonya Stefan.

Today we also find artists who draw on their aesthetic intuition in the moment through an embodied relationship with video. Sonya Stefan is a Canadian media and dance artist based in Montreal whose practice includes analogue glitch on both VHS and 16 mm film, video feedback systems, and dance film. Much of her work with feedback takes place in the context of performance, collaborating with musicians. As a consequence, it is largely ephemeral, though her Instagram account (@morfeolastrega) is a fantastic archive of short experiments and clips of documentation. She regards video feedback and dance as analogous in many ways: existing in the moment, shaped by space, requiring a sensitivity to respond. But she also regards it as an entity with its own agency, with which she works and to which she responds. Stefan describes her first encounter with video feedback:

The only thing I could think about was a sense of energy. It was uncontrolled, it had its own body, its own feeling. So that’s the two links [to dance] for me—being in the moment and not controlling something, but just being with something…. I say it’s uncontrolled but it’s not uncontrolled. It’s basically understanding information through a sensitive body and reacting towards that information through a sensitive body.11

To me, it seems clear that Stefan’s experience as a dancer working with improvisational choreographies enables her to accept and work with the “uncontrollable” nature of feedback in performance. They are both sensitive “bodies,” being in the moment, reacting to one another.

[Fig.08] Video-Cortex, 1974.

Brain-to-Eye-to-Hand Coordination: Vidéo-Cortex and Video Synthesis

Rewind to June 1974, in Montreal, where another group of artists were keen to explore the sensitive correspondence between the body and the video signal. Jean-Pierre Boyer, Gilles Chartier, David Rahn, and others, invited people to Vidéographe to participate in a “séance de télévision expérimentale”.12 Over two days, they ran “biofeedback” experiments, attempting to use the electrical signals of the brain to generate, control, and harmonize with the video signal through the induction of trance-like states. These experiments completely reconfigured the relationship between the audience and the moving image; as Eric Fillion puts it, “each participant is called upon to be their own material, performer and audience.”13 This practice can be seen in Boyer’s Vidéo-Cortex (1974), a split-screen video featuring an inverted, monochrome image of a biofeedback participant alongside the images they were observing and affecting.

The relationship of video artists to technology during the early 1970s was incredibly hands-on. Artist-run centres in Canada and the United States were collecting, connecting, and adapting new tools as they became available, and sometimes even inventing them (Vidéographe’s own “Éditomètre” being a prime example). But beyond the conventional needs of functionality and efficiency, there was also a desire to experiment with completely new forms of image making. Video mixers, colorizers, and video synthesizers provided artists with new opportunities for tactile and real-time manipulation of the electronic image. Boyer even invented his own machine, the “Boyétizeur”—a kind of prepared television capable of generating wild electronic images and geometric oscillations from electronic signals. Boyer was interested in a synthesis of sound and image, and used his Boyétizeur to process recordings of electronic sounds to create his films Le chant magnétique (1973–74) and Phonoptic (1974).

[Fig.09] Videoclouds, 1974.
[Fig.10] Fireworks, 1976.

David Rahn’s work, meanwhile, playfully explored the possibilities of video image processing and, in particular, the use of colour. For Video Clouds (1974) Rahn manipulated footage of natural phenomena, such as clouds and water, using colorizers to infuse the screen with incredibly saturated images. You can watch as he shifts the hues to create new palettes and carefully navigates the effect thresholds—you can practically feel his finger on the slider. Rahn is looking for the tipping point. Fireworks (1976) is his take on the child’s wax-crayon etching, as the explosive motifs reveal flurries of multicolour pastels. The particular palette suggests the integration of some kind of internal video mixer feedback or possibly a recursive technique of repeatedly re-colourizing footage. Like Boyer’s films, they are real-time documents of an artist exploring the possibilities of a new technology, beyond the conventional languages of cinema or television.

[Fig.11] Phonoptic, 1974.
[Fig.12] L'Amertube, 1972.

Rob Feulner and Charlotte Clermont are two contemporary tinkerers whose works can be found in the Vidéographe collection. Like Boyer and Rahn, both have a strong affinity to technology and a playful, exploratory approach to making images. Their films are often incredibly colourful and glitchy, and exhibit a synchronicity between sound and image. Feulner’s Cable Box (2020) is premised on the idea of a pirate radio broadcast interrupting the compulsive channel-hopping viewer. Feulner uses an array of glitch tools to break through the interminable collage of sitcoms, partisan politics, advertisements, and 24-hour news channels. The signal is first punctured by a fluorescent ice skater, leaving chromatic trails as she moves through a sea of internal feedback created using a chain of video mixers.14 Frequently, Feulner employs a “dirty mixer”—essentially a DIY video-glitch soldering project15—to scramble the “broadcast.” Later he uses a Rutt/Etra Scan Processor (accessed at Signal Culture, in Owego in New York state) to render found footage on an oscilloscope monitor, to convey a militaristic feel. He is acutely aware of how each texture and its implied technology may be interpreted and the contexts it may infer. This reference in particular brings to mind Paul Carpin’s assertion in the 1989 documentary Processing the Signal:

Technology is always misused, you see. Everything that we can do in video comes from learning how to destroy. All the digital technology in ADO and Mirage and things like that weren’t developed for television, they were developed out of defence systems. And that was a kind of a trickle-down by-product of defence research.16

Finally, Feulner introduces cryptic glitching text transmissions, encoded on a circuit-bent titler—the unseen author providing us with clues to solve this riddle. If only we could read between the noise frequencies of the cable box. Feulner was not averse to getting his hands dirty—the ice skater from Cable Box also appears in his short work Pivot Forward Collapse (2020). He created this skating-through-video-noise effect via direct hand-manipulation of a VCR playhead. Feulner’s interventions reflect a growing desire, among artists in the digital age, for a more tactile relationship with the image-making process:

Digital tools are pre-programmed. Unless you really dive in and get the GitHub code and everything, you’re not changing it, you’re not manipulating it, you’re not using it the wrong way. And I think that’s what I like about the analogue machinery is that you get to use it the wrong way. I get to go against its actual function and make it disrupt something else.17

[Fig.13] How Flowers Never Became a Food Group, 2017.

Charlotte Clermont is another artist who combines multiple media and pushes them toward a breakdown, anchored by soundtracks of crackling electronic noise. Her films often combine monochrome 16 mm footage or CCTV alongside highly saturated VHS images, as well as analogue video titling. In How Flowers Never Became a Food Group (2017), Clermont began with a MiniDV recording of flowers, which she then projected and re-recorded using a video camera for children.

It came with a receptor, with an antenna. My watch was interfering with the signal … so I started moving around and sometimes I got lucky. The colour manipulation was done by altering the signal as well.18

[Fig.14] Plant Dreaming Deep, 2017.
[Fig.15] Plant Dreaming Deep, 2017.

There are moments shot in 16 mm film, where the camera examines unidentifiable objects, which then break into VHS fuzz and VCR tracking errors. The iconic blue screen even plays a role, marking the actions of stop and play; the gaps between the work are the work. As with Feulner, there is a feeling that a message is trying to break through the media. Clermont places the audience in the role of interpreter, inviting us to analyze, both scientifically and poetically, certain clues which she provides through images and texts: e.g., “BUT HOW DO YOU FIGURE OUT A FLOWER?” Perhaps the visual languages and technologies that Clermont wishes to explore are just too alien. Her films often include obstacles to communication and interpretation. Plant Dreaming Deep (2017), for example, contains a series of video-titler texts displayed with multiple missing characters—“T_at we ca_ see_ t_ b_e rea_able t_ eac_ _t_er _a s_c_ a s_ubtle ___a_ level”—as well as extreme glitches—rolling rainbows of analogue crackle—developed in part at Signal Culture, using a video synthesizer. The film is a document not only of an exploration of technology but a deep observation of its effects on the image.

The image is charged with the intensity of the moments I lived, personally. My experience and the experience of looking at them [images] again afterwards, in another space-time, is the distance that it creates.19

In particular, though, Feulner and Clermont are concerned with noise and glitch, calling to mind Rosa Menkman’s “Glitch Studies Manifesto,” as quoted in her 2011 volume The Glitch Moment/um: “Noise artists must exploit these noise artifacts and explore the new opportunities they provide.”20 However, Menkman also adds a cautionary note about such practices:

5. Realize that the gospel of glitch art also tells about new standards implemented by corruption.

Not all glitch art is progressive or something new. The popularization and cultivation of the avant-garde of mishaps has become predestined and unavoidable. Be aware of easily reproducible glitch effects automated by softwares and plug-ins. What is now a glitch will become a fashion.21

Clermont and Feulner are too hands-on for plugins. They have a deep engagement and curiosity with analogue technology and a fascination with real-time processes of image making. Like Boyer and Rahn, they demonstrate strategies of invention and transduction, connecting different technologies to translate information between mediums.

[Fig.16] Rwat Is Beyond a Hellraiser?, 2017.

We Have Such Sights to Show You! Hybrid Hellraisers

What is beyond the Panasonic WJ-AVE5? Given its technologically transgressive raison d’être, experimental video art should not be confined to the much-loved video mixer or the humble composite cable. The unruly video signal can be integrated with (and infiltrated into) other, more traditionally “fixed” media, as well as newer digital technologies.

Experimental filmmaker, video artist, and curator Guillaume Vallée applies a recursive, cross-media methodology to create hybrid feedback forms with remarkable chaotic textures. His aim is to create a visceral experience for the audience. He is inspired in part by the sensations he experienced as a twelve-year-old watching Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987) on VHS:

It was my first encounter with another dimension. With cinema. It’s because of that I’m doing film now. It’s because of that and Un Chien Andalou I saw a couple of years later…. I wanted to do cinema that was really strong and psychedelic and people were being sick when they saw that.22

For his film What Is Beyond the Hellraiser? (2017), Vallée reused a two-second, camera-less paint-on-film loop, which was then transferred to DVD and digitally projected on a rear-projection screen. A second projector and VHS video camera were used to create an optical feedback loop overtop of the first image. Thus, the original source material was used both to seed and to agitate the video feedback forms. Finally, Vallée recaptured this final composite image from the other side of the screen using a Super 8 camera and Kodak Ektachrome film. The resulting film is an intense two minutes and thirty-eight seconds of sonic and chromatic oscillation. An unrelenting electronic soundtrack straps us to the rippling inhale and exhale of coloured smoke—a respiration coaxed through careful manipulation of the zoom of the video camera in the feedback system—while reaction-diffusion patterns can be glimpsed momentarily through the mist.

Such recapture of video feedback onto film recalls the earliest examples of the technique, such as the ground-breaking title sequence for Doctor Who, or the work of Lutz Becker (e.g., Horizon, 1967). This transduction makes the medium difficult to pin down; we may deduce, from the scratches and emulsion, that it exists materially as celluloid at some level, but the movement is evolving and complex in a manner consistent with the volatility of video feedback. Both chemistry and physics are at play. We are not watching a film, but a force. In moving between media, Vallée is acting both as spirit guide and ghost-buster. If video feedback is the ghost, then celluloid is the trap that contains the potentially malevolent spirit. Vallée has opened the Hellraiser puzzle box, but remarkably (thankfully) he knows how to close it, too.

[Fig.17] Generative Fiction, 2020.
[Fig.18] Ecran de Veille / Screen Savour, 2022.

My own interest in feedback is born out of my love of loopy things and connecting technologies together. As a digital artist, I have come to regard video feedback as a powerful, yet unpredictable generative engine that can be incorporated into video installation. I have created poetry installations (Generative Fiction, 2020) using analogue video titlers to render scrolling texts through a pool of video feedback combined with a colour-reactive sound track. I have built projection mapping installations (PORTAL and Chroma Culture, both 2019) that combine the basic camera/projector setup with digital video processing in Isadora to create engaging interactive interfaces. I have even created what is possibly the biggest optical video-feedback projection ever made, a large-scale generative art installation (Écran de Veille / Screen Savour, 2022) projected onto a building in downtown Montreal. Exposed to the elements and ambient light, this work is easily affected by its environment and audience (including pigeons). It may not be as reliable as wholly digital works, but video feedback still has the power to beguile, both in its principal simplicity and its potential to generate complexity.

[Fig.19] Métamorphose, 1972.


Rewind, Re-Record: Transfiguration and Degradation through Recursion

Taking a leaf from Alvin Lucier’s 1969 sound work I Am Sitting in a Room,23 video artists can employ a recursive strategy of recording and rerecording to explore new visual languages while revealing the imprint of the technology. Although this approach uses real-time recording and playback, it differs from conventional video feedback in that the signal is not directly looped to the monitor. Instead, the artist introduces a discrete step into the procedure, namely that of recording to tape. The resulting film becomes the material upon which the procedure is then reapplied, and so on, and so on. This step-by-step recursion enables us to hold onto figurative images longer, to analyze the creeping mutation and generational loss, and to identify the distinct characteristics of the technology and environment through each step’s impression on the work.

In Métamorphoses (1972), Richard Martin applies this technique to video using a film of a dancer descending a staircase as his figurative foundation, while an audio track describes Lucier’s original work. The film sequence brings to mind Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912), which is itself an analysis of movement through time by means of superimposition. Martin’s superimposition, however, gradually distorts the sequence as a whole (2:50 min. duration) by re-filming it, through the television screen, again and again. Each repetition of the process enhances the contrast of the image, accentuating highlights and shadows while erasing subtler textures such as bricks or facial features. We begin to read only the broad movements of the dancer, whose form becomes increasingly softened to the point of abstraction. Over nine iterations, the rhythm of the underlying choreography is maintained; however, its expression is utterly transformed. The forms evolve to become something else entirely—something organic yet alien. This process is mirrored by the soundtrack, which dissolves from spoken word to long whistling chimes of audio feedback.

Forty-four years later, it seems we are still caught in the loop; however, the practice has evolved, as younger artists bring a different perspective. Rob Feulner’s Puerto Rico Tautology (14 Dubs High) (2016) employs a similar approach; significantly, though, Feulner moves beyond a formal or aesthetic investigation, underpinning the experiment with a social context. Inspired by the mass exodus of Puerto Ricans moving to Orlando, Florida (Feulner himself is of Puerto Rican descent), his foundational material is a thirty-second found-footage VHS clip of Puerto Rican families celebrating in the street as the Fania All-Stars, a salsa musical group, perform in the background. In this case, Feulner works without a camera, simply dubbing the cassette to a second tape, the second to a third, and so on, not only pushing the image toward abstraction, but also the signal itself toward degradation and loss. Over the increasingly distorted audio, Feulner also mixes recordings of a United States House of Representatives member pleading with Congress to allow Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy.

[Fig.20] Puerto Rico Tautology, 2016.

As the tape’s timecode is lost and the train comes off the track, we are increasingly given blue screens, which point to the absence not only of images but of informational infrastructure. The implication, of course, is the breakdown of a society. The erasure of the communities depicted in the film represents just that—a gradual breakdown of politics and economic autonomy in Puerto Rico. It is structural degradation and generational loss in a very real sense. Feulner (who releases his films on VHS cassette) is exploiting the limits of analogue video technology as a lossy format, while highlighting the fragility of media heritage in general, especially that of physical media. This fragility must be read in the context of the digital, with its capacity for (or promises of) infinite copyability, shareability, and searchability. The work of artists such as Feulner (and Clermont, Vallée, and others—and therefore, by extension, of Vidéographe) is both an expression of experimental video production and a form of media archaeology.

Although Martin’s and Feulner’s intentions and outcomes are very different, the recursive practices described above enable both artists to take conventional workflows and make them transgressive simply through repetition. “Proper” use of the technology becomes absurd misuse, leading to grotesque outcomes. Fidelity is rejected in favour of abstraction and the extremities of technological function. Both Métamorphoses and Puerto Rico Tautology work against the idea of a “master copy.” The master copy is all the works together at once—it is the process. Such an unweighty, unsustainable conceit conflicts both with the art-market notion of “originality” as well as with the logic of mechanical reproduction. If a thing changes every time it is copied, then it is neither a copy nor the original. With each iteration, these films evolve to create new forms and new meanings. They deliberately introduce and enhance distortions, until these distortions become the work. Recursion proves to be a messy but fertile methodology for artists who are curious enough to plug a process back into itself, again and again and again.

[Fig.21] Analogue Glitch workshop, 2023.


Feeding Forward: The Spirit of Reinvention and Refusal

The rise of computing power and new developments in digital technologies, along with broader trends in art, have meant that from the mid-1980s onward, analogue video synthesis was regarded as relatively impractical and largely unfashionable. In her 2010 essay Video Feedback – Lyricism in Patterns of Light, artist Barbara Doser argues that “present day video feedback technology is employed in the work of solely a few artists”; however, she goes on to suggest that despite its apparent diminishment, “video feedback practice continues to exist and fascinate as a visual event.”24 With the benefit of an extra decade of perspective, I think we can go further and argue that video feedback, video synthesis, and analogue video in general have all undergone a huge resurgence in recent times. Thanks to a combination of loyal DIY scenes, the declining cost of original equipment, the formation of hacker/maker communities, and the rise of social media from 2010 onward, both the practice and the community that surrounds it have been growing rapidly.

Even in the digital age, the video signal continues to inspire artists with its distinct, analogue noise textures, real-time flow, and reliance upon physical media, and artists are keen to re-explore its potential through hybrid experiments, glitch art, and performance. Young artists today have a different relationship to analogue video (as they do early DV and analogue photography). It is at once alien and familiar, as inconvenient as it is novel. It is neither new nor old—just different. My former students in the Intermedia program at Concordia University love to work both with Sony 4K and 1970s CCTV cameras. It is just another tool, just a different relationship to the moving image.

[Fig.22] Analogue Glitch workshop, 2023.


It is both surreal and heartening to witness young artists picking up a VHS video camera at the flea market to film their mates’ band. To see the increasing proliferation of circuit benders and video synth engineers on Instagram selling hacked gear from the 1980s, and even developing new video synths from scratch.

The video art community is constantly evolving. The spirit of reinvention lives on through DIY artist spaces like Phase Space,25 in New York (now sadly closed, but until recently the home of prolific video artists Andrei Jay and Paloma Kop), and online platforms such as Scanlines.xyz and Video Circuits.26 Events such as Télépresence (organized by Kop and Feulner) bring together video artists in Montreal and New York, to demo their technical setups and perform AV sets. The Signal Culture residency program, in the United States, has provided many young artists (including Feulner, Clermont, Vallée, and Kop) with access to original synthesizers and specialist support. Meanwhile, Vidéographe continues to support and distribute video artists in Montreal. In 2022, Feulner and I ran a free analogue glitch workshop at Vidéographe for artists interested in exploring the video signal. We spent three gorgeously sunny summer days locked inside a hot room with ten super-enthusiastic participants, making feedback using original video mixers and cameras alongside modern LZX video synths and circuit-bent titlers. Everyone went home happy, with a tape. This summer, artist Emily Sirota and myself presented the Vidéographe equipment archive to interested artists and technicians as part of our ‘Old Technologies, new Practices’27  weekend. Amongst the handling of RCA vhs camcorders, and discussions of reverse-engineering hacks for older tube cameras, there was clearly an appetite to engage with these technologies, both through a lens of conservation and artistic exploration.

[Fig.23] Analogue Glitch workshop, 2023.
[Fig.24]Analogue Glitch workshop, 2023.

All this may seem like nostalgia, but it is at once a rejection of the “newer is better” market ideology and the need to constantly update your OS. It is important that artists sidestep the Adobe-ization of cloud-based artistic production and challenge the myth that technological progress flows only in one direction. Perhaps it flows around in a feedback spiral, eternally regenerating, or expands and intersects in all directions, like an underground mycelium network. Perhaps young artists just want to connect shit together that shouldn’t go together. If the last five years are anything to go by, then the next fifty could see a positively weird hybrid of analogue and digital practices.

Artistic technological innovation comes not from working within permitted uses and expected workflows, but by expanding the potential of technology through direct misuse and unconventional configurations. It means looking backward as well as forward, in order to revisit missed opportunities for experimentation from a new frame of reference. As Carol Goss argues, “Evolution is relentless…. From the artist’s perspective, however, technology should be additive, not subtractive or competitive.”28

I’ll leave the final word to Boyer himself, since a lot of this (indirectly at least) seems to be a consequence of his initial curiosity toward those strange looping images. Here is a paragraph from his essay “VIDEO: Zoom Out/Zoom In – LET IMAGES REMAIN IMAGES”:

Video too often depends on a filmic conception of form, linear and narrative. The television medium has been described as radio-with-pictures; this is an attitude too often repeated in work with videotape. Video is first of all a visual medium. It is thus important to be aware of the specificity of the medium, using the image itself to express and reinforce the information content. With this in mind, one must restore an experimental approach to the video medium, systematically exploring the unsuspected potential of the electronic image.29

  1.  A broader explanation of video feedback systems—including optical, internal, and hybrid variations—can be found in the Technès Encyclopedia of Film Techniques and Technologies: chapter 5 “Ruins, Accident, Glitch” (Bolognesi, Pia, and Meech, Sam) See: https://encyclo-technes.org/en/parcours/experimental/ruins-accident-glitch/5 
  2.   The origins of video art are disputed; however, arguably the earliest recorded example of video feedback (and therefore, in my opinion, video art) is to be found in the title sequence of An Unearthly Child, the first episode of the British television series Doctor Who, produced by Verity Lambert and broadcast November 23, 1963. The sequence was created by designer Bernard Lodge, alongside technicians Norman Taylor and Ben Palmer, and camera operator Hugh Sheppard. This pre-dates Nam June Paik’s work with the Sony Portapak (1965) though not his first prepared television exhibition (May 1963). However, as Doctor Who historian Toby Hadoke points out in his podcast, Too Much Information 1.0 – The Pilot, elements of the same Doctor Who video feedback can also be spotted in a title sequence for a BBC production titled Tobias and the Angel, broadcast on May 19, 1960. This sequence was created by Ben Palmer, following experiments by Norman Taylor. Toby Hadoke, “Too Much Information – The Pilot: Show Notes,” Patreon, 2020. https://www.patreon.com/posts/too-much-pilot-44225441.
  3.  Jules Arbec, “Graphisme lumineux,” Vie des Arts 18, no. 71 (summer 1973): 56. Available at: https://www.erudit.org/fr/revues/va/1973-v18-n71-va1192838/57825ac/.
  4.  In a 1983 interview with Linda Furlong, the Vasulkas reflected on their first encounters with this “new” phenomenon:“Our discovery was a discovery because we discovered it. We didn’t know all those people had discovered it before us. It was just like feedback: pointing the camera at the TV set and seeing feedback was an invention that was invented over and over again. As late as 1972, people were inventing feedback, thinking they had just caught the fire of the gods.”  Linda Furlong, “Notes Towards History of Image-Processed Video: Steina and Woody Vasulka,” AFTERIMAGE 11, no. 5 (December 1983): 12–17,
  5.  Douglas Hoftstadter, an American cognitive scientist, used video feedback experiments to develop some of his theories around consciousness. In his book I Am a Strange Loop, he suggests that the compulsion toward this specific form of technological taboo is rooted in something far deeper: “Feedback — making a system turn back or twist back on itself, thus forming some kind of mystically taboo loop — seems to be dangerous, seems to be tempting fate, perhaps even to be intrinsically wrong, whatever that might mean. These are primal, irrational intuitions, and who knows where they come from” (pg 41) Douglas Hofstadter, I Am a Strange Loop (New York: Basic Books, 2007).
  6.  Arbec. (1973). “Graphisme lumineux”, 57.
  7. In his 1984 scientific paper “Space-Time Dynamics in Video Feedback,” Crutchfield declared that, “in a very real sense, a video feedback system is a space-time simulator.” James Crutchfield, “Space-Time Dynamics in Video Feedback,” Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena 10, nos. 1–2 (1984): 229–45, https://archive.org/details/SpaceTimeDynamicsOfVideoFeedback.
  8. Goss, Carol – From an email exchange 28 September 2022
  9. For information about the David Jones Colorizer at the Experimental Television Centre, see: https://www.videohistoryproject.org/jones-colorizer-history-design
  10. Goss, Carol “Evolution Is Relentless: Analog Is but a Dream…”, The Squealor (Buffalo Media Resources), winter/spring 2004: 12–13, http://www.improvart.com/goss/evolution.html.
  11. Stefan, Sonya - from an interview conducted on 19 April 2019.
  12. This was not Boyer’s first attempt at a séance, according to Eric Fillion: “d’octobre 1972, il fait un premier pas dans cette direction et organise une séance d’animation vidéo au Musée d’art contemporain.” Eric Fillion, “Du Feedback au Vidéo-Cortex: L’image électronique vue par Jean-Pierre Boyer” (Montreal: Hors champ, 2013), https://horschamp.qc.ca/article/du-feedback-au-vido-cortex.
  13. Ibid.
  14. For examples, le Panasonic WJ-MX12 et le Edirol V4.
  15. Dirty mixer designed and distributed by Gieskes.nl
  16. Marcello Dantas, dir., Processing the Signal (documentary), 1989.
  17. Feulner, Rob. – taken from an interview conducted on 17 April 2019.
  18. Clermont, Charlotte. – From an email exchange 29 September 2022.
  19. Clermont, Charlotte. – From an email exchange 29 September 2022.
  20. Rosa Menkman, The Glitch Moment/um (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, 2011, 11  https://beyondresolution.info/Glitch-Moment-um.
  21. Idem.
  22. Vallée, G. – taken from an interview conducted on 11 april 2019.
  23. Lucier recorded the sound of his own voice in a room, and then played the recording back into the same space while re-recording the output. With each iteration, the reverberation within the room impressed itself further on his voice, erasing his words while retaining a semblance of structure.
  24. Barbara Doser, Video Feedback – Lyricism in Patterns of Light (Vienna: ST/A/R Printmedium, 2010),
  25. Phase Space offers regular events and workshops. See: https://phasespace.nyc/.
  26. See the Video Circuits Facebook Group, created by Chris King and Christopher Konopka in 2013: https://www.facebook.com/groups/VIDEOCIRCUITS/.
  27. Videograhe – Old Technologies New Practices workshop – 2023 - https://www.videographe.org/en/activity/old-technologies-new-practices/https://www.sunpendulum.at/cooperation/doser/book/Video-Feedback-Lyricism-of-Light-Essay-Barbara-Doser.pdf
  28. Goss, “Evolution Is Relentless.”
  29. Jean-Pierre Boyer, “VIDEO: Zoom Out/Zoom In – LET IMAGES REMAIN IMAGES” (n.p., n.d. [1970s]), https://archive.org/details/vasulka10415.