Ross Rudesch Harley & Elvis Richardson, Artspace Sydney, 2008.
VHS (originally short for Vertical Helical Scan, later Video Home System) was invented in the 1980s and allowed viewers to watch movies in their own home. It also gave us the technology to record and store content from broadcast television in a relatively cheap and accessible format. In 2007 the last Hollywood film was released on the medium, now mostly superceded by DVD. It is envisaged that VCR players will no longer be manufactured in the next twelve months. An era has ended. What was the VHS era?
The work of Ross Harley and Elvis Richardson has intersected in a number of exhibitions and publications dealing with questions of archives, storage, access and remix culture. They began to develop this new project as a way to bring together and investigate their respective VHS collections. Ross selectively recorded classic cinema [broadcast primarily on late night TV during the 1980/90's] while Elvis amassed her collection by way of rubbish tips, garage sales and donations from friends in Canberra.
During their 3 week residency at Artspace Sydney, they developed a flexible and scalable installation that uses the physical materials and content of VHS cassettes. The work — entitled LOOM-O-RAMA — poetically meditates on the nature of change and the spatial dimension of video-time, collective memory, and pre-internet networks of exchange and distribution.
WHAT IS LOOM-O-RAMA ?
LOOM-O-RAMA pulls apart the VHS black box to weave new patterns and forms. The humble VCR and VHS cassette have been disected and reconstituted.Â During the Artspace residency, the artists sketched out their first concept/prototype: a video-loom that displays 20 minutes of VHS tape woven through a series of rotating spools attached to the wall. It evokes the memory of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage [whose Jacquard loom inspired Analytical Engine is the Victorian precursor to contemporary computing] while it connects with the experimentation of early video pioneers of the 1960s and 70s..
There are a number of designs the loom-like wall pieces can take. Borrowed and adapted from pop/op culture string art patterns, they reference craft and a kind of pre-digital aesthetic that can be scaled to cover even the largest of walls.
“VHS BOX“, Ross Harley and Elvis Richardson, colour video projection loop, 2008.
This ongoing series of video works reconstitutes the recorded material stored on their collections of VHS cassettes. The content is then projected from the stripped-back wall-mounted VHS player onto another wall. It can also be displayed on a monitor in the gallery space.
Harley and Richardson have recycled the redundant VHS cassette and playback machines. They have reinvested in the technological sublime promised by the system that first allowed the user control and feedback to the singular voice of broadcast television and cinema. This abondoned archive of memories and cultural manipulations, once stored with such pride in lounge rooms and TV cabinets across the world, now seems destined for dumpsters and landfill.
LOOM-O-RAMA reminds us of the ever-shrinking spiral of technological change and cultural obscelesence.
LOOM: a frame or machine for interlacing at right angles two or more sets of threads or yarns to form a cloth; to appear in an impressively great or exaggerated form; to take shape as an impending occurrence.
LOOM is also a graphical adventure game originally released in 1990. It was both developed and published by Lucasfilm Games (now called LucasArts).
RAMA: from the Greek meaning ”that which is seen”
LUMA: thebrightness portion of a video signal (“Y”); from the Latin word “lumen”, meaning radiance or light.