The Little Machine

Space for contemporary and experimental art

Video Room

Friday 27th January 2023 – Saturday 18th February 2023 
Wednesday – Saturday: 2pm – 5pm 

The Little Machine’s first exhibition, Video Room, showcases Californian musician and sound artist Patrick Liddell’s powerful and surprising experimental work Video Room, Homage to Alvin Lucier (2010-11), projected in the gallery’s front window. It is accompanied by a small video work by Little Machine curator Eleen Deprez, which touches on Liddell’s themes and processes in the context of curating.

Liddell’s Video Room is homage to Alvin Lucier’s seminal I’m Sitting in a Room (1969). In this sound work, Lucier recorded himself talking. He explains what he will be doing, namely playing back the recording into the room and recording it, again and again. This process of re-recording the same recording emphasises certain frequencies in the original speech. Echoes start to form, words are reduced to inchoate sounds, and after a while the resonant frequencies of the room itself take over and the speech becomes an unintelligible garbled noise. 

The work illustrates a phenomenon many artists have employed: the copy effect. A repeated process of copying not only produces degradation of sound and image but will, after a while, reveal the idiosyncratic artefacts of its mechanism. 

Californian musician and sound artist Patrick Liddell has created a contemporary homage to this work. Like Lucier he explains the process of the work in the first recording: 

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice as well as the image of myself, and I am going to upload it to YouTube, rip it from YouTube, and upload it again and again, until the original characteristics of both my voice and my image are destroyed. What you will see and hear, then, are the artifacts inherent in the video codec of both YouTube and the mp4 format I convert it to on my computer. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a digital fact, but more as a way to eliminate all human qualities my speech and image might have.

Liddell repeated the process of download and re-upload 1000 times, resulting in almost 11 hours of film. In the first 20 videos an immediate loss of quality, both in sound and video, is noticed. Around the 100 mark, the facial features of Liddell, his beard and glasses, are almost completely gone. Rather than a further blurring of his face, we see something remarkable happening around the 500th video: new bold colours seem to appear and swirl around the screen. 

A second, smaller video plays in the door. This playful reference to Lucier’s work is Little Machine  curator Eleen Deprez’s own I’m Painting a Room (2023). In a repeated process of recording and projection, a video of Deprez painting the back wall of the gallery degrades over time the image of the working body. Lucier explained that he was pleased that the process of his sound work effectively erased his stutter; Deprez’s piece aims to erase the body of the curator in the space, while at the same time establishing as a phenomenological and physical presence the room, and the space, that is The Little Machine.