Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
I Am Sitting in a Video Room
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - 08:57 AM
In 1969, experimental composer Alvin Lucier designed a simple project with a not-so-simple intention. He sat in a room and made a short recording of his voice, which he then played back into the same room and re-recorded. Lucier then re-recorded the re-recording, and repeated this process over and over again, making copies of copies until his voice became completely unintelligible. However, he found that the shape and size of the physical space emphasized certain frequencies over the course of the process – so what you're hearing by the end of the actual "piece" is the room's natural harmonic tendencies. In effect, Alvin Lucier turned his room into an instrument.
The work was appropriately titled, I Am Sitting in a Room. Last year, YouTube user canzona took inspiration from Lucier to begin his own project, I Am Sitting in a Video Room, which came to conclusion just last month. canzona did the same thing as Lucier, only with a YouTube clip; he uploaded a video of himself, ripped it from YouTube, re-uploaded it, and repeated the process 1,000 times.
It's worth noting that in the updated version, the project shows how the internet and all digitized information produce unexpected phenomena the same way physical environments do. At work in canzona's project are the "artifacts inherent in the video codec of both YouTube and the mp4 format." Just as Lucier "played" a room, canzona "played" YouTube.
Each iteration of canzona's video is available on YouTube. A redux version of I Am Sitting in a Video Room is forthcoming, which should allow users to experience the gradual disintegration continuously from start to finish. The effect may not necessarily be pleasant – but it makes you wonder if doing the same thing to another, more sonically- or visually-rich clip could result in something more beautiful than the original. With an estimated 120,000,000+ on YouTube, the possibilities for this kind of experimentation are endless.
- Stephen Reader