Experiments for Auto-communication

Experiments for Autocommunication (1975) is a series of video actions for two cameras, led by Hubert Van Es (alias Florent Bex – director of the ICC at that time (1972–2002), the predecessor of the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp) and his associate Christiaan Goyvaerts. Four fragments of the series are still preserved today; they explore the impact of video techniques on the perception of self, one’s own image, and space. The first action shows Hubert Van Es sitting in front of a monitor connected to a camera, which is placed to his left and films the artist in a close-up shot, while a second camera films the scene as a whole. The artist appears disoriented, attempting to recognize various parts of his own face in his “reflection.” The two following actions are based on the shot reverse shot technique. While this film technique is generally intended to create a sense of continuity, here it provokes a rupture that is accompanied by the use of superimpositions and cross-fades. Once again, Hubert Van Es faces the monitor and is simultaneously filmed by two cameras. One shows him head on, the other captures his image from the back, in a slightly high-angle shot. The images captured by each camera are shown alternately and then mixed and superimposed. His body appears as if encased within the monitor; this is emphasized by the presence of the monitor’s contours, which create a double frame, thereby eliminating the possibility of anything being off-camera. In the next sequence, Van Es plays hide-and-seek. He conceals his eyes behind his hands and presents his palms towards the camera, as if to obliterate the entire view. In the last action, the two profiles of Christiaan Goyvaerts appear on both sides of a central axis. A seduction game begins between the man and his own image, which he touches and kisses gently. The subject appears to be trying, with clumsy gestures, to recognize his own features in his image. Experiments for Autocommunication presents situations where the subject attempts something seemingly untenable—to communicate with himself. The exchange is always missed however; any attempt by Hubert Van Es to meet the gaze of his own image inevitably leads to failure. The identification process is perturbed and the body is dislocated.