8 x 8 x 8

8 x 8 x 8, 1976. Video installation for 8 monitors, and 8 cameras, commissioned for The Video Show, Tate Gallery, London, and exhibited from 18 May to 16th June, 1976.

The exhibition was curated by the exhibition department of the Tate Gallery rather than the main gallery team who had not yet, recognized video as a ‘legitimate’ medium. They used their lecture theatre spaces – which although not ideal – served the purpose and gave exposure to the public for what was – at the time – a very new experience. Interestingly a PhD student was undertaking some research on audience participation at the time and asked if he could incorporate the Video Show in his project. His results showed that the average time spent looking at a painting or sculpture was 3-4 seconds but with this video show it was 3 – 4 minutes – unless the viewer was a practicing artist – in which case it was 0-2 seconds or, in other words – video – no way!

My piece 8x8x8 was in many ways, pretty straightforward, using live video camera feeds to confront the audience with their own real time image – although it was a 3/4 view of the back and side of their head. I had devised a programmable automatic video switcher (the AVS) , which was built for me by Howard Vie, one of the engineers at the Royal College of Art (where I was, for a short time, a student). This allowed programming of the output of the switcher to the monitors using slide tape audio pulsing. I programmed it to anticipate the reaction of a person confronted by the view of the back and side of their head, which I correctly anticipated would mean they would turn to se if they could see their face, a sensor would pick up on this an d speed up the process of switching so that they were frustrated. It was interaction – of a particularly controlling kind!

above: explanatory text written by the artists in 1976
above: the apparatus revealed, from L-R tape recorder, controller, and the AVS – also pictured at the bottom of this webpage
above: Review of the exhibition in the Evening Standard by Richard Cork
above: from the annual report of the Tate Gallery in 1976
above the AVS
above: the AVS and the artist at the RCA studios

Article in Studio International by David Hall, first page previews the exhibition. ▶︎ pdf file