Monitor (1974 Silent 6mins). ▶︎
In Monitor Partridge is looking to find those structures which characterise the language of video. In order to do this, he has to make video turn in on itself: he has to make the medium of video “self-reflexive”. His most obvious way of doing this in Monitor (apart from its title!) is to turn the camera onto the monitor itself, so that the subject of the video becomes itself. This alone, however, would not be enough to establish the unique properties of video; there is no reason why a film camera could not do the same thing. What makes video so special, however – what distinguishes its language from other kinds of filmic language – is that it can record and transmit simultaneously. There is no time delay. This can lead to the special phenomenon of feedback. When the video apparatus is turned on itself, it can produce an infinite series of repeated images, each nestled within the other like Chinese boxes. This effect thus mirrors that very same condition of self-reflexivity which forms the basis of language according to structuralist analysis. Look more closely at Monitor, however, and you will see that the effect of feedback has actually been ‘faked’. Partridge has not simply presented a novel and quirky technical effect of the video medium. Like a mechanic he has dismantled it to provide a thorough examination, and then, like a poet, reassembled it in unexpected ways. The slightly different speeds at which the monitors are rotated in each of the images introduce an element of variation and syncopation which contradict the standardised effect of simultaneity which occurs within ordinary feedback. In other words, Patridge has incorporated the crucial element of difference into video’s self-reflexive feedback system. This element of difference – without which systems of language would fail to function – is further enhanced by the differently angled position of the monitors in each image. The interlaced patterns of time and space which result from these subtle modifications give Monitor a visual fascination which perfectly matches its intellectual clarity. interpretation by John Calcutt
“Monitor goes further as it de-realized the object – the monitor itself – on which the viewer (and the maker as performer) is watching the work. An active diagonal line across the framed space, repeated in the chain of monitors, is now dynamic rather than assertively flat. The logic of tautology or self-embedded system us at the core of both pieces, but this philosophical weight is carried with ease – not least by mapping such formal concerns onto the viewer’s activity and space.” –Al Rees
Below: Since the early 1990s Monitor has been exhibited as an installation using the original apparatus and was acquired by TATE in this form in December 2014 and exhibited at TATE Britain from 2015-16 and Tate St Ives in 2021.
Installed in the Cooper Gallery DJCAD Dundee 1999
Episodes-Interposed (1979, 29 mins)
“When Partridge began to explore the then new-fangled edit-suite in the late 1970’s, he incorporated all these elements and added to them the montage film tradition (suitably altered) at a time when extreme duration and the single take were still seen as defining the nature of video as against cinema. This was far-sighted in staking out the artist’s claim to, so to speak, cut and paste videotape well ahead of its commercial exploitation in advertising and television. Episodes Interposed, 1979, whose denotative title affirms montage as an act of cutting into time and action, is a good example. Punctuated by a series of ‘Preambles’, which both structure and ironize its minimalist sequences, this video opens with a communicative act – a ringing telephone seen from back, front and sideways views – which gradually breaks down the symmetry of sound and image. A second sequence of a walking woman (a key theme in art from Duchamp to Giacometti and Michael Snow) asserts actual space, here an art school corridor, and then depicts closely related staggered shots of a woman repeatedly crossing her legs until a final glimpsed moment of voyeuristic revelation. An ‘Intermission’ of clouds of steam set against a cloudy sky takes us away from these intense interiors and also provides a natural metaphor for the passage of time. The final sections create colour patterns from men’s shirts which then become ‘colour checks’ as a woman describes colour associations based on the light primaries of red, blue and yellow. The broken sounds which open the video here become continuous and echo-like, akin to the live feedback words of Boomerang, 1974, by the US sculptors and video pioneers, Richard Serra and Nancy Holt. Woman as object of the gaze here becomes speaking subject, guiding the viewer’s institutions within the formal scheme of the work.” –Al Rees
Above: Review in Village Voice of Episodes-Interposed exhibited at The Kitchen New York City in 1979
Early Videotape works
Overdose 1974 15 mins B/W
Scrutiny 1974 10 mins B/W
Snow Scale 1974 5 mins B/W ▶︎
Interlace 1975 15 mins B/W (sound by David Cunningham)
All these early black & white videotapes were made on 1/2 inch reel-reel open tape video recorders. Editing was achieved by roughly cueing up a player and recorder, marking with a white film-crayon, winding back as accurately as possible for a pre-roll, than engaging play. You hoped to press the edit button at the right time (or place) and that it would be releatively ‘clean’ . It was a hit&miss affair and certainly had little to do with film-style montage – more “an intervention in an ongoing process” as David Ross put it……..
Round and Round (1974 Super 8 film 6:46)
An early film work influenced by structural filmmaker Michal Snow. Camera is fixed on a tripod and is tracking constantly around in the landscape with the artist coming into frame randomly.
Sound Treatment by David Cunningham