Juha van Ingen, Flicker and Blink
Van Ingens latest video works consist of extremely short and intensive loops which are repeated faster than the eye can detect. He implements the method, which is often used in conceptual art, of first deciding the structure of the piece, then fitting the selected images into the desired rhythm. The tight and structured idea brings power to the viewing situation, where the visual and spatial matters become dominant factors and provide intensified aesthetics for the viewers to enjoy.
The works from the Skyline-landscape series show a more expressive side of van Ingen’s art. The hypnotic reflections from the surface of water have been recorded in different angles and long takes. The unmanipulated image distorted only by the movement of water seems almost like electric noise. The loops could also be utilized as modern screen savers.
In Cabin Fever-video you can detect some gloomy neo-romantic tones. The derelict camp-fire and a dark reflection of a mountain pond create an extended claustrophobic flash. The video loop is created from three dark images which are repeated eight times a second. The individual images provide the characteristics of a horror scenario. The viewers can let their imagination to decide the most horrifying end for the holiday.
The main attention in the exhibition is drawn by two other works utilizing the flicker effect: BLINK (Missing 1) and BLINK (Missing 2). In the first video you can see a flash of smiling female faces, in the second the faces are male. Who are these people? Smiling prom queens and men from the recruiting pages of a financial magazine? A constellation of eyes and lips are stacked on each other forming a singular face. The twitching expression contains a bright smile. Only one face, separated by the stream of faces by its different scale, becomes an obstacle to the flow and forms a focal point for all the other images in the loop.
Since the 1960s many artists working with experimental moving image have been able to exploit the flicker effect in their works. Considering van Ingen’s works, it is interesting, how the flicker effect was explored using pre cinematic equipment and the human face as subject matter even before the times of the video camera. The American artist Tony Conrad describes how his piece The Flicker (1966) came from his interest in neurophysiology and on the other hand Warholian superstar cult. He committed tests together with his colleague Jack Smith (Flaming Creatures, 1963) using a 16mm film projector for lighting Mario Montez who was dancing in Drag. The projector had no film and the effect was made by altering the projection speed.
The strobe light, familiar from night club dance floors, creates a similar effect: It freezes the dancers’ faces and makes the expressions glow in a pallid light. Subliminal images hidden in single frames of movies and TV-ads are believed to create sudden cravings or to make consumers prefer certain products.
Juha van Ingen has selected images of missing persons snatched from the FBI website for his two BLINK- pieces. In both video loops six low-resolution images are repeated twenty-four images a second. As the images are rapidly repeated, the faces start to blend in to each other. The revelation of the disturbing subject matter of the works wipes out the smile, though only from the face of the viewer.
The idea of flicker is to move the viewer momentarily to another time and space. It also acts like the Hare or Stork -ambiguous figure test in the studies of psychology of observation. The illusions generated by the effect are often found to be made by the after images a flash of light causes on the retina. The tuning frequency of the eye creates the trick. Extra tension at experimental flicker-movie screenings has been gained through out times by placing signs warning the audience for the danger of getting a migraine or an epileptic seizure while watching a strobe light. The core of van Ingen’s BLINK is an extremely intensified viewing situation. The artist him self suggests the viewer to blink and find the missing faces, even for a fraction of a second.
Leevi Haapala, researcher of contemporary art, 2009