Throughout the work of Andreas Troeger, a German artist living and working
in New York City, the power of the immediacy of the image has consistently
been put to arresting use. His short films and video installations - most
significantly, Path, documenting the everyday and every nightlife of a
pathology lab in stark black and white, and Strom, an installation built on
some of the nastiest applications of electric current (torture, capital
punishment) - would slip into the merely sensational if Troeger's subjects
weren't treated with the respect and intelligence he brings to them.
At this point in a career that's encompassed such life-and-death (mostly
death, frankly) material, Troeger's latest project, OnLine TV, might come
off as a surprising departure. While his previous work has been represented
at his Zero Tolerance Web site (and it's worth a good browse), this is the
first to have been conceived for the Web itself. Somewhere in New York, a
video camera is pointed out onto a busy intersection, and every 60 seconds
it feeds an image to the ZT server. Once you're logged in, you can adjust
the frequency of loads according to however smoothly your own connection is
going at the moment, and after that, there's little else to do but sit back
and watch the streets flow. Cars, people. Rain, snow, no weather at all.
So naturally, the question arises: Why? It's hardly "TV" as we know and
either love or hate it, that is, the barest minimum of conscious effort has
been applied to do any actual programming. And in terms of being on the
forefront of Web technology, for whatever that may be worth artistically,
well, yes, at present, this is as live as live video gets via the sort of
connection the vast majority of us have; but we're also aware that we're on
the verge of being inundated with a host of new technologies with zippy
names like Java and Shockwave that'll make page-by-page animation look like
the Lumiere brothers standing next to Stanley Kubrick.
As if to emphasize that it's precisely the sense of wonder that greeted the
first Lumiere films (also the result of "merely" pointing a camera at
something somewhat interesting and letting it roll) that he's after - and
no more and no less - Troeger flew to Munich to set up a sort of client
station at the Gallery on Lothringerstrasse, quite a respectable address in
the Munich art scene. There, you can wander in and see the goings on at the
NYC street corner projected onto a wall and ponder the means by which these
images got up there.
We've grown accustomed to live images of "history in the making" on
broadcast television, the ultimate one-to-many medium; now, the Net, which
has long ago transformed publishing into a many-to-many affair, is about to
free TV as well. In its very title, Online TV is a conscious celebration of
the impact of CU See Me-type technology as well as an implicit warning in
Troeger's choice of content - currently, video cameras are being set up on
the street corners of a few American cities, most probably quite earnestly
intended as instruments of law and order, yet chilling nonetheless for all
the obvious reasons.
Troeger has long dealt with carefully composed images that pack an
immediate wallop; with Online TV, that wallop is packed simply because the
images are immediate.