This project started as a pureley experimental exploration of the VHS medium as a way to take an analog item and make it digital. I wanted to know what physical damage looks like when done to VHS tape and played back. I chose VHS tapes due to the availability, and the ability to experiment and stretch the medium in order to create a unique result. And in my experience digitizing my own families home movies, knowing how precious and fleeting these memories were, on this aging technology. I also wanted to experiment with an analog material that was ‘unwanted’.
I began with a purely experimental mindset. And since VHS tape is magnetic, I wasn’t really sure what the results would yield. I wanted to know how far could I push VHS tape before it became too damaged to play? What would different types of damage look like? And I wasn’t even sure if the VHS tapes could be played after I took them apart, cut them, damaged them, re-taped them with masking tape, and then re-assembled them back into the cassette.
I used a blank VHS tape, a Buster Keaton collection from 1986 and the X-FILES movie from 1998 for my experimentation.
After unassembling and cutting the tape, the first experiment was with fungus spores. The 2nd was adding heat. And the 3rd experiment was soaking the tape in lemon juice. This heavily damaged the tapes but luckily they all still played. As I was watching the playbacks of these damaged tapes, I started seeing something familiar that I wanted to explore. As I was watching these damaged VHS tapes, playback, I saw glimpses of what I recall my seizure experience to be.
Between 2007 and 2011, I experienced Complex Partial Seizures, also known as temporal lobe seizures. The Mayo Clinic website explains this type of seizure as, an unusual sensation ( known as an aura) may precede a temporal lobe seizure, acting as a warning. Not everyone who has temporal lobe seizures have auras, and not everyone who has auras remembers them. One may feel sudden drop in mood, followed by A deja vu experience — a feeling that what's happening has happened before.
This description is quite accurate to my personal experience, however, it’s nearly impossible to really explain the visual experience of a seizure. I aim to create a visual experience similar to that of a complex partial seizure. By combining the damaged tapes, a home video from present day, 1986 and 1978, I attempt to show the journey of a complex partial seizure and how a memory can be physically and emotionally delicate.
Stills from Complex VHS
Damaged Tape Digitized