Michael Chernoff

Video Artist | Researcher | Educator

VIDEOSPHERE: You Are Always On A Screen Somewhere...
MFA Thesis (2023)

Videosphere: A term coined by critic and theorist Gene Youngblood (Expanded Cinema, 1979) for describing the new video enviornment due to the mass connectivity of events through broadcast television.This new enviornment will be expanded further by future forms of video technology will infiltrate homes and industires causing video to reshape architectural and global mental space.

Today video still colonizes real space as a live signal. All spaces in which video is present become live places contaning events and actions. Television, Computers, Tablets, Smartphones, Cars, and Appliances all have video embedded in them. As we observe and interact with video we are simultaneously observed by machines. All around us are physical and virtual video surveillance cameras which are within and around the interface of video screens. Video’s technical purpose is to make things appear on screen and the conglomeration of installed and mobile video devices expands video applied purpose which is make the world totally surveiled. Wherever video occupies us we ineivtably appear on a screen somewhere else...

To address the physical presence and occupation with video technologies I created my own VIDEOSPHERE, as a site- specific installation with multiple assemblages of video camera and monitor circuits. Each assemblage was an exhibited site in what I considered to be a Video Archaeological Lab, that demonstrated the dynamics of video surveillance by observing audience participation and interactive performance.  We become aware of a surveillance system by seeing ourselves in screens in the same enviornment that is simultaneously represented as video. The installation featured analog and digital video technologies such as: CRT monitors, LCD monitors, CCTV cameras, camcorders, digital projections, tablets, and a virtual reality headset.

This“Video Archeology Lab”  contained different eras of technology is becasuse the passage of electronic signals from one era to another reveals how video past and present is a contunuation for expanding surveillance over many iterations. The spaces of physical and video signal are not truly seperate but indivisible as video has come to play an integral role as mass media and user interface. That the space outside and inside of video screens is equally observable.  Yet as an installation with overt channels of observation the shock of so many cables, cameras, and lit screens fades out as interactivity between the audience and their transmitted appearance erase fearfulness of this raw surveillance system. There is no point at which a human observer can see and not be seen in the classical sense of private surveillance. Instead what we get is video watching and appearing with/within in itself, waiting to be activated and observed. The Videosphere operates openly.

This exhition was used as source material for a written thesis called
VIDEOSPHERE: Video Surveillance Of The Video Screen Which can be found here at ProQuest

Room 1: Self-Surveillance

Wide Angle View of Room One - GoPro Circuit

When a viewer first entered VIDEOSPHERE, they see stacks of analog video monitors. These studio monitors represent a disassembled security video system. Instead of centralized observation, the studio monitors are turned in differenct directions while security cameras watch the monitors. These old technologies provoke a sense of surprise and bewilderment upon seeing so many screens that are now obsolete but were once the dominant way of seeing information. But video image as a box is an “other” object that attracts viewers to see what exactly is on screen. What they got was the room it self on multiple closed-circuit feeds. Within monitor screens is the presence of the monitors. And when the audience aproaches the monitors, the vieweres themselves appear on one screen, then turn and see themselves elsewhere. A game begins where invidivuals try to figure out which cameras are connected to which monitors and what monitors are displayed. Knowing the locations of overt or open surveillance can be resolved by using one’s own body to activate screens. Interactions with self-image and the screen serve to help the viewer understand dislocated space.

Influenced by the work of Bruce Nauman’s Video Corridor, this room was effective in turning the screen into a curious and inviting object. The surveillance system is made evident by an entanglement of wires, cables, hums, and CCTV equipment. The presence of so much video equipment makes a person alert to the fact that they are visible elsewhere. However, the presence of one self seen on a screen within an object invites a person to be an interactor. Consequently the observation space is what is being observed and that surveillance is represented in its own private feed. All viewers become incidental performers for screens for cameras that are merely surveilling surveillancy technology. The truly creepy occurence is that private video feeds made public of course subvert surveillance into an aproachable activity. Hesitancy or objections can be dissolved by the open play or narcissim of self-observation. Whether the audience members perform with their own image with sways, dance, repeating motions, or just watching the physcial and screen activity, nowhere can someone see Videosphere and not be seen by it.

Selfie Photo

Contact Microphone on tube monitor

Room One Self-Surveillance

The embedding of cameras into screens

Selfie Photo

iPad Video sent to PVM CRT

Pictured: Martin Freeman

Room 2: Closed-Circuits

In this section were a few set ups that responded to the pressence of the audience which affected audiovisual frequencies. Whereas in Room One people respond to surveillance in this place technologies respond to people which attracts them to particpate in creative feedback. 

The Spy Manikan

Meant to signify surveillance done with personal devices. The model is equiped with two iPads. The iPad strapped to an arm is pointed at an LCD monitor which recieves a distant hall view from a camera positioned on the opposite end, picking up passing car traffic outside the exhibition windows.

Closed-Circuit Chatter

A CCTV camera sends picture to a monitor whose image is picked up by a Hi-8 camcorder and sent to twin CRT monitor. While one camera monitors physical space another camera monitors its image. Attached to the monitors are a light volatage and condenser microphone. The changes in electricity and the chromatic values due to the appearance of people in the tube cause sound fluctuations to be heard from analog oscilators. The knobs and cables of the cameras, televisions, and audio rack were openly accesible to anyone. Any change caused drastic differences in tone, pitch, and image stability. 

Rear Feedback Tunnel

A live camcorder display was wired to a short throw projector. The result is a feedback loop where interactors who stand in front of the camcorder see their backside but cast no shadow. Viewers are the opposite of the screen can see people facing away and toward the camcorder unseen, except when they step forward and cast shadow from the projected light. The set up harkens to the closed participation of early television programming. Both physical bodies and shadows create afterimages resulting in two kinds of feedback and interaction across two rooms.

Black Partition Room: LIVE MIXER

In this room is a zoned off space using black fabric and stands placed in a vertex. Here the produciton of live video media is experienced through seperation and time differences of screens. What can be seen is a wide angle view of Room One and camera feed of the entry door. Yet the embedded webcam feed from an iMac is shared in and out of this room. The presence of anyone in this space is known via monitors placed in Room One and the audibility of individuals on both sides of the fabric dividers. But the the entrance of an individual is delayed by ten seconds. Visitors do not realize they are camera and people operating the mixing board do not always know that they can be seen on other screens.

White Partition Room: Videosphere VR 

Hidden behind the white sheet used for and black plastic strips, the White Partition room hosted the VR (Virtual Reality) version of a Videosphere. This virtual experience was viewable on an HTC Vive headset and a large flatscreen monitor whose media source was a Windows PC running a UNITY build. The virtual experience is yet another surveillance space that recieves camera feeds not seen on physical monitors. 3D objects were programmed to become surfaces for webcams located in the exhibition. My reason for including VR is because it is video based.

VR headsets also remove a wearers visual reference of real space and their physical apperance. Yet by seeing one self on 3D object screens a person can see themsleves move around while other bystanders can view their first person sight on the monitor. The result is another shared viewing and performance inside and outside a literal video enviornment. Similar to Room One, an inversion of surveillance happens. Whereas the physical multiple cameras and monitors were identified by people locating themselves with gesutre and motion the Videosphere VR reconnects a viewer with their body.

But throughout the floor, ceiling, and other TV shaped objects another texture besides a webcam feed is mapped out in Videosphere VR. Inside is a feedback loop generated by virtual cameras that are invisible due to no representation attached. Even within VR not can a viewer be seen on a screen but the scene itself is watching itself. Video is observing a video mapping. Even the viewpoint of the headset is not natural vision. What is confused for natural sight is really a virtual camera mounted in virtual space. The pivot mechanism is the body of the wearer who explores Videosphere physciall and virtually but is none the less an actor in their own subjection to surveillance. 

Unity Project Window View

Site Images

Pre-Production Center For The Arts

Hours & Location

1270 Niagara Street Buffalo, NY 14213
2nd Floor Adjoined by Buffalo String Works

Opening Reception - Friday April 28th 6PM-9PM

Saturday April 29th 2PM-5PM

Sunday April 30th Closed

Friday May 5th 4PM-6PM

Saturday May 6th 6PM-9PM

Sunday May 7th 5PM-8M

*May 1st through 4th by Appointment Only macherno@buffalo.edu

Thesis Commitee Faculty Members

Associate Professor Mark Shepard (Chair)
Assitant Professor Jason Gesitweidt
Professor Dave Pape
Assitant Professor Sama Waham

Breeser Development Group LLC
Department of Media Study | University at Buffalo
UB Graduate Student Association

Artist Statement

My thesis installation broadly takes in many contexts of video as medium in order to publicly explore how video operates. Being a video artist for me means involves using many different kinds of electronics, machines, and programs. When I work with video as material, I notice just how much space is taken up around me in the form of media players, computers, wires, cables, power sources, cameras, and screens. Borrowed from Gene Youngblood, Videosphere is a term that describes how video occupies architectural and metal space. Video is not only TV or a camera but also an interface for other electronics whose presence in turn increases the signal output of video. As the territory of video devices expands physcially video signal becomes more live. What is video universally in all of its past and present technical iterations is that is a live signal which visualizations a space on screen which hosts other signals. Not just the communcation of machines and media but also the feedback of generated between interfaces and users. This idea of video occupying and being a form of space on a screen is an invisible networking of television, computers, internet, and mobile points of access whose simultaneous use, synchronizes the observation of individuals and environments. The presence of video as a Videoshpere is a space formed by signal and screens that are always occuring and whose spatial interactions of real and virtual collpase into indivisibility. 
But is the installation a point of surveillance or interactivity? By arranging cameras and screens people will always appear on a screen in which we see ourselves and others and the contents of one screen looked at becomes the content of another screen. However this installation is not about just human beings apearing on a screen. This Videosphere is about being seen with video. It is a system arranged to be a self-surveillance of videos presence. The live images beg to viewed, interacted, and recorded not by users, viewers, or operators. In this performative space everyone is an interactor.  And as for surveillance video, there is no point in which someone can privately view the exihibit without being seen themselves. Instead we should be aware that our dependence upon video as interface means that we are always appearing on screens without exact knowledge of when, where, and whom. Videosphere, is about video self-communicating through modulations. The only information in the actual exhibit is whatever can be interacted with. 

Special Thanks:

Laura Maloney
Bill Breeser
Matthew Schery
Ellen Chernoff
Ian Hunter
Carl Lee
Mike Bouqard
Alex Reid
Paige Sarlin
Elaine Schwartz

Mark Shepard
Jason Gesitweidt
Dave Pape
Sama Waham
Famous Clark
Cort Lippe

Olurotimi Akanbi
András Blazsek
Tim Georger
Jesse Rodkin
Lewuga Benson
Alex Casetti
Bello Bello
Walker Tufts
Kelsey Rupe
Rachel Galet
Ana Lavatelli
Bill Sack
Bernard Dolecki
Jon Bolt
Salem Browning
Matt Kenyon
Peer Bode