jərˈmān: Experiments in Reductive Video by Steven H Silberg

Welcome to the March installment of jərˈmān. This month we have a couple of video pieces from a larger video project, Experiments in Reductive Video, by artist Steven H Silberg. These pieces treat the video screen as a material, sculptural object, rubbing away the excess information of a video until the viewer is left with a minimalist, meditative TRACE. There is a spiritual reality beneath the build up of the video screen and that spiritual reality is pure movement. Enjoy these two reductive videos and find more information about the work and the artist below.

Reductive Video Project 2: Experiments in Reductive Video (Landscape Studies)

Cape Neddick, Maine - August 2007 from Steven H Silberg on Vimeo.

Title: “Cape Neddick, Maine - August 2007” TRT: 4:45 (looping)

In Reductive Video, each frame of video is analyzed with the previous. Each frame is then reduced to only the advancing (or new) pixels. By displaying only the new pixels, the video itself is reduced to only the important elements needed to describe movement.

Reductive Video Project 3: Experiments in Reductive Video (Location Studies)

Baltimore Light Rail - Mount Royal Station - November 2009 from Steven H Silberg on Vimeo.

Title: “Baltimore Light Rail, Mount Royal Station – November 2009” TRT: 0:25 (looping)

Inspired by the Lumiere Brothers’ “The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station (1895)”


Experiments in Reductive Video (2009-present)

As television broadcast has moved to digital, we have seen the increased presence of glitches in our programming. Videos freeze and as the programming resumes, we become privy to the inner workings of the process of how the image is stored and transmitted. Movement and color shift are rendered as changes rather than wholly new images.

As we begin to store and record information, we have always chosen to fracture it. As one looks to the locomotion studies of Muybridge, we see a fracturing of movement into individual frames, revealing the elements of movement. But movement has form when we move beyond individual images. The glitches that we see as digital video recovers from a paused broadcast reveal the form of what is to come. The history of long exposure photography shows that motion can become shape – whether through the techniques of painting with light, as one sees with the Picasso images of Life magazine or in Nancy Breslin’s pinhole “Square Meals.” Marey similarly chose to show the form of movement over time in a single still image.

This body of work entitled “Reductive Video” borrows the choice to depict changes in movement (either as individual frames or wholly contained in a single image) and applies it to the technical rendering of images. Using custom software written in Max/MSP/Jitter, video is broken down to reveal only the pixels that change from frame to frame, no longer implying form, but instead the shape of what has changed from the previous frame. Resequenced as video, the individual frames become reminiscent of Muybridge’s silhouetted running horse. These individual frames are also layered to become a single image, showing changes in shape, reminiscent of Marey’s use of while lines on soldier’s uniforms – depicting a “wire frame” of physical movement.


Steven H Silberg is an image-influenced, pixel-based cross media artist with a background ranging 
from photography to book conservation. Working in print, video, and interactive installation, he engages "new media" as a literalist. For him, the pixel and structure of the digital image is as important as the composition and content. By highlighting the construction of the image, Silberg allows his viewers to both engage the work visually and engage with the technology creating it.

Created in Baltimore, his work has been enjoyed regionally, at venues including Baltimore’s ArtScape, the University of Maryland, and the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts; nationally, at the University of Texas, Dallas, Missouri State University and Orange Coast College in California; and internationally at the Third Beijing International New Media Arts Exhibition and Symposium. Silberg was selected as the Winner of the Washington Post's 2010 Real Art DC competition and selected as a 2012 Semi-Finalist for the Bethesda Trawick Prize.

Find more pieces from the Reductive Video series here and more by Silberg here.