Lydia Nsiah


Found Footage Film (Orig.F.: HD Video & 16mm Film, Screen.F.: 2K File/DCP), 4:3, Color, 8 min, 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, Film (Director, Camera, Editor, Production, Sound Recordings): Lydia Nsiah, Sound Design & Compositing: Hui Ye, Color Grading: Lichun Tseng, supported by the Federal Ministry of Austria, distributed by sixpackfilm, Arsenal & Lydia Nsiah, 2021

virtual spiral

Camera Tracking Machine by Lydia Nsiah, 110x48x75 cm (steel construction, power wheel and control box out of acryl)

vs 1 & vs 2

Transparency Films on Light Boxes, 60×45 cm each, frame grabs from vs

Images above: virtual spiral, Solo Show, Bildraum 01, Vienna (May 6–June 4, 2021), Photos by Eva Kelety & vs (Film), frame grab 3 by Lydia Nsiah, 2021

In my work vs (or virtual spiral) I deal with the dynamics between time and body in film. On digital video and non-reliable 16mm-film the processual of time and body is visually transformed by spiraling camera movements. Alongside the film body or the outdated emulsion of the filmstrip, the camera tracking shot and the figure of the spiral play key roles in the making of the work vs. Movement of time itself, its duration as well as the bodily of time or the timely of the body are approached in film artistic ways. Here, contrary movements, distance and proximity or depth and surface enter into a dialogue with each other. The spiral runs like a thread through the film vs and its reflections in the exhibition. For creating the spiraling effect I invented a camera tracking machine and shot in-studio, operating the movements of the camera live while recording. In the exhibition virtual spiral from time to time reperforms the body rhythm of the projected film work.

On screen we see Found Footage of data centers/ recordings of the physical bodies of our omnipresent and at the same time ephemeral data cloud. Due to a multi-part film recording process the two media video and 16mm-film interfere. The digital, the analogue, artefacts, (film) layers and translations culminate. Artist Hui Ye composed the film’s immersive sound space interacting with the hypnotic and spiraling data body images.

Thanks to Hui Ye (Sound), Adia Trischler (Exhibition Intro), Lichun Tseng (Color Grading), Claudia Slanar (Artist Talk), Sira-Zoé Schmid (Bildraum 01), Christoph Freidhöfer (Technical Support), Michael Abbrederis (Frame Light Boxes)


Images of buildings, strange architectural structures, in between vegetation and lots of blue sky: at first glance, it could be travel photos that Lydia Nsiah uses in the film vs. But the viewers’ eyes never arrive at the point of sorting out or more closely analyzing what they see: the images are accelerated, shifted, distorted, and blurred through a spiral rotation.

The artist designed and operated the technical apparatus for this. Recordings from server farms and data centers, which are the result of various translation processes between World Wide Web, expired 16mm films, and digital video, are sent into a metaphorical and literal maelstrom – becoming a mechanical eye that looks back and looks at us, the viewers. In return we look briefly into the abyss of the resource consumption that the server farms require to store millions and millions of bits and pixels.

Hui Ye’s composition processes the analogue and digital sounds of the multiple film recordings. A soundscape of layers and samples arises, which makes the film three-dimensional. The movement of the images, the spiral camera pan, is thus located between repetition and standstill, and becomes a seemingly eerie “impossibility.”

Like in earlier works, also in vs, Lydia Nsiah is concerned with recording and forgetting. What might a “body archive” (Julietta Singh) located in the sensorial look like? Who or what do data storage systems exclude? Can gaps be intentionally included in an archive? The strudel of images, the hypnotic sound of vs set the viewer’s entire body, not only the eye, in upheaval, in rapture, which deprives the subject of an ontological base. Arising through this “queering” of an established cinematographic human-machine connection is the possibility of a new, different way of dealing with memory, production of meaning, and ultimately cinema.

Translation: Lisa Rosenblatt



vs in “Highlights from the 2022 Berlinale Forum Expanded. Memorable images, moments, qualities, techniques and scenes from the Forum Expanded strand at the 2022 Berlinale” by Patrick Gamble on ALT/KINO:

The all seeing eye of big data in Lydia Nsiah’s VS

Revelling in our modern anxieties about the internet, Lydia Nsiah’s “virtual spiral” considers the psychological implications of the data gold-rush. A kaleidoscopic assault of 16mm footage of server farms and data centres transformed by a spiralling camera designed and operated by Nsiah, these geometric images hit the viewer at a prodigious rate, creating a disorienting effect that feels febrile and vaguely belligerent. We happily upload our photos and life updates to social media, oblivious to how everything we do online is recorded, collated, and commodified, but how would we feel if we could see the internet staring back at us? The screen quivers in a blur of coalescing lines and, just as you begin to realise your participation might be feeding this machine it’s too late; you’re already in its sights!