One minute video, recorded, onto the end of a VHS film rented from a video store, local to the exhibiting venue and then returned to that store.
Neither the Flasher sequence nor its illegal representation on the ‘host’ VHS would be exhibited; it could only be viewed by chance if someone happened to rent the video from the video store after Chodzko had recorded the Flasher onto it. However, this remote and elusive presence ‘elsewhere’ would be accompanied by the following documentation within the gallery:
10” x 12” photograph,
drawn ‘contract’, ink and contiboard
The Flashers became a series of 27 x flasher events, recorded at different international locations between 1996-2006, and were distributed across video stores in the UK, but also internationally, including Belgium, Atlanta USA, Turin, and Athens.
Wording for the contract for Flasher:
I’ve recorded some video footage – a Flasher – onto the end of a feature film that I rented from a video shop not far from here.
I then returned the tape to the video store so that the next person to hire the film might leave it running, and so could discover my signal. There are now lots of different Flashers in circulation, inadvertently distributed through video shops around the world.
I only record onto the section of surplus black tape that doesn’t carry any image, a few seconds after the credits finish. I film footage of marine red distress-signal flares, which illuminate a dark environment for about 60 seconds. So, this secretes an intensely bright sequence into that black space; and when the flare burns out, the tape returns to darkness.
Excerpts from an interview with Sean Ashton for an article for Map Magazine, 2010.
S.A: I’m writing an article about ’embedded’ art, and I’d be very grateful if you could answer some technical questions I have about your work Flasher.
A.C: I like the term ‘embedded’ and use it a lot in relation to my practice. Particularly when it involves the hiding, or secreting of a collection of knowledge within an existing system, whether it is the burial of an archive, the writing of a legal contract, the placing of a small advert in a classified ads paper etc. With this process is always a lingering sense that the embedding is so much in the ‘wrong’ place it is very close to a ‘losing’. It becomes more deeply embedded, more vulnerable and yet by virtue of its out-of-place-ness also becomes more apparent.
I also link ‘embedding’ with a kind of ‘anchoring’ – that the point of embedding creates an umbilical link or root between an idea of the real and the imaginary.
S.A: As I understand it, the work involves you recording a sequence that you have filmed at night onto the ends of VHS cassettes rented from video stores close to a venue at which you are exhibiting. The tape is then placed back in the store. My first question is, What has become of these cassettes? Because everything is now on DVD, I assume they are no longer in circulation and are thus unavailable for unsuspecting punters to come across by accident?
A.C: Yes, indeed. The technology changed. And I can’t do it to DVD’s! Well, I could, but it involves a much more complicated pirating which loses for me the great economy of time and money inherent in process of making the VHS Flashers. (Flashers are meant to be quick and opportunistic. I partly make them as a relief from a sticking point in the midst of making more ‘elaborate’ works). Although at present I’m not totally happy with the outcome I have done some equivalent processes uploading tampered with music and video through peer-to-peer networks. But the illicit nature of those sites means the alterations are much more expected. Although, having said that, I have rarely stumbled across other people playing with these systems much…
…Flashers began around 1996, as a follow-on from the Secretors (1992 -) a sculptural gallery-based series that ran before them, and the Transmitters (1991 -), adverts secreted into Loot classified advertisements paper. Moon Stealing (1994-) also used a system of illegal recording in cinemas and is almost an inversion of Flashers.
…The smoke is pretty toxic so in order to find darkness and open air I’d do these Flashers in those odd bits of litter strewn scrubland dotted around cities that people (‘strange men’) use for ‘odd activities.’ Usually, I had little plan as to what to do, so initially at least, when the flare exploded into red light I’d often just run around with it excitedly or I’d stare wistfully at a plant. They were simple efforts to illuminate a dark space for around 60 seconds; it didn’t really matter what was there. Yet, they ended up being usually pretty wonderful looking, despite my awkward loitering. When the flare burned out the space would return to darkness. I’d then record this sequence, anonymously, onto the end of a VHS feature film rented from a video store, choosing the bit of surplus black tape after the credits finished. Anyone who happened to rent that film and leave the tape running after it had ended would suddenly see this bright red 60 seconds of activity.
It was mostly pretty arbitrary the choice of film. Usually something I happened to want to watch. Each Flasher usually ended up on more than one VHS film.
For instance in 1998 Flasher no.5 went to on these tapes.
(1) “Black Narcissus,” (Powell/Pressburger), video store, Soho, London.
(2) “3 Women,” (Robert Altman), video store, Ambleside, Cumbria.
(3) “Shivers,” (David Cronenburg), video store, Sheffield.
(4) “The Barefoot Kid,” (Johnny To), video store, Brixton, London.
(5) “Fearless,” (Peter Weir), video store, Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, USA.
(6) “Where the Green Ants Dream,” (Werner Herzog), video store, Sheffield.
I made a contract, which a few collectors bought, which laid out the terms for the work, where I’d add a Flasher to a film in a video store near to where they lived. They’d theoretically ‘own’ this sequence but couldn’t possess it. I wanted to undermine ideas of ownership and possession in relation to objects; That what you owned was only the knowledge that a Flasher was on eg “The Colour of Pomegranates” at your local VHS rental store. If you went to watch it someone else might have rented it.
The act of making these works became, for me, about illicitly incorporating this fleeting image of a three dimensional space into this limited back-stage area of two dimensions; the post climactic, post credits ‘extra’ metre or so of tape on a VHS, and performing this action in people’s living rooms, probably whilst they’d popped off to the kitchen to get a snack.