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Video Feedback

A video camera is pointed at its own playback video monitor.

In Short

This video feedback installation reveals self-organization and complex patterns, mimicking nature’s designs. Utilizing a camera’s self-capture, it mirrors optical feedback akin to looking between mirrors or laser cavities, producing mesmerizing fractals. With artistic and scientific applications, this concept remains endlessly intriguing.

Details and Theory

This simple video feedback installation showcases a self-referencing system which can exhibit interesting behaviours. Here coupling a system with itself leads to self-organization and complex phenomena like pattern formation. Some patterns in nature like the stripes of zebras or the dots of leopards have the are discribed by the same mathematical principles called reaction-diffusion equations (Turing Pattern).

Video feedback is the process that starts and continues, when a video camera is pointed at its own playback video monitor. Many artists have used optical feedback effects, for example Queen in their music video for “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975). The effect (in the simplest case) can be compared to looking at oneself between two mirrors. Video feedback is actually just one particular example of optical feedback. The perhaps most obvious example of optical feedback in science is an optical cavity, which can be found in almost every laser. An optical cavity typically consists of two mirrors facing each other, therefore light can be captured in between. In the late 1990s it was found, that so-called unstable-cavity lasers produce light beams whose cross-section show a fractal pattern. Similar fractals can easily be visualized using this setup.