Thursday, 9 June 2011

Subject D

An entry in the Glossary project

At the age of eleven, Nanneman spent one lunatic summer creating looped studies of himself engaged in mundane human behaviours (brushing his teeth, feeding the elephants), using an SVHS camera he had found apparently abandoned near a campsite outside Widnes. Each study was 24 minutes long but designed to loop indefinitely. The videos could play faster or slower so that, for example, a video of him brushing his teeth for 24 minutes real time could be slowed down for detailed observation, or sped up to correctly represent the average duration of the unvideoed process as timed twice daily over a period of 28 days: it could not, however, be trimmed or electronically spliced due to a lack of cables. His contemporaries (he later recalled) described Nanneman’s studies as "fascinating" and "very good", although it should be noted that they did not have regular access to other screen media, and that viewing the videos through the eyepiece of the camera must have accentuated an already vivid and exciting sense of illicitness.

The demands of such a pursuit were clearly in conflict with those of Nanneman’s rigorous training regime and, what with the project’s effect on the discipline of the circus’s younger members, it was only a matter of time before the camera was confiscated by the company’s deputy ringmaster. Nanneman promptly stole it back and continued his studies within the secure confines of a locked bathroom trailer until the camera suffered irreparable water damage, becoming useful thereafter only as an un-working anatomical model, which Nanneman speculatively reconfigured into a series of new recording devices which were, of course, equally un-working. Nanneman would later refer to his childhood studies regularly, particularly a sub-category of the work which involved extensive documentation of the behaviour and response patterns of a dog, by way of contextualising the results of his laboratory work at the city council. The identity of the dog remains unknown, Nanneman having only ever referred to him as ‘Subject D’.

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