NEC XM2950It all started at SPUR Studios when Chris Sandon and Martin Thoburn were pondering some old 27″ industrial video monitors Chris had acquired from an aging A/V studio.  These antiquated things were heavy, stackable, and at one time top-of-the-line multimedia displays for trade shows.  Most people would consider such a monitor worthless today, yet the NEC XM2950 once retailed for over $3,000 in the mid 90′s.  Nowadays, these old Multi-Sync displays are coveted by a handful of arcade game enthusiasts who like the high-XGA resolutions and horizontal sync rate that supports 15KHz, and of course, the analog video tube that is essential for an authentic look.  Essentially, it’s a TV that will take any video signal thrown at it.

Chris had the idea to use the monitors for a video version of the surrealist game exquisite corpse.  We decided to give it a try, and soon discovered one of the monitors was not working due to water damage.  Every local TV repair shop refused to work on the TV, saying it was too complicated or expensive to fix. Even locating a repair manual proved impossible, and NEC had long given up servicing this model.

These TVs were too cool to let go to waste, and our concept had to be realized.  Thus, the search was on.  Where could we find a replacement?  The task was not so easy, but after weeks of searching the Internet we discovered an A/V rentals house in Minneapolis with four of these monitors in stock.  Staff there were more than happy to sell them to us for a reasonable price.  We discovered quickly, however, it would cost more to ship the 120-pound giants than they were worth. We decided there was only one thing to do: road trip!

The 1300-mile road trip was set.  The folks at the A/V rentals house were baffled by our resolve, but were more than happy to unload the TVs from their inventory. Most likely, they had not been used in years.  When we arrived we could barely fit all four units into a large hatchback station wagon and had to abandon their original shipping containers.

Though the exquisite corpse concept remained untested and vague at the time, the challenge of utilizing the monitors proved inspiring.  Time on the road provided  an opportunity to discuss the project concept and develop a strong vision.  Ideas for content and logistics of the video shoot started to come together. A new collaboration was born.

UPDATE: Since the Twin Cities expedition, the project has come to be known as Exquisite Motion Corpse and has been awarded a Motion Capture Prize by the Drematrix Studio in Dresden, Germany. In addition, it’s been featured at the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival as part of its 50 Screens Project.