Museum Ludwig Cologne Germany: PAL oder Never The Same Color


Video installation
Video wall with 25 monitors
5:40 min., color, sound
Production on U-matic-Low-Band und Betacam
Music: Uwe Wiesemann, Gerhard Zilligen
Camera: Stephan Simon
Edit: Martina Kaimeier
Studio technicus: Robby Gross
Assistant prop master: Hari Hoffmann
Research: Kati Hötger
Assistant editor: Beate Petersen
Produced by Museum Ludwig Cologne, Germany

2018 Technical reconstruction of the video wall by MIT List Visual Arts Center Cambridge/USA

The video installation is a work about cultural and technological color systems.

PAL oder Never the Same Color was commissioned by the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. It was first presented in 1988, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the introduction of the PAL (Phase Alternating Line) color-encoding system to the European Broadcasting Union. PAL is the system used to standardize color broadcasting in Europe (as well as in Australia and much of Asia, Africa, and South America), developed for analog television. NTSC, an acronym for the National Television System Committee but mockingly dubbed “Never The Same Color,” is the competing standard in North America. PAL was developed in Europe in an effort to remedy NTSC’s shortcomings, while NTSC, the inferior system, remains the norm in the United States.

PAL oder Never the Same Color consists of twenty-five monitors arranged in a grid, with one TV set removed from the matrix and set aside. The monitors construct a wall in a manner reminiscent of bricks or pixels composing an image. Looped on the monitors is historic television footage designed to test color, including a host who presents herself in PAL and then NTSC to illustrate the difference. Also featured is a German logo that signaled a color broadcast (at a time when black-and-white was still standard) reading IN FARBE (in color). The video cuts to a more familiar color-bar test, and proceeds to individually test the electronic primary colors of television (red, green, and blue). For instance, a “B” for blue appears alongside footage of a sky, a blue rose, and finally, a standard blue screen. Not only, then, does the work nod to different technological systems for calibrating color across cultures, but also their differing symbolic referents. The blue flower, for instance, would be widely recognized as the Blue Flower of Romanticism in Germany.