Final Act: Artist Photographs CRT Televisions Turning Off

Stephan Tillmans, a Berlin-based artist, recently set to work capturing television screens the exact second they had been turned off. Each abstract system, according to Ignant, a German design, art and photography blog, is like a fingerprint. Unique to the moment of release, the duration of exposure and the device type, each of Tillmans' photographs is one-of-a-kind.

"The television picture is no longer visible -- instead, a structure of light, which in a fraction of a second, disappears in the picture tube and collapses," Tillmans explains on his personal website. (Roughly translated from German with the help of Google.) "The TV image is abstracted in this process and reduced to its essential element: the light."

Still found in televisions that haven't been replaced by newer (and slimmer) LCD screens, the cathode ray tube (CRT) technology necessary for this photography project has been around for more than 110 years. Also used in computer monitors, video camera, radar displays and more, cathode ray tubes are modified vacuum tubes in which images are produced by electron beams hitting a phosphorescent surface. In modern tubes, multiple beams of electrons are used to display millions of diferent colors.

Called "Leuchtpunktordnungen," Tillmans' work will be displayed in Stuttgart beginning Thursday, March 24, before moving to Washington, D.C.'s Goethe Institute in June.

All images copyright Stephan Tillmans. H/T @andrewcprice.

Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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