From: Kevin Obsatz (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Jan 24 2007 - 08:44:30 PST
> Video art draws much more, I think, from television and cinema than
> experimental film. The level of media sophistication that people are
> absorbing from television and film is surprising (although I
> suppose it
> shouldn't be). I went to a screening of video made by language
> who had visited France. They were provided with cheap miniDV
> cameras and
> iMovie on laptops with which to create a video-based report. The
> and ingenuity of their cuts really stood out. I don't mean clever
> transitions but instead things like raising the (handheld) camera
> up from
> one's side as a transition into the shot, then lowering it at the end,
> then raising it again into the next shot. The effect was striking,
> especially from a language student who was mostly just trying to do a
> report on the architecture in Paris.
I think in previous generations, video art was difficult to watch
because it was often ugly and academic - for whatever reason,
"exploring the new medium" meant lots of locked-off wide shots, flat
lighting and blank walls.
(I haven't explored the topic in depth - this is mostly from what
I've seen in installations in museums like the Walker Art Center and
But the level of comfort with video that young people have (by young
I mean anyone younger than me - my family bought our first video
camera when I was about eight), with smaller cameras, and now iMovie
and YouTube, and the fact that they've grown up with this technology,
allows them especially to use it in exciting and novel ways.
I imagine it's a very similar evolution to what happened with film,
when the smaller formats evolved (16mm and super-8) - first it was
used by professionals (tv, news crews), then in a utilitarian but
independent way (documentaries, home movies) and finally as a tool
for creating very personal, intimate art.
I think that a lot of the disrespect for video comes from a failure
to treat it as a new form with its own unique potential. I have no
problem with people who simply prefer using film - I wouldn't argue
at all that video works as a replacement for film - but I think that,
just like oil vs. acrylic and marble vs. bronze debates of past ages,
the idea that terms like "experimental cinema" can only apply to
works originated on celluloid is totally specious. Painting is
painting, sculpture is sculpture, video MAY NOT be "film", but it
certainly can be "cinema".
> Structural issues that come from creating and editing digital video
> parallel those that arise from working with film. I think experimental
> filmmakers and experimental video artists (or a subset of both) are
> interested in exploring the structure of the media as it relates to
> work, including, perhaps especially, the glitch, the point at which
> illusion fails. In film this is particles on the film, scratches,
> film, burned film, bleached film, "rotted" film, etc. In video this
> the failure of the signal and the tape and now includes digital
> I-frame errors, encoded or scrambled video, dropped frames, stuttered
> playback, etc.
> However, in the case of film these glitches are the result of the
> physicality of the medium whereas in digital video it is errors in the
> information stream that result in the glitches. There is crossover, of
> course. You can cause physical destruction to digital media (e.g. the
> audio trio Oval scratching early CDs then playing them to produce new
> sounds) but digital media is much more sensitive and in handling and
> manipulating it you are as likely to utterly destroy your material
> as you
> are to produce something exciting.
I'm currently fascinated by compression - the blocky, abstract color
shapes that come from crushing video information into tiny files. On
YouTube this is usually just gross - mostly gray and muddy, due to
the Flash 7 format that they're using (I think).
But a lot of interesting things can be done with compression in
different formats - in Quicktime it can be very beautiful, and give
pieces with lots of color and movement an expressionist or cubist
There are also applications like "Jitter" that can be used to glitch
up video in all kinds of interesting ways, which can be automated or
finely adjusted by hand, as with an optical printer. These programs
also have lots of potential for live performance, where the image is
adjusted in real time and projected for an audience - a level of
control and precision that is light years ahead of the frame rate
knob on a 16mm projector.
> The manipulated reality that results from the intersection of
> digital art
> and video is (or is becoming) an alternate reality unrelated to the
> sleight of hand illusionism in experimental film and cinema. For me
> was underscored in watching Luke Lamborn's (http://lucidstraw.com/)
> Millimeter of Opportunity series while curating a video show. His
> slightly manipulated realities might be possible in film but they are
> based in the "reality" we expect when watching a video signal. They
> fully realized, experimental, digital video art that, I would
> argue, is
> not based on an experimental film tradition.
> Last thought: Should an experimental video artist know more about Stan
> Brakhage or Ernie Kovacs?
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.