Re: VJ art

From: Flick Harrison (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Dec 15 2008 - 15:28:49 PST

I think you completely misunderstood RSH's response.

That being said, you posted your VJ work on an experimental film group
and asked for thoughts and feedback. If you expected pure praise, you
came to the wrong place - post it on or somewhere.

I think your stuff has stirred up a good discussion. Take that as a

And just because you "put a lot of thought" into it doesn't make it
art. I could put a lot of thought into any activity.

Not to say it isn't art - but you're here on a critical theory /
avante-garde discussion group with university professors, lifelong
artists, etc; expect the criteria to be rigorous, varied, and

Perhaps you can contribute to the discussion, instead of / in addition
to further explosions of online VJ art.

And I'll throw in something more contentious...

The reason VJ art isn't as interesting (so far as my limited
experience) as experimental film was in its heyday -

1. well, 40-70 years ago, it was a physical feat to achieve these
kind of textures etc, now it's like a plug-in module on every new
computer. Who cares that someone has applied stock effects to
whatever imagery? Who cares that you pointed a camera at a bookshelf
for an hour? The ease of getting and using the tools reduces the
value of a cinematic shot almost to zero. The privileged position of
the film frame has been reduced absolutely. The religious devotion of
optical-printing for hours, days, years in a dark cave is a very
different thing than sitting on the beach with a laptop twiddling
inspectors and watching youtube during the renders.

2. The number of people VJ'ing is now so large, that it takes more
amazing work to rise above the slush, not to mention draw the
attention of critics and curators, who in any case probably encounter
it "in the wild" but don't have a niche for it in their programming

3. The types of people fooling around with this stuff way back when,
had access to tools and training in a more difficult environment. So
on one hand, folks who got their hands on it were necessarily more
dedicated, tapped in to the centres of activity, and likely to stick
with it long enough to make an impact in their scenes. On the other
hand, the types who did any of this work at all were probably more
tuned in to the specific aesthetics that drew them out of the crowd
and down the dark, narrow tunnel of avante-garde cinema - they were
cinematic ubermenschen. In the last ten years, I've seen some extreme
dilettantes make some fine quality film work, then wander away to
other endeavours. It's not that difficult to throw together a
production. I teach 6 year olds to make film (and guess what? The
first thing they jump at is the visual effects).

4. Experimental film isn't so cool as it once was either... for the
reasons listed above. Video installation probably usurped the social
role of experimental cinema through the 80's (new form, not
respected / established, moving imagery, manipulation of the dominant
media form, etc etc) and the cultural spotlight has since moved
waaaaaay on. Maybe VJ'ing gets to bask in some of the reflected glory
of all things "new media" but even new media is now being referred to
as "electronic media" etc because it's not really new. And so it goes.


On 15-Dec-08, at 2:27 PM, jaime cleeland wrote:

> Maybe Raymond Salvatore Harmon's slight snobbery would only see my
> efforts as mediocre. All the same feel free to have a play & cut-up
> with:
> --- On Mon, 15/12/08, Raymond Salvatore Harmon
> <email suppressed> wrote:
> From: Raymond Salvatore Harmon <email suppressed>
> Subject: Re: VJ art
> To: email suppressed
> Date: Monday, 15 December, 2008, 2:46 PM
> The question of VJing as an art form is something I think is going
> to be much
> more relevant to those filmmakers who express themselves in terms of
> experimental and non narrative cinema as time goes on. The thing is,
> like any
> kind of art there is going to be a lot of mediocrity and a few
> brilliant
> artists.
> James' statement that the film in question "looks like it could have
> been
> produced by a computer program" brings a lot of things up at once. I
> am
> sure it was produced using a computer program. But so are much of
> the films we
> watch today. Anything you watch on dvd used a computer program at
> some point.
> What will eventually separate the mediocre from the brilliant will
> be an ability
> to transcended the tools used in the creation of the piece in order
> to express
> something beyond the variables inherent in its production. But
> anyone who is
> familiar with the tools used in making a piece of art will see the
> signature of
> those tools in the majority of works created with those tools.
> VJing is a cultural phenomenon, linked most often to electronic
> dance music.
> But much the way that not all electronic music is dance music not
> all VJ work is
> the same.
> As for the longevity of VJing as an art form I think the term itself
> will be
> abandoned by artists who are looking to use this form of
> improvisational cinema
> outside of the realm of the club/dance world.
> But in its essence I feel that Vjing is exactly that, a form of
> improvisational
> cinema, which will certainly continue to grow and be developed as
> time goes on.
> The tools for making this kind of work are just now becoming
> available to a
> wider public, but the form of creating cinematic expression in a
> live context
> predates computers and video mixers by decades. Even contemporary
> filmmakers
> like Bruce McClure and Luis Recoder are making films in a live
> context. They are
> using film projectors and not video but the essence of the creative
> process is
> the same.
> Whether or not the "experimental film" community will embrace this
> kind of experimental video or not remains to be seen. Yet there are
> artists
> working in the field of the "VJ" that are pushing at the technological
> boundaries of the art form and attempting to make something that is
> in fact art.
> For two artists who (in my opinion) are working in the context of VJ
> art but
> whose work transcends the club/rave stigma look here:
> Karl Klomp
> Claudio Sinatti
> The one thing I have to ask though is how much more often the world
> is being
> exposed to VJ work (regardless of its quality) than it is to
> "experimental
> film" work? Thousands of kids jump around under the developing non
> narrative form of live video every weekend all around the globe. Yet
> screenings
> of some of the greatest artists of the avant garde and experimental
> film world
> are lucky to have 100 attendees. Obviously the context of
> presentation is much
> different but maybe its not the films being shown but that very
> context that
> gives VJs such a larger audience. Maybe we should be screening Smith
> and
> Brakhage films at raves instead of in tiny cinemas?
> Yours
> raymond Salvatore Harmon
> Date: Sat, 13 Dec 2008 16:07:56 -0500
> From: James Cole
> Subject: Re: Vj Art
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> It seems like there has been an uptick in VJ stuff around these parts
> lately, which raises some interesting questions about how VJ media
> relates
> to the more established forms of avant-garde cinema (although the
> use of the
> word "established" is pretty generous even in the cases of people
> like Deren
> and Brakhage; but that's a different discussion).
> I tend to not be very charitable in my appraisal of VJ media; for
> several
> reasons. Primarily, because it seems like it is mainly intended
> (indeed,
> best suited) to accompany electronic dance music; I can't see myself
> wanting
> to go into a cinema, sit as the lights go down, and watch two or
> three hours
> of VJ media. Furthermore, it doesn't seem to have much to do with
> cinema
> in
> general; the editing is very basic, repetitive, and usually not all
> that
> thoughtful. And the imagery is even worse than the editing, more
> often than
> not. The times I've seen VJ performances, the imagery seemed more
> like an
> extension of a club's usual strobe lights and fog machines; much more
> atmospheric than expressive. Maybe VJing is just bad in Boston?
> On the whole, though, when I hear the term "VJ art," it strikes me
> the way
> people talk about "video game art," or "sneaker art"
> It's obvious someone
> with a high level of skill made something that demonstrates their
> high level
> of skill, at times it's pretty aesthetically breathtaking, but it
> doesn't
> strike me as something that anyone will be, or ought to be,
> interested in a
> few years down the line.
> To be totally honest, the video that you sent looks like it could
> have been
> produced by a computer program; I can't read any thing into it, and I
> can't
> get anything from it. I'm not trying to be nasty; I'd really like to
> know
> how I'm supposed to approach something like that. It certainly
> resists the
> sort of approaches one would use at a film by Su Friedrich or Hollis
> Frampton or Ernie Gehr or whoever. Instead, I end up reading it as
> a type
> of decoration; Christmas lights for bad music, which is probably way
> too
> dismissive. At least, I'm sure isn't how people interested in VJ art
> would
> look at it. The fact that you're sort of asking for feedback
> suggests that
> you see it as more than that (after all, people who design Christmas
> lights
> probably don't have any desire to show their work and ask for
> feedback).
> So I'm asking you, and anyone else who wants to take up the
> question; what
> am I missing? How should I watch this? How does it fit in with the
> type of
> film this list usually discusses?
> -James
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For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.