original VJs

From: David Tetzlaff (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Dec 16 2008 - 07:09:58 PST

> On the other hand, when I hear the term VJ, I think of Martha
> Quinn, Adam
> Curry, Nina whatever her name was, and the other original MTV guy
> who looked
> kinda like Epstein from Welcome Back Kotter.

That was Mark Goodman, who's still on VH1 Classic now and then. It
was Nina Blackwood. Curry was not one of the original VJs, and you've
left out Alan Hunter and J.J. Jackson.

When MTV went on air, there weren't that many music videos available,
and so they aired anything they could get, including works by more
obscure avant garde groups whose visuals were influenced by
experimental films in a not merely cannibalistic way. I remember
seeing the Residents 'Minute Movies' by Graerme Whiffler several
times in those days. On one hand, to get back to the VJ debate here,
you could say it all just ran into the flow, but to me the Eyeballs
were just so darn wierd that it interrupted the otherwise random
stream and stuck out.

Using video clips in an improvisational manner to provide some kind
of visual analog to a non-stop stream of techno-beat at a rave may be
an art form, but its not cinema. It's basically a Joshua light show,
rebooted for the new millenium. However, there's no requirement for
serious cinematic art that the audience sit passively in quiet
reverence, though that may indeed be best for some specific works.
What makes something cinema is a conscious choice to put a specific
sound (including silence) with a specific image, wiithin some
boundary of when the work begins and ends. This may have an element
of arbitrariness or randomness (films shown with different wild
tracks at different times). A classic example would be Christmas on
Earth, for which Barbara Rubin instructs the projections to tune a
radio to a top 40 AM station to provide the maximum "psychic tumult".
The instructions for Christmas on Earth also require the
projectionist to pass a variety of colored gels in front of the lens.
When I've shown the film to students, I have them take turns
manipulating the gels. The result looks something like a happening:
people moving around the theater as loud rock music plays
accompanying colorful dizzyingly distorted and/or irreverent images.
But it's still cinema because its a defined audio-visual work,
centered on moving images. It may be a party but the work IS the
party, not merely a disposable accessory, a substiitute for a strobe
light. (OK, spare the comments about The Flicker, Arnulf Rainer
Serene Velocity and the whole Sharits catalog...)

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.