Video art or any kind of experimental cinema has the tendency to be daunting, even intimidating to viewers who aren’t accustomed to not having a storyline to follow, and merely letting eyes dart back and forth over flashing images. Granted, I was one of those viewers, desperately trying to find any kind of book that would give me insight into what this was. Who were the people that created these works seemingly geared toward no one? Why do they do they do what they do? What do they see in their creations? It took some time before I realized that there was nothing to panic over, at least not for the time being. Experimental cinema serves its purpose as a way for filmmakers and video artists to be free to follow their own ideas and instincts. They’re not bound by a story and can make their points through whatever they come up with, be it a 10-second shot of an ugly plant or zooming through a fast-melting city. And there seems to be two ways to follow this. The first way is to try to understand what the filmmaker is saying in his or her piece. “Reline” gives information in individual menus about the works and that’s incredibly fortunate. The second way is to look inward. What does this piece mean to you? What do you see in it? Is there something about it that resembles a part of life that perplexes you?
These works by various individuals vary wildly in their attempts to say whatever it is they want to say. It is extremely interesting but at the same time, some pieces are incredibly frustrating, almost feeling like a waste of time.
“Niosumed” by Mordka, is strange and yet intriguing in its animation, which looks like metal intestines. They react to the music, which is the usual techno beat, and bounce this way and that, sometimes moving crazily. Sometimes, they seem like the business end of horns and trumpets.
“mregh-u-lines” by Chris Musgrave is a fascinating piece. The object moving around looks like a blank sheet of drawing paper, and it moves calmly, leaving light white trails behind it which eventually disappear. To me, this symbolizes the time before the Internet burst onto the scene, when books were still physically held as opposed to being clicked through on PDAs. There is a burst of white light and the paper becomes digital, dancing around faster and faster, and now leaving trails that are at first orange and then deep red, and then completely disappear. Right there is the burst of the Internet and the speed of the now digital paper shows how fast tasks can be accomplished with the click of a mouse, the clack of a keyboard, and the printing out of documents or departure of e-mails. My favorite part about this piece comes at the end where the paper returns to its original, soft form and becomes an office temp’s nightmare. The shadows that the paper left the first time that eventually fade, now look like papers that are quickly being collected after having fallen to the floor. What makes it look like an office temp’s nightmare is that more papers appear.
“ok.town re.work” by Scott Pagano, focuses on the city beyond what it already is. He’s filmed buildings found in Oakland, California and considers them with different colors, giving the feel of some sort of crazy music video, complete with quick editing. It goes on a little longer than it should because by the three minute mark, the point is already made.
“The Shadow of Digital Living” by Phoenix Perry presents something I never knew of: Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) which damages nerves, tendons, muscles, and other soft body tissue, depending on the type of work that an individual does. In terms of using a computer, injuries can occur to hands with typing (but only if you do it for an extended period of time) and mouse clicking. Perry was all over computers. She had found her Mecca, finding a rebirth of herself through technology. She was addicted to Atari, like many were, and soon found a lot of to-do with computers which she got involved in. During her junior year in college, she was introduced to the Internet and that was it. Long hours were spent sending e-mails, and finding people like herself. She also focuses on the dot-com boom that brought her to San Francisco, and before you know it, she literally couldn’t move at all. RSI had gotten to her and because of that, she also had to cut her long hair which had become so knotted that it was impossible to comb. Perry presents a convincing cautionary tale to computer junkies that love anything and everything about computers.
Now we come to “Seed()”. That seems to be the name this “artist” goes by because there’s no title to this mess of a work. On-screen text explains that a plant has hacked into a human’s biofeedback system and what we are about to see is the product of the plant. Yes, a plant. Since this piece is slop, I guess I should blame it on the plant. Heck, that’s a great idea for anyone. If your day is s**t, and the boss is angry about a deadline you missed, blame it on the flower bouquet that your lover sent! There’s some engaging footage in the form of bugs crawling all over a leafy plant. However, the camera’s shifty focus is a distraction and doesn’t help this at all. Plus, this runs for 23 minutes! The constant beeping and booping of fax machines, phones, and other devices are looped over and over again, with the same footage being no help, save for drawings that show the roots of a plant extending outward to incredible lengths. Other than that, there’s not much else.
“point.sys” by Devan Simunovich is full of yellow circles, traveling in a straight line, with one side of the screen going through some distortion. It’s ok work.
“Alien_Fury” by Solu shows a dark figure, probably an alien standing right in the middle, against a slightly pixelized white background. Soon, many colors are dumped into the mix until it all becomes a blur and a really cool blur at that.
Remember the documentary “Genghis Blues” about throat singers? “77.012.mov” by [spit] (surprisingly, that’s what this person or group of people are credited as). There’s a shot of a throat singer in here, in which the main message seems to be about pollution of some sort as a seagull is shown walking towards the ocean, followed by a shot of an oil drum, a quick shot of a man talking about something, and that’s about all I followed.
“Film Me” by Sue & The Musorkians has shots of film winding around itself, while being let down slowly into a circular pile. Perhaps it signals the death of film in favor of digital production, but film will never die as long as there are people that keep using celluloid as their canvas. Digital productions, through cameras and computers, have merely given more people the opportunity to create what they want. It also serves as good footage showing the beauty in a pile of celluloid.
“03-18-2002/Radical Medicate” by David Tinapple shows the pattern found in medicine commercials in how many of them are geared toward women. Bits of commercials for Advair, Ambien, Imitrex, and Zyrtec are shown in a bent “L” formation and slide down into a distorted end. The commercials are repeated in order to make the point about those patterns and it seems fairly apparent after three times. Nevertheless, it makes a valid point not readily noticed in those commercials that is if you don’t watch them one after the other.
“Reline” does a fairly decent job of showing a tiny percentage of the video artists working tirelessly on their projects, with a few potholes along the way. For a future release however, accompanying audio commentaries might be useful if only to hear from the video artists about how they became interested in their craft, why they dabble in the topics they do, and where they find inspiration. This is a release that may not find its audience so quickly, but it’s there for anyone who’s curious and wishes to expand their visual horizons.