Martha Rosler: “Semiotics of the Kitchen” (1975)

Semiotics of the Kitchen adopts the form of a parodic cooking demonstration in which, Rosler states, “An anti-Julia Child replaces the domesticated ‘meaning’ of tools with a lexicon of rage and frustration.” In this performance-based work, a static camera is focused on a woman in a kitchen. On a counter before her are a variety of utensils, each of which she picks up, names and proceeds to demonstrate, but with gestures that depart from the normal uses of the tool. In an ironic grammatology of sound and gesture, the woman and her implements enter and transgress the familiar system of everyday kitchen meanings — the securely understood signs of domestic industry and food production erupt into anger and violence. In this alphabet of kitchen implements, states Rosler, “when the woman speaks, she names her own oppression.”

Electronic Arts Intermix
http://www.eai.org

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Joan Jonas • Vertical Roll

In this well-known early tape, Jonas manipulates the grammar of the camera to create the sense of a grossly disturbed physical space. The space functions as a metaphor for the unstable identity of the costumed and masked female figure roaming the screen, negotiating the rolling barrier of the screen’s bottom edge. “[Making] use of a jarring rhythmic technique to develop a sense of fragmentation, Vertical Roll uses a common television set malfunction of the same name to establish a constantly shifting stage for the actions that relate both to the nature of the image and to the artist’s projected psychological state.”

—David Ross, “Joan Jonas’s Videotapes” in Joan Jonas: Scripts and Descriptions, 1968-1982, ed. Douglas Crimp (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983)

see also disturbances on vdb.org

Hollis Frampton • (nostalgia), 1971

“In (nostalgia), Frampton is clearly working with the experience of cinematic temporality. The major structural strategy is a disjunction between sound and image. We see a series of still photographs, most of them taken by Frampton, slowly burning one at a time on a hotplate. On the soundtrack, we hear Frampton’s comments and reminiscences about the photographs. As we watch each photograph burn, we hear the reminiscence pertaining to the following photograph. The sound and image are on two different time schedules. At any moment, we are listening to a commentary about a photograph that we shall be seeing in the future and looking at a photograph that we have just heard about. We are pulled between anticipation and memory. The nature of the commentary reinforces the complexity; it arouses our sense of anticipation by referring to the future; it also reminisces about the past, about the time and conditions under which the photographs were made. The double time sense results in a complex, rich experience.” – Bill Simon

David Hall


David Hall – TV Interruptions: Tap piece (full version) 1971
Conceived and made specifically for broadcast, these were transmitted by Scottish TV during the Edinburgh Festival. The idea of inserting them as interruptions to regular programmes was crucial and a major influence on their content. That they appeared unannounced, with no titles, was essential.. These transmissions were a surprise, a mystery. No explanations, no excuses.

‘A single figure dominates the beginnings of video art in Britain – David Hall.. and his early experiments with broadcast television are unique. Not only are many of his video pieces classics.. but he has made important and often brilliant contributions to experimental film, installation and sculpture. A successful sculptor in the ‘new generation’ school of the 1960s.. he turned his attention to the less tangible media of photography, film and video. A founding member of the video art movement here in the early 1970s, Hall was an influential activist on behalf of the infant art form…’ (2)

david-hall-end-piece-ambika-p3-04
Entitled ‘1001 TV Sets (End Piece)’, 1972-2012,’ this work by video art pioneer David Hall at London’s Ambika P3 features over 1,000 TV sets, all tuned to random terrestrial stations.

David Hall (b. 1937) was awarded first prize for sculpture at the Biennale de Paris in 1965 and took part in other key shows including Primary Structures, New York in 1966 which marked the beginning of Minimalist art. Soon he was using photography, film and video to make single screen and installation work and exhibiting internationally at many venues including Documenta Kassel, Tate Gallery London, Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, National Museum Reina Sofia Madrid and the Museum of Modern Art Vienna.

His first television interventions appeared on Scottish TV in 1971 and his first video installation was shown in London in 1972. He participated in forming the Artist Placement Group with John Latham and others in 1966; was co-organiser of The Video Show (first major international show of artists’ video in the UK) at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 1975; and was co-curator of the first video installations exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London in 1976. In the same year he initiated and was a founder of the artists’ organisation London Video Arts (now part of Lux, London).

Appointed Honorary Professor at Dundee University in 2003 he has taught at the Royal College of Art, St Martin’s School of Art, Chelsea College of Art, San Francisco Art Institute, Nova Scotia College of Art and many others. He introduced the term ‘time-based media’ through his writings, and created the first time-based art degree option with emphasis on video at Maidstone College of Art, Kent in 1972 (now University for the Creative Arts). He has made work for broadcast by, among others, BBC TV, Channel 4 TV, Scottish TV, Canal+ TV and MTV.

david-hall-end-piece-ambika-p3-01
A walk around the lovely Morden Hall Park, south London

‘In 1971 David Hall made ten TV Interruptions for Scottish Television which were broadcast, unannounced, in August and September of that year (a selection of seven of the ten was later issued as 7 TV Pieces). These, his first works for television, are examples of what television interventions, as they came to be known, can be. Although a number of interventions have subsequently been made by various artists, the 7 TV Pieces have not been surpassed, except by Hall himself in This is a Television Receiver for BBC TV in 1976, and Stooky Bill TV for Channel 4 TV in 1990…’ (3)

‘These works have come to be regarded as the first example of British artists’ television and as an equally formative moment in British video art…’ (4)

‘For [Hall].. the video medium was an unexplored territory for artists, its codes yet uncracked. He argued that video art was integral to television and not just its technical by-product. TV – and its subversion – was where video’s vital core was located, well beyond the ghettos of film co-ops, arts labs and art galleries. This view opened an unusual space, somewhere between high art formalism (which it resembled) and the mass arts (which it didn’t). Anti-aesthetic and anti-populist – conceptual art with a looser, dada streak…’ (5)

A Situation Envisaged: The Rite II (Cultural Eclipse), video installation 1988/1990
‘The installations of David Hall.. along with many of his videotapes, have concentrated upon the physical reality of TV as a site of exchange, a creator of illusion, a channel of information, or what Baudrillard terms ‘a screen of ecstatic refraction’. In several of his [later] installations Hall has presented the viewer only with the back of the television sets.. In these works we are simultaneously denied the pleasure of looking at a TV screen, given another view of television, literally the view we never choose to look at, and reminded of the fact that television conceals as much as, or more than, it reveals…’ (6)

‘The question was that of knowing how to introduce resistance into this cultural industry. I believe that the only line to follow is to produce programmes for TV, or whatever, which produce in the viewer.. an effect of uncertainty and trouble. It seems to me that the thing to aim at is a certain sort of feeling or sentiment. You can’t introduce concepts, you can’t produce argumentation. This type of media isn’t the place for that, but you can produce a feeling of disturbance, in the hope that this disturbance will be followed by reflection. I think that that’s the only thing one can say, and obviously it’s up to every artist to decide by what means s/he thinks s/he can produce this disturbance…’ (7)

References
1. Sean Cubitt, Greyscale Video and the Shift to Colour, Art Journal, Fall 2006.
2. Michael O’Pray, Monthly Film Bulletin, British Film Institute, February 1988, and A Directory of British Film and Video Artists, ed. David Curtis, Arts Council of England 1996.
3. Nicky Hamlyn, Coil magazine 9/10, London 2000.
4. Chronology, Diverse Practices: A Critical Reader on British Video Art, ed. Julia Knight, Arts Council of England 1996.
5. A L Rees, Stephen Partridge catalogue, University of Dundee 1999.
6. Jeremy Welsh, Video Positive catalogue, Tate Gallery Liverpool, Moviola 1991.
7. Jean-François Lyotard, Brief Reflections on Popular Culture, Institute of Contemporary Arts Documents 4, London, 1986.

http://www.davidhallart.com

Nam June Paik

Nam June Paik’s “Electronic Superhighway”

Rediscovering Paik: A Chat With Smithsonian Curator John G. Hanhardt
Posted by John Anderson on Mar. 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Given the recent opening of an exhibition of Nam June Paik’s work at the National Gallery of Art, as well as the long-term commitment to media art the Smithsonian American Art Museum has made its Watch This! exhibition, I thought now would be a good time to talk with SAAM’s senior curator for media arts, John G. Hanhardt, about the Nam June Paik archives. SAAM acquired the archives in 2009 and plans to dedicate an exhibition to them next year. We discussed the institution’s commitment to Paik and the history of the moving image, the difficulties of presenting media art, and the upcoming show.

Washington City Paper: Since a personal relationship often springs from a professional relationship, how well did you know Paik?

John Hanhardt: I knew him very well from the early 1970s, and I was privileged to be engaged in his work and to include his work in numerous exhibitions. I traveled with him to Germany where he introduced me to many of his colleagues and friends. I would visit him and his wife, Shigeko [Kubota], in his loft and studio. We were in active personal communication and spent time together. After his stroke I visited him very shortly thereafter in the hospital, and flew down to Miami, frequently, to see him. I spent time with him regularly until the end. A lot of our conversations were about projects, because he was always working on things: whether it was developing a satellite television project, or a video tape, or a sculpture. Some of those projects were discussed because I was involved in them as a curator and some of those things we discussed were because he wanted me to know about them.

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Stan Brakhage


Stan Brakhage, “Mothlight” (1963)

Stan Brakhage
American filmmaker who brought a unique eye to his craft
Ronald Bergan
Friday 14 March 2003 21.23 EST

Those who consider cinema a narrative art form, and believe that films should have a beginning, a middle and an end – in that order – will have problems with the work of Stan Brakhage, who has died aged 70. His films were difficult also for those not willing to shed the conventionalised illusion, imposed by rules of perspective, compositional logic and “lenses grounded to achieve 19th-century compositional perspective”.

For Brakhage, the goal of cinema was the liberation of the eye itself, the creation of an act of seeing, previously unimagined and undefined by conventions of representation, an eye as natural and unprejudiced as that of a cat, a bee or an infant. There were few filmmakers – film director is too limiting a description – who went so far to train audiences to see differently.

“Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective,” he wrote in Metaphors On Vision, first published in the journal Film Culture in 1963, “an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception.

“How many colours are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of ‘green’? How many rainbows can light create for the untutored eye? Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible objects, and shimmering with an endless variety of movement and innumerable gradations of colour. Imagine a world before the ‘beginning was the word’.”

To a large extent, Brakhage realised this innocent world in his films, restrictively labelled avant-garde or experimental, existing in a parallel universe to the multiplex ethos. His signature was as figurative as it was literal – he would scratch his initials directly on the film’s emulsion at the end credits. Like a painter or sculptor, he worked manually on his material, often scratching, dyeing and altering the celluloid itself, making today’s push-button digital technology anathema to him.

He would hand-paint blank frames of 16mm film, and glue objects to them in a collage. In Mothlight (1963), for example, he pasted moth wings on to strips of film and, when projected, the bright light seemed to bring the insects back to life.

Brakhage was born Robert Sanders in a Kansas City orphanage, and adopted two weeks later by Ludwig and Clara Brakhage, who named him James Stanley. He performed on radio as a boy soprano, attended high school in Denver, Colorado, and, at 19, dropped out of Dartmouth College after two months to make films.

Among his early influences were Jean Cocteau and the Italian neo-realists but, after arriving in New York in 1954, he joined the flourishing avant-garde scene, drawing inspiration from artists and filmmakers like Maya Deren, Marie Menken and Joseph Cornell. He admired Ezra Pound, and was a close associate of poets like Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan, and abstract expressionist painters such as Willem de Kooning, with whom much of his work has an affinity.

In 1957, he married Jane Collom, and the details of their lives together figured prominently in his work. In Window Water Baby Moving (1959), he unflinchingly and poetically documented the birth of the first of their five children.

In 23rd Psalm (1966), he contrasted scenes of his tranquil life in rural Colorado with footage of the second world war. The quick cuts of the first part, depicting a world menaced by chaos, give way to the contemplative passages of the second, suggestive of a quest for the roots of war – particularly the Vietnam war, then at its height.

Brakhage’s most famous film, Dog Star Man (1964), one of the key works of the 1960s American avant-garde, experimented with the use of colour, painting on film and distorting lenses, while depicting the creation of the universe. It ends with superimpositions of solar flares and chains of mountains over his wife, as she gives birth to their child.

During five decades, Brakhage made nearly 380 films, most of them shot in 8mm or 16mm, and ranging in length from nine seconds to four hours. With a few exceptions, they were made without sound, which he felt might spoil the intensity of the visual experience. He preferred to think of his films as metaphorical, abstract and highly subjective – a kind of poetry written with light.

Brakhage taught film history at the University of Colorado from 1981 until last year, when he retired to Canada with his second wife and two sons, who survive him along with the five children of his first mariage. It is a tragic irony that he seems to have been killed by the art he loved. According to his widow, doctors believed that the coal-tar dyes he used in his filmmaking may have contributed to his bladder cancer, which was diagnosed in 1996.

· James Stanley Brakhage, filmmaker, born January 14 1933; died March 9 2003

Chris Marker: Le Jetée

La jetée (English: The Jetty and The Pier) (1962) is a 28-minute black and white science fiction film by Chris Marker. Constructed almost entirely from still photos, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel.

In the movie, the survivors of a destroyed Paris in the aftermath of World War III live underground in the Palais de Chaillot galleries. They research time travel, hoping to send someone back before the devastating war to recover food, medicine, or energy for the present, “to summon the past and future to the aid of the present.” The traveler is a male prisoner; his vague but obsessive childhood memory of witnessing a woman (Hélène Chatelain) during a violent incident on the boarding platform (“The Jetty”) at Orly Airport is used as the key to his journey back in time. He is thrown back to the past again and again. He repeatedly meets and speaks to the woman who was present at the terminal. After his successful passages to the past, the experimenters attempt to send him into the deep future. In a brief meeting with the technologically advanced people of the future, he is given a power unit sufficient to regenerate his own destroyed society.

On his return, he is cast aside by his jailers to die. Before he can be executed, he is contacted by the people of the future, who offer to help him escape to their time, but he asks to be returned to the time of his childhood. He is returned, only to find the violent incident he partially witnessed as a child was his own death as an adult.

La jetée has no dialogue aside from small sections of muttering in German; the story is told by a voice-over narrator. It is constructed almost entirely from optically printed photographs playing out as a photomontage of varying pace. It contains only one brief shot originating on a motion-picture camera. The stills were taken with a Pentax 24×36 and the motion-picture segment was shot with a 35mm Arriflex. The film score was composed by Trevor Duncan. (wikipedia)

(originally posted on 1/10/07):

Today we watched Chris Marker’s Le Jette – ON FILM – this was a surprise to know that the school has a copy. You probably are wondering what’s the difference? Well we were able to watch the film the way that it was created and not transfer to vhs or dvd – the noise of the projector is all part of the experience. So this was our major transition from the still to the moving image. The film 12 Monkeys gives credit to Le Jetee as inspiration. Any thoughts?