Recent Comments

Corey K Creekmur
No essay is ever finished, of course, and any essay is limited by (among other things) what one has read and seen up to the point of its composition. When I wrote this essay — attempting to think of the terms we employ as well as the legacies and traditions both in view and obscured when we discuss the “video essay” — I had not yet read the very suggestive section on “found-footage essayists” in Michael Witt’s very illuminating book JEAN-LUC GODARD, CINEMA HISTORIAN. It’s clearly a key text for filling in some of the history I merely sketch here. I have also recently encountered the term “handmade readymade,” which perfectly names JEN PROCTER’S A MOVIE, which I was fumbling to locate myself. The term comes from the critic Brian O’Doherty, cited in Hal Foster’s fascinating book THE FIRST POP AGE. There’s always more to read and see, but I’m at least grateful this site allows me to add these as footnotes pending further thought on these matters.
Chiara Grizzaffi
Thanks to all of you for your interesting and brilliant comments. I will try to address some of the issues that are emerging from your questions. Corey, you are making me think more on what a “tribute” is. I underlined the aspect of contingency because for me the tribute is something that seems to originate from a urgency, rather than an analytical reflection. But there is a thin line between analysis and homage, as your example of kogonada’s Hands of Bresson demonstrates (but we could also mention the Elsaesser’s videos published in the first issue of [in]Transition). This might also depend on the fact that, as far as I can see, the authors of audiovisual essays seem generally more keen on working on what they like (I have never seen a negative v.e. so far), and their engagement inevitably emerges in their works. Moreover, I think that we associate almost automatically some poetic forms with the homage: there is a sort of rhetorical structure in many of them (I am thinking of the association of suggestive scenes with a powerful soundtrack) that immediately evokes the tribute. The videos I chose for my curatorial statement, in my opinion, challenge and enrich this ‘formula’ adding some clever analytical insights. I completely agree about your observation on the blurring boundaries between fans and scholars. One of the aspects of the video essays practice that captured my attention in the first place is exactly their hybridity, and thus their connection not just with both the artistic practices mentioned in your statement, and the documentary - as Drew underlines in his curatorial statement for the first issue-, but also between the v.e. and other fandom practices. Some of the scholarly literature on fans and user created contents underlines how activities like vidding have an analytical impulse. I am thinking about the essays of Francesca Coppa, or the book of Jonathan Gray, Show Sold Separately: they both argue that vidding is also a form of close reading and analysis. The (con)fusion between scholars and fans might be really fruitful, a way to create a dialogue with generations of students fully immersed in a digital environment. I think is possible to relate also to video essays what Pam Cook writes about fan websites: “Such convergences have already had an impact on the way scholars perceive fans; they could also play a part in reconfiguring moving image education to take on board non-hegemonic participatory models in which traditional boundaries between expert and lay knowledge are re-evaluated.” (“Labours of Love: In Praise of Fan Websites”, in Frames #1, http://framescinemajournal.com/article/labours-of-love-in-praise-of-fan-...) Thank you Drew for your remarks about making your tribute, I completely agree with you when you affirm that those kind of exercises could alleviate the stress of editing. I am still learning how to make videos, and I found that focusing on illustrating other scholars’ theories or experimenting with formal aspects is a way to really break the ice with the editing process. I would also like to add something, more in general, about the explanatory/poetic mode’s opposition and about Jennifer’s consideration on v.e. and documentary tradition. I feel that, in some ways, a certain orientation towards slightly more poetic and subjective forms preserve these works from imposing their view using images as indisputable evidences. I am more intrigued by those analyses that do not conceal the subjective experience of the author, even if they are conducting a rigorous investigation on their object. The word “essay” applied to these works might be problematic, but nonetheless reminds us of what Adorno writes about the essay as a form, which is something that “reflects a childlike freedom that catches fire, without scruple, on what others have already done”. The essay implies a subjective process of discovery, and involves the same creativity and playfulness that are necessary to make v.e.
Joel Bocko
Thanks, Kevin and Christian, for the kind words - I’m pleased that the video has sparked some discussion and reflection! And thanks to Kevin for introducing me to this site which I will now be paying close attention to.
Christian Keathley
Thanks for this, Kevin. Your use of words like “intuitive” and “obsession” to describe works like this one on Lynch resonates for me. As you note, Bocko’s video seems to mirror Lynch’s obsessions, or lay his own matching set of obsessions about Lynch on top of Lynch, resulting in a visual montage that displays a multi-layered quality of personal engagement. But Bock’s video also points up the way that some of the best videographic essays are about exploration and discovery, an intuitive playing around in the film(s) under obsessive consideration. The finished videos feel less like some kind of answer than an effective posing of some question: one whose terms we sense but can’t exactly articulate. Select formal parameters often help establish the terms for posing the question. We are left scratching our heads — not because we don’t get it, but because we do — in the same way we happily scratch our heads when we get a perfectly formulated and provocative question.
David T. Johnson
Girish, I like your elaboration here—and look forward to that blog post!
Kevin Lee
I wish to commend all the contributors on an excellent issue. Many interesting observations throughout, especially this issue of the parameters of participation, both in terms of “how” (the forms that the video essayists adopt or develop in reworking the found material) and “why” (to what purpose or effect). I’d welcome further discussion on these matters. To offer an example, let me mention a fascinating video essay I recently watched, by Joel Bocko, on David Lynch, which can be found on his website: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2014/06/take-this-baby-and-deliver-i... It was fascinating to watch this video within hours of reading your essay Christian, for I was put in the mind of thinking how Joel culled through the entire Lynch filmography to select and sequence these images and moments into a lucid cinematic stream. And the selection of clips tend to be as unflinching and compelling, quite a departure from the lighter, more easily digestible video tributes and fan compilations one might find elsewhere. I could easily see (in fact I have seen) Lynch video tributes that indulge in the campier, funnier side of the director’s work. But there’s a real intensity to this piece that speaks even beyond a “fan appreciation” towards areas of personal engagement and obsession (both Lynch’s and Bocko’s) that are more difficult to navigate. And that personal engagement makes the editing strategy feel very intuitive and personal - even the moments where I don’t grasp the logic of the montage leave me wondering what it might be, because the effort and investment of the maker is so evident.
Girish Shambu
Dave, you make a fascinating distinction there! Just musing here (without having thought about this deeply) one might say that we are dealing with two separate temporalities here: (1) that of the WORK we are engaging with (e.g. a Bela Tarr film unfolds, temporally, in a very different way than a John Woo film does); and (2) the temporality of the work WE do—that is, the process WE create and execute when we engage with, experience and study cinema (which might involve repeat visits to the film, isolation and analysis of specific moments, doing reading related to the film, etc). But I see one key point of difference: in the case of the latter, it could be said that slowness is likely to lead to ‘better’ work—more deliberately considered, allowing for more time for delay/repetition/juxtaposition/comparison in the Mulveyian model. But in the case of (1), I don’t think a similar result obtains. That is, Tarr/Alonso/Serra is not always and necessarily ‘better’ cinema than Woo/Raoul Walsh/Johnnie To. But these are just a few impromptu thoughts: I need to think deeply about your distinction, Dave. Sounds like a good candidate for an exploratory blog post!
Drew Morton
Jennifer, At SCMS, I used Kelli Marshall’s rubric to talk about evaluating video essays (http://www.teachingmedia.org/grading-rubrics-and-assessing-the-video-ess...) in our workshop and the co-editors and I spoke about how our editorial process is going to evolve as the journal goes forward. I think we’re all in agreement that aesthetic quality is a criteria, even if the VE is purely in the expository/scholarly mode. In a broad sense, aesthetic quality becomes analogous to usage and mechanics in a written essay. In order to peer review a piece properly, I imagine that a fair method would be opening up PR to 2-3 reviewers (one production expert, one academic VE expert, and maybe one expert in the piece’s specific field - if the academic cannot fully speak to that aspect). That said, I’m still working out to what degree aesthetic quality should be weighted. I don’t necessarily think it would be productive to hold the pieces to the same standard established by video artists simply because there is a learning curve involved here. But the form does typically inform the content, even at micro-level of voice over recordings and vocal delivery (which makes a tremendous difference). I’ve invited Ben to speak to your second point more specifically. My own approach to music and the VE is that it serves the same function as vocabulary or writing style. It provides an attracting power and momentum the same way some academic writers do (I’m thinking of a writers like Vivian Sobchack - whose prose veers towards the poetic - and Scott Bukatman’s latest book about play and comics, which appropriately has some playful prose!).
David T. Johnson
Great point on the (pre-)history, Chris, and on the ways that Corey’s post explores that with found footage practice. And I’m by no means an expert on Bellour but just think he’s someone whose work may end up having even more to offer these investigations (an idea I hadn’t considered before reading your post).
Christian Keathley
Thanks for this, Dave. Bellour on cinema and the museum space is something I need to explore more thoroughly, and this link also points up (again) the extent to which establishing this journal on videographic criticism also inevitably meant taking the first steps toward constructing a (pre)-history of the form. There is not only a lot of important film/video work that laid the foundation for videographic essays (see Corey Creekmur’s post), but also much critical writing whose relevance becomes clearer as the form itself becomes established.