History

a/k/a Mrs. George Gilbert extends Coco Fusco’s in-depth examination of racialized imagery. Fusco combines fictional and documentary source materials to reflect on the use of electronic surveillance against Black intellectuals and activists in the 1960s and 1970s as part of covert FBI operations. These actions bear a striking resemblance to contemporary Patriot Act-inspired activities of American law enforcement.

Anthony Ramos' astute deconstruction of television news focuses on his part in the media coverage of President Jimmy Carter's 1977 declaration of amnesty for Vietnam draft evaders. Ramos, who had served an 18-month prison sentence for draft evasion, was interviewed by news reporter Gabe Pressman, whose film crew meets Ramos' video crew in a confrontation between technologies and sensibilities. At the time, some broadcast television news crews still used 16mm film, although the expensive transition to ENG (electronic news gathering) systems had begun in 1974.

In 1972 Eric Siegel, an early pioneer of video art, set out on an extreme adventure driving from Europe six thousand miles overland to India. He was one of the first people to use the revolutionary new technology from Sony Corporation, the Portapak. This was the first small portable video camera/recorder combo that was the predecessor of today’s camcorders. Together with his friend Anthony they documented the trip. This video is the portion of the trip that took them through Afghanistan, one of the most exotic places along the way.

A portrait of an unnamed city in Italy. Sidestepping the tourist attractions that make the city famous, the film/video posits an almost-imaginary place that draws closer to the reality of its inhabitants. Using a voiceover narration that collages direct observation, literary texts, historical fact, local folklore, and a bit of sheer fabrication, the film/video melds documentary and narrative, past and present.

"I'm not going to go to the Anne Frank House—I don't think I could take it—being a tourist is bad enough—though I'm not really a tourist—I'm here working—my camera's the one on vacation—taking holiday sounds and images—it's having a nice change of pace—for me it's still the same old thing—talking and talking.

For four years in the 1860’s, half of the United States was held hostage by an unrecognized white supremacist republic. Shot on 16mm in national military parks, swamps, forests and the suburban sprawl across the former battlefields, the film follows General Grant’s path liberating the southern United States. Part travelogue, part essay film, part landscape documentary, it moves from the Texas-Louisiana border to a prison island off the coast of New England.

Another Clapping explores the relationship triangle between a daughter, her mother and the Chinese Cultural Revolution. It is an experimental documentary based on the mother's violent past with its traumatic political history and an unsuccessful marriage. Through their subsequent experiences as immigrants in Canada and the complex process of remembering and reviewing the past, history comes to signify the characteristic of the individual. The tracing of memory illuminates the difficulties of identifying mother and daughter as different people.

Apeshit, 1999

Employing footage from an obscure 8mm film trailer for Battle for the Planet of the Apes to highlight the unstable relationship between the real, historical past and the distant, imaginary future, this project revolves around a central question: Is alien-ness indeed the metaphor for the 20th Century as power relationships have been embodied within our subconscious? Is there a relationship between these forgotten formats and the discontinued political ideologies that they depict?

Manipulating a variety of sources, Vasulka uses creative imaging tools to situate historical images against Southwestern landscapes of incredible beauty. Contorting the images into a variety of isomorphic forms, Vasulka creates a literal shape for these memories, developing these shapes as metaphors for the processes of fragmentation, condensation, and inversion, that inevitably contort fact into memory.

Ashura, 2013

The Battle of Karbala (680) resulted in the death of Hussein, the grandson of prophet Muhammad and all his supporters. This battle is central to Shi'a Muslim belief in which the martyrdom of Hussein is mourned by an annual commemoration, Ashura. Artist Köken Ergun has worked with Istanbul's Shiite minority, documenting their preparations for the Ashura day.

Note: This title is intended by the artist to be viewed in High Definition. While DVD format is available to enable accessibility, VDB recommends presentation on Blu-ray or HD digital file.

Big_Sleep™ explores problems in our archival urges. Via a single-channel desktop screencast, informatic elements ebb and flow—creating and relating interface absences. These gaps suggest that no amount of hard drive space can defy mortality. The only way to fully prepare our media for the future is to prepare ourselves for a future apart. The piece presents material from the late William Birch, one of the most important Fox Movietone cinematographers. Examining his now-decaying body of work—we find an argument for access in the present, not cold storage for a potential future.

Blind Huber is a film interpretation of a poem by the American writer Nick Flynn loosely based on the life of Francois Huber, the blind 18th Century beekeeper, who sat before a series of hives for fifty years unlocking an unknown world.

Written by Nick Flynn. Cinematographer: Alex Stockwell.

This title is only available on Broad Daylight and Other Times: Selected Works of Kevin Jerome Everson.

Blood and Guts in High School features actress Stephanie Vella in a series of video installations* that re-imagine punk-feminist icon Kathy Acker's book of the same title. The book received noteriety from 1978-1982 during the rise of Reagan republicanism and the emergence of punk rock. In Parnes' interpretation, each video-chapter presents a typical scene in the life of Janie bracketed by U.S. news events from the time period in which the book was written.

A great example of early 1970s counter-cultural activity and the influence of Buckminster Fuller. The video, shot in Woodstock, NY in November 1971, includes footage of a communal meal being eaten in the woods, and of children playing in the mud. The video goes on to document the building of a geodesic dome. As the group works, many of them naked, they are interviewed to camera, and explain how to build a dome. 

"A meditation on history, memory, and change in Central and Eastern Europe, Buried in Light is a non-narrative journey, a cinematic collage. Cohen’s “search for images” began at a time of extraordinary flux, as the Berlin Wall was dismantled—opening borders yet ushering in a nascent wave of consumer capitalism. What he saw struck him as a profound paradox: the moment Eastern Europe was revealed was simultaneously the moment it was hidden by the blinding light of commercialism.

Cacheu, 2012

Cacheu is a 10-minute shot of a lecture, performed by Joana Barrios, revolving around four colonial statues, which are stored today at the Fortress of Cacheu, one of the first bastions constructed by the Portuguese in 1588 in order to facilitate slave trade in the West African country of Guinea Bissau. Barrios evokes symbolic conflicts by tracing back different contexts in which the statues make an appearance: on a pedestal during Portuguese colonialism, dethroned and broken in pieces after Independence in the film Sans Soleil by Chris Marker, as background ghosts in Mortu Nega by Flora Gomes, and finally displayed at the Cacheu fort. The montage is a process that takes place before shooting, so that the image production is a result of a performative assemblage between text, acting, projected image and the framing of the camera by the director of photography, Matthias Biber.

CB, 2011

CB is an experimental bio-pic: its heroine, Charlotte Brontë. A collaboration between Doug Ischar and Tom Daws, CB was commissioned by the Laumeier Museum, St. Louis, for their inaugural Nightlight series.

The Videofreex had several experiences with the Black Panther Party, including interviewing Illinois Chapter Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton and New Haven Minister of Information Cappy Pinderhughes. In this tape, recorded on March 5th 1971, the Videofreex one-person camera crew Bart Friedman is walking the hallways of CBS, trying to find out where a video statement by Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver is located. The shots are mostly close up on people’s torsos and there is some image loss, but the sound is intact. The tape has an eerie espionage feel.

Shot in October 1969, this tape gives an inside view of the workings of late-sixties radical groups and the debates going on within their ranks. At a meeting of Yippies, there is a discussion about the nuts and bolts of fundraising through benefit concerts and events in an attempt to finance support efforts related to the Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial.

With Cold Harbor, Donigan Cumming uses a minimum of elements to create a powerful anti-war message. Initially, the video seems enigmatic, almost abstract. An amateur Handycam moves tentatively around a hospital room, panning and zooming from the view out the window to the dark-skinned old man lying on the bed. The image is shaky, blurred, often out of focus. Off-screen, a radio or television blares the news.

A poetic meditation on distance, Come Closer is a short and peripatetic film, casting an affective web between the locations of Lisbon, San Francisco and Brazil. Focusing on Brazilian-Algerian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz, musician Derrick Green –– the filmmaker’s brother and lead singer of Brazilian band Sepultura –– and her own work produced in Lisbon since 1992, Come Closer can be thought as a meditation on friendship and saudade.

come lontano is a perverse historical romance in which two lives are exposed, inter-mixed, doused with sentiment, and — hopefully — redeemed. The work revolves around a central ‘couple’ — Pier Paolo Pasolini and Maria Callas. There is a third main character, an ambiguous villain made of steel, glass and rubber. Each member of our central couple has her/his own external distractions which impinge — to varying degrees — on their brief, ecstatic encounter. This encounter was in fact a cinematic collaboration; it’s product the film Medea (1969).

Communists Like Us is an ambient music video made from a few seconds of archival footage of Mao Zedong applauding and members of the Red Guard chanting. The title Communists Like Us was taken from the 1985 text of the same name written by Felix Guattari and Toni Negri.

Conakry, 2013

Staged at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Conakry is a sequence shot on 16mm film that travels through time, space and media to revisit one film reel from the Guinean archive. This particular reel documents an exhibition curated by Amílcar Cabral at the Palais du Peuple in 1972 in Conakry, Guinea, reporting on the state of the war against Portuguese rule. César invited the Portuguese writer Grada Kilomba and the American radio activist Diana McCarty to reflect on these images and their history.

The fragment contains within it an implied reference to something that was once whole. It suggests damage and violence, time and distance. These qualities I found were integral to my own constitution, and it was with the making of Cooperation Of Parts that this became clear.

“Misfortune makes and breaks you.” I have the misfortune of a history of disruptions, and the fortune of having that history to work with.