Green Screen Looking at Selected Video Art

  • We had planned to look at Bill Viola’s The Reflecting Pool, because I was taking a class on early video art, and this was one of the videos on the curriculum. However, I had learned from various sources that Viola was not one to trust,

    He’s maybe one of the most commercially successful video artists. Others hated his videos, although I still kinda like them, because they’re pleasant to look at, meditative in a way, which is maybe the point, buddhism and everything.

    Maybe we can never understand buddhism when we’re living in a capitalist society, because you know, here’s a thing that asks you to not care about anything at all, but just be.

    Whereas we’re too used to have to do something useful, like making money?

    Sort of, yes

    I don’t know, I’m a bit skeptical. Spirituality… introspection…

    Anyways, let’s rather look at this film by Mekas: Award presentation to Andy Warhol. A rich jewish girl posing, cute but very awkward?

    And Andy Warhol, it must be old, or he very young. Now he’s handing out food from a basket. They all eat, this guy getting a aubergin, what’s that in english? Eggplant?


    Yeah guess so, he’s working at it real good. Looks like a family photo, the composition I mean.

    The rich girl is eating an apple, really hot. She looks spaced out, as if she left her body.

    Nice music,

    Siri, what is the music?


    Jonas Mekas, Award presentation to Andy Warhol, videostill

    Could be! Family photo, yeah, they look like an ideal family, the sort you can run off to, find nice people.

    To escape your own?

    Yeah, but also, Andy Warhol was really close with his mum.

    Oh, I didn’t know.

    There’s also this guy now who talked about his mum at the club in Orlando taking bullets to save him.

    Yes, horrible.

    Anyways, this reminds me of Thanksgiving, everyone happy, the room is too crowded, everyone eating.

    I was celebrating Thanksgiving once in America, and the friend who invited me was from Minnesota, so they have Norwegian grand-grand parents or something, which is important to them, so they made “lefse”, or rather “lompe”, which was really nice and funny, and they made me be the judge of the how good lefse it was.

    Haha, yea, people from Minnesota are all about their heritage. Do you wanna watch Andy Warhol eating a cheeseburger?

    Yeah, sure, I’ve already seen it though.

    Oh ok, maybe we don’t have to look at Andy Warhol eating a cheeseburger. Here’s another video, by Wegman, haha.

    Hahaha, two dogs baking.

    The lighter side of life. Dogs are great for art.

    Very ‘dead pan’, looks exactly like whatever cooking show.

    Yes, and the dogs are very well trained, they must be sitting inside the dress, while some person is sitting behind them using their hands.

    Very funny, I follow this group on Facebook “internet dogspotting”, this must be a #internetdogclassic.

    So what other videos did you look at in class?

    We can go through our Vimeo album, here’s one by Keith Sonnier: Color+Wipe from 1973. I think they’re using this kind of “external keying” technique. Which is like using a green screen, only here a bit more primitive, because they’re not using expensive studios or editing techniques, but just a sheet of paper which they manually move in front of the camera, and then key out the sheet in order to use it as a screen where they can project another image, in the image. It’s the same sort of technique Viola is using in his pool video. So although it looks hightech, it’s very low tech and inexpensive.

    It looks very beautiful, very nice colors. Sort of an abstract painting.

    And this early stuff was very much about democratisation of the TV-medium.

    Yea, very much democratic, suddenly everyone could make videos, and also steal whatever, everything is up for grabs, who gives a shit. Let’s look at this guy Nick Zed, here’s one: Penetration films.

    Boy at a cemetery, evil voiceover. Looks kinda like Mike Kelley?

    Yeah, it does, only this guy was in New York, I’m not sure if they knew each other. Look at this guy without an arm, and now this other evil guy who’s waving around an extra arm. Zed’s videos often include people with handicaps.

    Kinda grotesque. Look, the arm dosen’t fit. Nice effects though.

    Yes, Zed is using a green screen too.

    Oh no, a vagina shot. Can we look at this here, in the middle of the restaurant? Is the boy going in?

    Yes, going in.

    “Penetration films”.

    It’s part of a film reel, and they’re sort of like Any Warhol’s screen tests, the same format: catching a moment in time and documenting people. Here, the 90s rave scene. “Cinema of transgression”. Zed was also an author so he wrote the crazy evil monologue earlier. He’s borderline smart / insane. We can go on with the green screen theme, let’s look at Charles Atlas, he made videos with the choreographer Michael Clark and Leigh Bowery.

    Oh, yes, let’s do, I actually saw Clark perform in Los Angeles. So Venus in Furs, is it the title? At least it is the song playing.

    Yeah, maybe both.

    Michael Clark, Venus in Furs, videostill

    Four dancers, or maybe it’s only two. Several layers on top of layers, the background seems like some cloth, a spiralling brown, yellow, green, curtain or bed cover, patterned with roses or grapes perhaps. The dancers are green screened on top and wearing clothes by Bowery: rosey cloaks which also doubles as balaclavas, and purple shining stockings. Kind of medieval meets burlesque. Gender confusing, is that a vagina or penis? They are crawling, doing gymnastics, dancing ballet, lifting, kissing feet. Here’s also a DIY horse, and suddenly a naked woman. The music keeps looping with it’s whiny, insisting, guitars, and a fiddle.

    I think the green screen expands to a more beautiful space, like with Mekas too.

    Mekas, how so?

    Well, I mean, remember Mekas’ dungeon/cellar in the video we saw earlier, and I think, maybe Atlas’ movie was shot in a same kind of location, while both go past that to show something way nicer.

    True, very true. Dosen’t it also look like “internet art”? Only, it’s made in ’88?

    Yea, same time I was born!

    No way! i thought we were the same age, 89! Ahhhh

    Anywaaays! Did you see Kim Kardashian at the Met a few years ago? This punk thing. She was very pregnant and wearing a floral gown, which looks very much like a dress Bowery designed and wore once. I wonder if she knew what she was doing.

    Heh, no I didn’t see. What else, do you want to look more at Bowery?

    Or more green screen, there’s this film called Daisies, Russian or Hungarian, really weird and very nice. Feminist, anarchist. And there’s this fighting scene with scissors, but I can’t seem to find it.

    Maybe we can look at something of Merce Cunningham, I haven’t seen much of him, really.

    He’s got a super nice one where he is doing a lizard, but I can’t remember the name.

    Beach Birds for Camera seems like a nice one. Dancers in tight white suits while the upper body is in black. Ohhh, beautiful boys. And look at the composition of the dancers, almost like a painting.

    mmm, yes, very beautiful, we should take a screen shot.

    Merce Cunningham, Beach Birds for Camera , videostill

    Was Cunningham a contemporary of Clark? Must have been, no? Only Clark is more messy, or, I don’t know, i also thought of Venus in Furs as very clean in a way, but more punk? Or queer? More colors certainly, camp?

    Yeah, also think of the ballet in Clark, maybe if it hadn’t been for all that other stuff, it would only have been classic ballet?

    Good point

    Anyways, on the topic of parallels and Kardashian, let’s look at one more artist, Pipilotti Rist. There’s this one art porno video.

    Deconstructed bodies, green screen, keyings all over. Who’s body? Close up of a vagina, dickhead, or is it just a flower? Mash of everything, water, sunflowers, birds, colors, stroking. A field seen from the window of a traveling car, or train? The camera is also traveling past the bodies in a way, or sort of in motion all the time, water running and dissolving into lava or the universe. Is it erotic? Can it be “porn” if it isn’t?

    Hehe, no? Maybe? Yes?

    Haha, I’m not sure. Someone else told me about “political porn” this other day, and I thought, maybe art and politics are the things I would least think of when looking at porn. But then I’m also always thinking about representation, so maybe it could be a good thing, only if it’s not overt or in your face.

    However. You know Beyoncé’s vid where she’s smashing those cars? She must taken it from this other video by Pipilotti. A documentation from a performance she did, I think. So she was actually doing crimes, smashing windows with this big, big flower. And she looks like she’s always about to have a fucking meltdown.

    Pipilotti Rist, Ever is Over All

    Haha, I didn’t know this. But yeah, I think Beyoncé on the other hand got a very strange smile which I can’t interpret. Like if she can’t decide whether she’s having fun or feeling bad, guilty and criminal.

    Hm, yea, foremost, I think it’s feminist. And liberating in a way, smash this!

    True, I also read an article the other day on Sansa in Game of Thrones, and how we can’t know what she’s thinking or planning, but we’re left to our own interpretations, which is a good thing, because female characters so often are delt roles and plotlines that are not hard to figure out. I also wanted to look at these commercials by Chris Burden, which are not commercials, or they do everything wrong as they don’t attempt to sell anything, but suddenly presents something a regular TV-spectator wouldn’t anticipate, sitting there in his sofa.

    Ha, they are funny, I always think of Burden as this manly guy, doing manly things.

    Yea, hehe, true. But I wonder if these “ads” are more subversive, or like, I think maybe “things” are more efficient

    But efficient at what? one must ask of course

    In that they look exactly like any other commercial, but something is off. Like the cooking dogs? Or Mekas’ family portrait? I mean, maybe there’s a greater potential to say something different by making it appear that you’re saying the same thing everyone else is saying.

    I see what you’re saying, and it made me think of this video, Too Many Cooks at Adult Swim. Which is seemingly an introduction to any other soap opera, you know the lame presentation of all the characters, but it just goes on and on and on forever.

    Haha, nice, very funny. BUT IS IT ART??

    Haha, exactly. Also Ryan Trecartin etc., you know. hyper reality-TV.