Post-Cinema Catalogue - RMIT School of Art Galleries



Post-Cinema Catalogue - RMIT School of Art Galleries
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Dr Shaun Wilson is a Melbourne-based artist, academic and writer who lectures in Video Production and Experimental Video
in the School of Creative Media, RMIT University.
Shaun Wilson would like to acknowledge the generosity and talents of the exhibiting artists, the Narrative and the Image
Research Group and the School of Creative Media at RMIT University. With special thanks to Lev Manovich, Kim Colmer,
Angelo Pietrabon, Lyndal Jones, Fiona Trigg at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne and Steven Ball at the
St. Martins College of Art and Design, UK.
Brendan Lee is represented by Crossley & Scott, Melbourne.
live news reporting style cinematography, Lee reverts to a
Post-Cinema context to generate a narrative embedded with
mnemonic references questioning the traditional forms of
cinema. The pan, the tracking shot, the chase scene, and the
zoom-in close-up shot are a means to highlight the role of
filmic memory in a meta-history context. What delineates Out
of the Blue I from ‘video art as video art’ simply remaking a
motion picture as a type of mash-up, is a consistent attention
to questioning the understanding of ‘cinema as history’
through the notion of locational memory that alludes to the
structural narrative embodiment of third cinema.
American digital theorist and media artist Lev Manovich uses
software databases to access video narratives in his work
Soft Cinema (2002). ‘Each video clip used in Soft Cinema is
assigned certain keywords that describe both the “content”
of a clip (geographical location, presence of people in the
scene), and its “formal” properties (i.e., dominant color,
dominant line orientation, contrast, camera movement).’7 The
artist describes this works as being a ‘multiple’ video track
where, ‘rather than beginning with a script and then creating
media elements which visualise it, I investigate a different
paradigm: starting with a large database and then generating
narratives from it.’8 In effect, Soft Cinema gives rise to thirdcinema interacting through generational structures whereby
the nature of narrative within the video work becomes a type
of meta-history in itself. The various combinations of video
play out different scenarios for his depicted characters and
locations. The inbedded-ness of memory influencing the
experience of witnessing such a work just as Lee’s filmic
database of collective filmic memories stage a kind of
mnemonic theatre: different sets, same characters. We might
recall witnessing a collection of video images set in different
combinations that act as a reminder we have seen this
image before, yet the way Soft Cinema randomly nominates
narrative as a causal selection, it becomes clear that this
type of changing narrative format renders the temporal nature
of first and second cinema obsolete.
Questioning similar notions of the still image is American
born, Melbourne-based artist Dan Torre who plays with the
same kind of narrative interventions in PropPlane (2007).
His examination into how narratives found in the still image
can hold interventions through the moving image are not
unlike the conceptual frameworks of the ‘other photograph’
generated in Deckard’s Esper Machine, in that both use
stillness as a means of exploring spatial manipulation.
Deckard navigates his image enlargement POV behind
walls to reveal hidden characters lurking in a sub-plot,
likewise Torre’s photographs uncover the same kind of
emergences buried through layers of mnemonic tensions
constructed through the use of motion and tracking. As film
theorist Godfrey Chesire claims, ‘if video images sacrifice
the photograph’s contemplative stance toward reality, CGI
dispenses with reality all together’9, Torre dispenses the
singularities of the still image through a process of CG
manipulation by what he terms, ‘de-stilling’ the still image
through video. PropPlane demonstrates an attention to
redirect narratives located in an original family photograph
by using motion as a catalyst. Torre states that ‘this involves
the continual searching for other images (frames) before
and after as a means of providing the difference in order to
suggest time and motion. But, since there is none present,
a strange, book-ending of uncanny motion manifests.’10
In doing so motion becomes central to how the artist
changes narrative; the image ceases to be a captured point
in time and thus reconfigures a far more advanced visual
synthesis capable of changing story and time through its
phenomenological base. If third cinema is, in actual fact,
a launch vehicle for generative alterations then PropPlane
is, not surprisingly, part of these traditions and modes of
Through these works and others, it becomes clear that PostCinema has played a significant role in the democratisation
of narrative in the moving image throughout the later half
of the twentieth century. However, in a twenty-first century
context and since 9/11, video art has arguably produced an
‘other’ to which narrative and its subsequent role, has held a
distinct relationship with Post-Cinema, not so much as ‘video
mimicking film’ but rather through generating a conceptual
link between image, narrative and meta-history. If anything,
this ‘other’ will become more distinct and its role clearer as
an ongoing evolution unfolds. But then again, you probably
won’t find it lurking in the halls of public art galleries just
yet; it will most likely be on a MySpace site or locked away
on YouTube, in-between that crazy kid with a light sabre and
the fountain celebrations of Mentos and Coke.
1 From the production draft script of Blade Runner, Ridley
Scott, 1982.
2 Michael Rush, Video Art, Thames and Hudson, London, 2003,
p. 210
3 Interview with Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine as found in
archived_article.html> [last accessed August 10, 2007].
4 Artist’s notes, Steven Ball in an email conversation on August
15, 2007.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Lev Manovich, Soft Cinema, extended catalogue description,
<> (last accessed August
12, 2007).
8 Ibid.
9 Godfrey Cheshire, ‘The Death of Film/The Decay of Cinema’,
New York Press, Vol.12, No. 34 (August 26, 1998). <http://> (last accessed August
12, 2007)
10 Artist’s notes, Dan Torre in an email conversation on August
10, 2007.
Dan Torre
DVD Still
Lev Manovich
Soft Cinema 1
DVD Still
‘Give Me a Hard Copy Right There… ‘Other’
Cinema and Video Art’.
[Deckard’s apartment]
Enhance 224 to 176. Enhance, stop. Move in, stop. Pull out,
track right, stop. Center in, pull back. Stop. Track 45 right.
Stop. Center and stop. Enhance 34 to 36. Pan right and pull
back. Stop. Enhance 34 to 46. Pull back. Wait a minute, go
right, stop. Enhance 57 to 19. Track 45 left. Stop. Enhance
15 to 23. Give me a hard copy right there.1
In a scene from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), Deckard
sits in front of his Esper Machine enhancing a digital still
image. After the first and second augment, we realise that
something is wrong. The image ceases to be a still image
and becomes a digital reproduction of something else; not
quite photography but neither is it video – perhaps an ‘other’
type of photograph that enables us to see around corners,
behind walls and navigate through spaces that bend and
morph. In 1983, this concept was Science Fiction yet in
2007, it’s reality. While this ‘other’ photographic technology
changes narrative structures within the film itself in terms of
how the characters experience and interact with the image,
recent video art has also established an ‘other’ of itself by
way of alterations to narrative configuration. And it is in
context to Post-Cinema located in an ‘after 9/11’ world that
we see emergences of new, more widely accessible digital
technologies changing the way artists produce, articulate and
exchange video art in what media arts historian Michael Rush
describes as, ‘a hybrid stage, combining all manner of digital
technologies in the creation of what is likely to be a new
medium.’2 Moreover, narrative in video art is, as never before,
subject to the burdening weight of history; a reoccurring
meta-narrative governed by the political, the geographic and
the mnemonic.
Sentiments of this ‘other’ are reflected in exclamations such
as ‘Film is dead!’ claimed by American cinematographer
Brian Taylor in a 2005 interview with the influential US
website HD for Indies who further remarked, ‘And by the
way, so is video’.3 Yes, these changes are more directed
towards the entertainment empires rather than the hotly
contested theoretical and industry-driven communities where
the universal crossovers from film to digital cinema are
undeniably evidenced in a wider debate on what quantifies
‘cinema’, both as medium, language, and methodology. If
Taylor’s claim holds any truth, then the traditional bastion
and hierarchy of first cinema as ‘film’ versus second, often
delineated as second-rate, cinema as ‘video’ has certainly
dissolved into something else which holds a cultural
implication for narrative disclosures in the moving image and,
undoubtedly, recent video art.
Visual mythologies of post-9/11 and the internet have played
their part in determining what I argue to be the conceptual
reduction of first cinema, thus conceiving its ‘filmic other’ to
influence not only issues of security, place and identity but
also the reductive dualism of narrative and its subsequent
visual image – reality TV meets Hans Christian Anderson on
ice. One only has to look at video database-driven websites
such as YouTube to understand that when sifting through
the immense weight of video junk (ranging from the tragic
Mentos and Diet Coke vomit screen grabs to DIY supermarket
light sabre battles with Chad Vader) that video art has
developed current languages falling back on its ‘other’, to
merge the distinctly documentary-styled home movies,
mobile phone reality video, multimedia mash-ups, and the
mimicking of cinematicness created with video, to elude to or
emulate the aesthetic and conceptual structure of cinema. In
doing so the distribution of such images no longer needs the
pathway of traditional venues such as galleries, museums,
or guerrilla projections making Post-Cinema all the more
relevant to contemporary strains of ‘other’ video – who said
video art couldn’t be a podcast? Further, if Post-Cinema
is indeed a strain of the moving image which concerns
itself with the democratisation of filmic narrative then
‘other cinema’ holds ground to re-invent Post-Cinema as a
primordial structure and, more so, an after-millennial catalyst
for Post-Postmodernist video art.
Trevor Morgan
Parkway / Turnpike / Tunnel
DVD Still
Steven Ball
DVD Still
Brendan Lee
Out of the Blue I 2007
DVD Still
(below left)
Martin Koeppl
DVD still
(below right)
Louise K. Wilson
One Thousand Year Trial
DVD Still
British video artist Steven Ball gives us a glimpse of such
in Nowaystreet (2005) which ‘arose out of the experience
of being all but trapped in Central London during the 7th
July 2005 bombings and negotiating the cityscape in the
days and weeks immediately following.’4 As the artist is
clear to point out that this artwork is in no way a remark on
a ‘dystopian’ urban condition, a commentary on terrorism,
the activity of the police, or some kind of psycho-geographic
derivation.’5 He does nevertheless establish a literacy within
his visual narratives that provide a dualistic connection
between an awareness for the viewer of the political
documentary, however disconnected from its original intent
it may be, and the engagement of space within the subject
as a direct result of external factors governing its ensuing
navigation. Sure, we are aware that police crossing tape
is a symbolic juncture for those off-limit spaces, perhaps
even best described as ‘non-spaces’, but what of its implied
restrictions on narrative, what then? Ball further states on
this piece that, ‘it is a constructed articulation of particular
spatial experiences, using formal processes with changes
in frequency in the repetition of multiple image loops.’6 But
placed in terms of Post-Cinema video art’s alignment with the
process of storytelling, I suggest Nowaystreet is much more
than this – that it is a bridge between how narrative can be
ruptured through a meta-historical exterior and its resultant
constraints on spatial manifestation. We, the viewer, are no
longer witnessing looped images of police tapes that justso-happen to be filmed during and after a terrorist incident
but, instead, ingest an experience from a mélange of images
that redefine boundaries playing out a wider significance for
negotiating spaces within the video frame.
Of course, any visual mention of a terrorist act since 9/11,
as Ball’s artwork demonstrates, can reveal a deep, ingrained
discomfort, even a paranoid fear of public spaces that when
translated to video – and remembering that most of the
original 9/11 footage was captured with low-quality video
cameras, hence the concept ‘video equals reality’ – reveals
a truth encapsulated within third cinema that is, by its very
nature, narrative driven. What happens when this narrative
is stacked with other weighted meanings to change its
direction? Allude to something that is just about to happen
or has just occurred? Or, from a greater phenomenological
perspective, includes the past as a silent narrator?
British video artist Louise K. Wilson gives us a clue with
the same kind of non-places to which Nowaystreet alludes,
however, where Ball uses lived-in spaces to manoeuvre
Wilson seeks out disused spaces found in de-commissioned
military installations that chaotically use the past as a means
to come to terms with spatial narrative translated through
video. In One Thousand Year Trial (2005), the artist filmed
a choir singer performing inside a centrifusion chamber
located in an ex-British military nuclear facility. One might be
forgiven for becoming rather tranquillised by the somewhat
mediative performance, until the significance and potentiality
of the location becomes apparent, including the Cold War
scenarios dredged up by the location’s antiquity. Wilson
becomes a master of storytelling. If the walls inside that
centrifusion chamber could talk, would they prefer instead to
sing? After all, the dualism of One Thousand Year Trial rests
in its somewhat complicated layering of cinematic narratives,
on the one hand mediative and exquisitely character driven
yet, on the other hand, a pervasive intervention of place
loaded with intersecting meta-history.
As part of a larger body of work in which One Thousand Year
Trial is placed, Wilson frequently visits non-places, most
recently including excursions to the Woomera test ranges,
that no doubt gives her audience a sophisticated response
to restricted spaces that are reinvented/reclaimed from the
past, and whose narration of silence is as loud and specific
as the interventions of choir voices that create a dualistic
visual inhabitancy.
Australian video artist Brendan Lee takes a different approach
to the past but at the same time deals with the image in
similar ways to that of One Thousand Year Trial. In Out of
the Blue I (2007), Lee reconstructs filmic locations used
in the Australian film Dogs in Space (1987) fused together
with the, then, current narratives of the Cronulla Riots in
Sydney 2006. The artist’s attention to the cinematic is
apparent and distinctly Hitchcock-esque, so much so that
third-cinema abruptly envelops this remixing of locational
significance with that of his own filmic memory to establish
a coupled narrative. At the same time that Lee constructs
a multi-layered reclamation of the past the consequential
relationship forged out of this action becomes interwoven
with meta-history. Almost abandoning any visual references
to the Cronulla footage, mostly filmed with hand-held, jerky,

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