Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Future So Bright

"In the Light, in the Dark, with Guitar." A spiffy profile of Matt McCormick upon occasion of his Future So Bright at the Lee Center for the Arts, Seattle.

"After Portland filmmaker Matt McCormick screened his film The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal at Sundance Film Festival, galleries and museums began asking to show it—including such prestigious venues as the Museum of Modern Art and the Serpentine Gallery in London. The film would play on a loop in some corner, looking for all the world like a clever piece of video art. More than once, he says, a collector approached him to inquire about buying the work. He'd say yes, but instead of naming a four-figure price, he'd direct the collector to, the website of his own small distribution company. The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal retails at $24.95, and it comes with nine other short films...

"But there are differences between experimental film and video art, and most have to do with the way the pieces are displayed and marketed. Video art is seen in galleries and museums; it plays in a loop rather than over a discrete stretch of time. The videos are produced in very small editions, like prints, and if you want to own one, you have to shell out. Experimental films, meanwhile, are screened in theaters or on DVD, and an inexpensive copy can often be found for every prospective buyer.

It's hard to say whether there are any real justifications for this distinction. Perhaps the act of putting the video on a gallery wall does the trick. (The would-be collectors of The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal might beg to differ.) Remember, though, that the artist's act of selection from his or her environment—that slightly musty justification for Duchamp's readymades or the impulse behind Yoko Ono's Sky TV, an early precursor of video art—occurs whenever a documentary filmmaker aims a camera. Moreover, a great deal of experimental film includes found components. You can see this influence in filmmakers active in the '90s, especially—McCormick scored his own trove of 16 mm film as a Portland-area ABC affiliate emptied its film archive and transitioned to video."

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