(for optimum viewing, please watch on full screen mode with headphones)
from the sublime to the ridiculous
A video by Jen Cohen
2010, TRT: 4:32 min.
This video is a recontextualization of VHS footage shot by my father during the year 1984. He had just purchased his first VHS camcorder for the purposes of creating a documentary series called National Treasures where my mother and father would interview some of their quasi-famous/intellectual friends about their lives. Nothing ever came of this project; my parents separated in 1990 and the 50+ VHS tapes containing over 200 hours of material have been tucked away in a box in a storage facility for the last 20 years.
My working with the footage began a year ago when my mother asked me to digitally archive all of the tapes for her. She remarked that she wanted to see herself during her “prime, ” when she was still young and beautiful.
The catalyst for my treatment of the video footage began with the process of exporting still frames of the videos into Photoshop while I was playing back the footage. I was drawn to the moments were an in camera edit occurred-- the split second moments between two different shots where a pixilated, rectangular bar would appear horizontally on the surface of the video image, separating the moments before and after. I began to see these video artifacts as the medium of video having its own memory of that moment in time. At the same time, they are synonymous of spirit photography. I see these moments as extraterrestrial presences that have descended onto the surface of my memories, lodging themselves between the crevices of two different shots and have been waiting in there for the last 20 years to be liberated. This fantasy became the central point of departure for editing choices. I forced myself to edit the video in ways I would not normally edit meaning I did not rely on comfortable “tricks” I have used in the past. I allowed my editing choices to be guided by the spirit I felt inhabited the footage.
The choreography of the video images and animations are a mimesis of the theatricality of actions performed by my family in front of the camera. In one moment we see my brother pointing a toy gun towards the lens (towards my father.) In other moments we see my mother dancing and flirting with the camera. I specifically chose to widen the video canvas into a triptych format to not only break the traditional boxed frame that video is usually presented in order to widen the stage for the choreography of animation. The videos enter and exit stage left and stage right, taking over each other as if competing for attention.
This video is part of a larger body of work, called Happy Accidents (working title) that includes several large prints of video stills from the VHS tapes along with 4, 5 x 8 foot wall panels with monitors embedded behind them. Each panel has a different form cut into the wall acting as a peep-hole or window. Behind each opening is a monitor playing videos that correspond to the form or shape that has been cut into the wall.