An Introduction to Video Essays

Monday, January 14, 2019

The works in our winter suite are interested in process. These three new videos demonstrate how, like other literary genres, the “video essay” gets redefined by every new iteration. Like early examples of video art, each piece repurposes a technology to highlight the accidental art-experiences available within a utilitarian process.

In our first video, “Ars Poetica,” Kelly Slivka compresses the inherent audio/video qualities of digital composition—the sound of keys tapping, the flash of copy-paste, all the sensory layers of writing-aloud. While this project might serve as a document of what writing was like in the early digital age, it also demonstrates the various lives and “meanings” a poem briefly inhabits on its way to a final version. “Ars Poetica” has us thinking about poems as being always already in flux. As the audience watches Slivka compose, we begin to root for the writer to get each word right, to come toward a point of rest, a final utterance, even—and because—it won’t be their last.

Our second video, “The Center” by Annelyse Gelman has us eyeing the eerie potential for non-human entities to replicate or replace human jobs, relationships, and even literature. Like examples of video art that pushed the limits of early green screen technology, “The Center” repurposes face swap and text-to-voice in a savvy, uncanny pairing of poetry and digital media that brings out the specific resonances of the text. Gelman’s project nods to animal experiments involving cages with electrified flooring, centers and peripheries that implicate and confront the viewer: “Are you thinking about your own heartbeat?” 

Using a style that sets high-quality footage to the pace of slow breathing, Allain Daigle’s “New Arctic” thinks about the future of our planet without using images of landscape. In this project, Daigle shows us a house being built from the inside: industrial lighting, radio waves, breaths that rise in parcels. He asks us to consider the changes “our skin doesn’t notice” that mean our children will “dream about icebergs,” because “the new Arctic,” of course, is an oxymoron.

The videos in this suite trick us into seeing three familiar technologies in unfamiliar ways. Each piece showcases the variety of formats, structures, and new media that today’s literary videos might take on.


Monday, January 14, 2019