An Introduction to the Video Essays

Monday, July 15, 2019

The three literary videos in our summer suite are all about perspective. These pieces are willing to question their own positions, to turn and turn again.  

In the first video, “Orbital Decay,” Erin Lynch shows us two streams of parallel images. A hand traces a marble hipline while, beside it, a woman presses cold cream into the crevice between her nose and her cheek. Next, a field of sheep blinks past a truck plowing a mountain of salt. Throughout “Orbital Decay,” text is the physical bridge between moving images. The line “Even Lot’s wife unclenches her jaw / and shakes salt from her eyes” spans a video of a man chiseling marble and a group of women doing coordinated lunges. And what can the careful juxtaposition of images still reveal? The audience might think of two orbitals, two eyelids blinking. Or perhaps we finally visualize a real simultaneity, like that of being a self being looked at while being a self who is also looking outward, judging similarly. As the piece ends, Lynch writes, “Each year I have fewer new thoughts / my ears grow toward the ground,” and then the right eye goes black, or the left, depending on who is being looked at—you or the video? Then Lynch’s text moves to fill the open lid: “and I rebuild the cities I flee from.”

“Kitsch Postcards” is a project that Marie Craven calls an “internet collaboration,” made up of text and image that have found each other under Craven’s assemblage. Across the video, postcards from Australia flash alongside a litany of distant sentiments from a poem by Amanda Stewart: “Lucky. Sunburnt. Kangaroo—Koala—Wombat . . .” These are rapidly interrupted by lyric turns that undermine the commercial image of “white Australia” that the images put forth: “the cities are gutted, there’s edible sky and pieces of love, great chunks of it!” What Craven is saying about “kitsch” in this project seems to involve displaying commercial garishness as much as showing the particular irony of Australian postcards. As the list of images naturally turns on itself to curate a much different message, the text also begins to reconsider: “Backs to desert, eyes to sea, a witness to my visibility.”  

In our third video, “I Have a Secret Crush on Everyone in the World,” Johanna Furman thinks expansively about desire in several forms. “I have a public crush on the number 8 bus,” she says, “al fresco Thai brunches and dirty Brooklyn swans.” In this project Furman layers everyday footage with transparent images of billowing clouds. Storms move across lines handwritten in a notebook, and then a blue sky fills the walls of a studio, tinting a dancer in black. “I am seriously crushing on your chipped gold nail polish,” writes Furman, “the way it signifies a desire to make the world more beautiful but also the way it signals a fuck-you approach to beauty.” This video’s collage of image with image, text on text, crush and crush again, asks the audience to consider the big love of a wandering eye. Perhaps, as Furman shows us, the nature of crushing is inherently outside of logic or narrative, and is rather more like a way of being: “To have a crush is to crush out doubt so thoroughly its green leathery skin becomes your own.”

Perhaps uniquely, the video works in this issue are each aware of their own acts of looking. They know they are videos. They worry their gazes like a marble in hands.


Monday, July 15, 2019