Contemporary videoclips with a retro soul

December 21, 2012

Today, many videoclips are still filmed in long takes, even though today's audiovisual industry has as many editing resources as it needs. In fact, there are authors who continue to use the old techniques, although this appears to entail needless effort and a worsening of image quality. The researcher Arantza Lauzirika has studied the reasons behind this phenomenon: "I've researched all this. How far we have come technologically, what means we have at our disposal, and the response of various authors to these means." She has defended her thesis at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), under the title: La limitación como eje creativo en las prácticas artísticas visuales. Camino de regreso a la génesis de la producción de imágenes después del conocimiento y uso de la tecnología (Limitation as a creative hub in visual artistic practices. The path back to the genesis of image production following technology knowledge and use).

Lauzirika lectures on subjects relating to technology at the Faculty of Fine Arts and that is what prompted her to do this thesis: "There's a myth among the students. They believe that if they make a mistake, they can always sort it out afterwards using the computer. And that a lot of technology and programmes are needed, the best cameras, etc. to do anything." And setting out to demythologize this ill-fated need for the latest technology, she started to look for "very powerful things" done with few technical resources and came across, among other things, many contemporary videoclips filmed in long takes: "In this day and age when digital technologies are within everyone's reach, when you can produce in digital, this return to the long take caught my attention. What makes us revert to old resources after we have got to know the technology?"

Two hypotheses


Lauzirika has based herself on two hypotheses to respond to this question. The first is that precisely because they are new technologies, and as the first versions always tend to be more unpredictable, some systems are not as fully developed as the authors need, and they have to offset these shortcomings with imagination and old resources. The early mobile multimedia equipment is a clear example of this: "Videos could be recorded, but we couldn't edit them, or many of us didn't know how to. So many people ditched the resources and started to apply the long take."

According to Lauzirika's second hypothesis, this return to the past has nothing to do with the technical limitations, but with the limitations each person sets for him- or herself. In other words, it is the author who has opted for this step for various reasons: "If the trend is to use many images, perhaps the long take has to be applied as an incentive. Or to attract attention. Others do it out of nostalgia, because they want to revive the old image forms. And others because they like technologies that are behind the times; for example, they work with Nintendo because they had it when they were kids."

Spiral Jetty, an example


In connection with this second hypothesis, some artists "demand" the unpredictability and errors of the analogue systems. They master the new technologies perfectly, but despite that, they opt not to apply the knowledge. "When we revive old techniques, we do it from a different perspective, we don't go back to the same starting point," explains Lauzirika. This evolution in audiovisual material has brought various consequences, which this thesis also deals with.

For example, the clash between these audiovisual materials and the way museums display their exhibits. As an example of this, the researcher mentions the work Spiral Jetty (in the photo) by Robert Smithson. This sculpture in the shape of a spiral and made of basalt is lying down on the banks of the Great Salt Lake (Utah), and the author himself produced a video on it. "Smithson did it from a helicopter and recorded it on film because he wanted the sound of the projector to mingle with that of the helicopter. But when they display this work in a museum, they show it on DVD. This is not Smithson's work, but a document about Smithson's work. Which isn't bad, but we need to be aware that that is what is happening," she says.

What is more, the evolution in audiovisual materials has revolutionised the terminology. The fact is, we have moved from watching videos to contemplating them, and from contemplating art to seeing it. Today's exhibitions accumulate so many works that it is impossible to stop in front of them all, and we are content just to glance at them, "as if a film were being made shot by shot. That is not contemplating, it is seeing." And, paradoxically, among all the works, nowadays we devote the most attention to the audiovisual materials. Precisely because they are works made in long takes that show us the development of the image. "I stop and look at what is happening in the shot. I devote more time to it. I don't see videos any more: I trace the path to contemplate them," she explains.
-end-


Elhuyar Fundazioa

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