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Slow video

Certainly the videos we’re used to in our everyday lives are often mind-numbing meals on the run. And so are movies, for the most part. But just like there are great movies that make you think great thoughts, like John Sayles’ work, there’s plenty of art video that is contemplative. I am thinking of Shirin Neshat (above) for example. The images don’t rush by in kung-fu movie style. They flow and they are evocative and dreamy.

Another video artist who comes to mind with his slow imagery is last year’s darling, Jeremy Blake (image here). His abstract images push the viewer to participate, to contemplate, to make up what’s happening. Even with real-world imagery, Neshat also forces you to make up what’s happening. The strengths in both artists’ work is in the evocative imagery and storytelling–open to interpretation and contemplation.

Although both Neshat’s and Blake’s pacing are slow, slowness doesn’t seem to be the critical factor. Someone who moves quickly through his storytelling with quick-cut editing, yet still leaves room for contemplation, is William Kentridge (left). The drawings, with their surreal touches, open to question why Kentridge has chosen the look and method that he’s chosen, why he’s gone to a cartoon-making technique for the most serious of subjects, why he uses erasers and not fresh paper for each frame, and why he doesn’t use cels.

So I wouldn’t bemoan the loss of contemplation just yet. Just as there are images for quick digestion, so there are videos for quick digestion. And just like images are not all necessarily art, the same can be said for videos.

Which is not to say that quick-take videos don’t delight or can’t be meaty. But a lot of them are shallow and stick to the brain as long as a wink. I say bring on the videos. Some will be great. The rest are just another piece of the popular culture.


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