Movie time at the Vacuum

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While we’re in deep cyber-linkage and cyber-viewing I want to encourage you to peek at a couple of short animateds and a video at the Vacuum, one of Philadelphia’s fine young efforts, an online-only gallery for short video. I’ve seen a number of memorable works here since the Vacuum went up last year. That’s a pretty good track record for a new venue. Here’s a post from Sept. 2004 on the Vacuum’s innaugural show.

Up til Aug. 30 is Aaron Osborn‘s “Count Down” and “Night Thought,” two short animateds that are sweet and possessed of a flowing, reductivist animation style and a hypnotic, hip hoppity musical accompaniment that’s just fine. The pieces are cool and hot at once, a nice trick and Osborn pulls it off. Click the third floor buttons for Osborn’s works.
(first three images are from “Count Down”)

“Count Down,” which starts with a cosmic night of swirling stars and planets, then zeroes in on earth for a story, caught me by surprise. In spite of the title I didn’t get where it was going until it got there.

Partly that’s because of the breezy audiotrack that stays with the cool beat throughout, regardless of the action (which gets into rockets and missles and some nuclear explosions). Consider the piece an anti Hollywood movie. It’s subversive storytelling with a lesson. Very nicely done. I’ve watched the short piece several times and enjoyed it each time.

The artist says he was born in the desert in Texas, went to RISD for painting and printmaking but that his heart is in video animation. I think this work is right where he belongs.

His second piece, “Night Thought”is shorter and seems like it’s either not finished or it’s meant to have a kind of video wallpaper effect — no story. It’s good. The piece has a similar trippy rolling with the punches ambiance to “Count Down” with an equally sober and rhythmic soundtrack. It shows a thunderstorm from up in the clouds. Both pieces have a kind of world at a distance ambiance and a questioning that’s kind of poignant and very young. I will be watching for more of Osborn in the future. (image is from “Night Thought”)

Nexus Member Jody Sweitzer, whom we’ve written about before (see artists list), is an experimental video artist whose works generally deal with the body — hers — in relation to herself, her relationships and the culture at large. Sweitzer’s got four pieces in this show including three black and white quicktime movies, two on the first floor, “I love you” and “19%” and “Ladies and Gentlemen, part 3” on the second floor. “I love” shows a closeup of lips mouthing words. The piece lasts six minutes. “19%,” which lasts twelve minutes, depicts a closeup of fingers kneading skin to locate the 19% of fat measured in, I think, the artist’s body. Both of these works could have benefitted from editing, and 19% in particular tried my patience by loading up slowly.

For “Ladies and Gentlemen, part 3” the artist placed surveillance cameras at foot level in bathrooms (maybe at the Fringe Festival?) and speeded up the soundtrack so it sounds like Huey, Louie and Dewey quacking away. The piece made me uncomfortable but the soundtrack is so cartoonish it undercut the piece’s punch. Surveillance is a scary thing and I have to question undercutting the scare factor.

Sweitzer’s “Inner mission” on the second floor is the piece to go for. (all three black and white images are from “Inner mission”) It’s a great piece about relationships, arguments, and how nothing in relationships is really black and white. The artist calls it an experiment between speech and negative space and wants the viewer to wear headphones while watching it to get the biggest bang from the very loud soundtrack with gun shots, car horns honking, etc., probably from an action adventure movie. While I didn’t wear headphones, and in fact turned down the sound, I found the piece had much beauty and humor and was smart commentary on reading beneath the surface.

And of course, the extreme black and white imagery is a reminder of that old optical trick asking whether you see a vase or two faces — which is of course about perception and reality and how hard it is to see the forest for the trees. Anyway, the piece is solid and reverberant. Something about the visual reductiveness of this piece went well with the spare graphics of Osborn’s pieces.

Score another good show for the Vacuum.

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