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Great ideas in video


Before the dust settles on September and we’re on to pumpkins and Halloween I need to tell you about an email Matthew Suib sent me. In my gush ‘n enthuse over Christian Marclay‘s “Video Quartet” (2002) in “Film: Cut” at the Milwaukee Art Museum I apparently said that the piece was like nothing I’d seen before.


Well, Suib reminded me of his piece “The Harpo Marx Free-Jazz Jamboree” (2001) a 6-channel movie and music appropriation that ran at Vox (he’s a member) in 2001. The piece was included in a different form (a one-channel piece) in 2002 at the ICA in the group exhibition, “Shoot the Singer.”

(images are Suib’s 6-channel Harpo above and the 1-channel Harpo below)


I am happy to be reminded of “Harpo” which I saw at the ICA and which truly belongs in the discussion about film and music appropriation in video art. Suib’s transformations of source material — Harpo Marx, Charlton Heston or George Bush’s Axis of Evil speech (in which the artist memorably erased all the words leaving nothing but the smirks and the shifty eyes) — are one reason Philadelphia has such a stellar video art scene.

Like the search for the structure of DNA with Watson/Crick and Linus Pauling working on the same problem, great ideas attract ambitious people who often make breakthrough discoveries at similar times and with similar great results.