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Tuesday March 5, 2013

Does this man have the answers to global warming and deforestation?

Seems too good to be true. I need to watch this one again and try to figure out where it’s broken.

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Thursday September 20, 2012

Optic Nerve 14 at MoCA

Joshua Hagler, The Evangelists

Music videos have given us thirty years of experimental short-form visual imagery. Films have given us a century of innovative narrarative approaches, with non-linear plotlines, surreal imagery, and a host of other effects. And television has spent almost as long feeding us easily digestible morsels of instant visual gratification. Video art has got it tough — it occupies the same screens as these other media, but it must set itself apart, must elevate itself from all of them. And it must do it while occupying the same screens, and in almost all cases with a fraction of the budget. More recently video art has had to contend with YouTube, which allows literally any jerk with a laptop to experiment with time-based visual imagery. Every piece of video art must answer the question before the discussion of its quality even begins: Why is this not a feature film? Why is this not a music video? Why is this not a television program? Why is this not YouTube piffle?

It’s a wonder how often it succeeds. The genre has produced a stream of works that re-imagine what a moving image can mean, and how it can interact with physical space. There is cross pollination between video art and the traditional video forms, but semantically video art has managed to maintain the same distinction between itself and “everything else” that is essential to all contemporary art.

Optic Nerve 14 contained, among much else: Cara Despain’s Timbre, a surreal stop-motion piece set inside a cardboard box and involving the clay heads of two creatures; Bill Fontana’s Acoustical Visions of the Golden Gate Bridge, a three-minute still-cam shot of the underside of the bridge, with car and boat horn sounds; an excerpt from Joshua Hagler’s stunning The Evangelists, in which four computer-enhanced disembodied heads discuss a mysterious religious event (arson on their apartment building, as it turns out); Yuliya Lanina’s Dodo Valse, a beautifully painted, folkloric-themed animation; Liz Rodda’s Cut, in which CG women’s muscles grow as far as the software slider will allow them to grow; Juan Carlos Saldivar’s Shift, a mini-movie with live-actors covered with paper-mache masks; Carmen Tiffany’s The Accident, a grotesque jumble of homemeade pupets in absurdist conversation and other video rift-raft; Dodrigo Valenzuela’s Diamond Box, black and white interviews of, perhaps, Mexican immigrants, each filmed so that you hear their voice as you see their unmoving face; Doug Garth Williams’ Back and Forth, a bit of clever green-screen trickery; and two YouTube style supercuts: one of all the bits of a Bill Cosby where he’s not talking, one of “The End” title cards from the end of movies.

This is the sort of variety that every edition of Optic Nerve brings. And yet the event feels remarkably consistent from year to year. The overall quality of the 15 or so videos, culled from hundreds of submissions, is always remarkable. Each is 5 minutes or less, so the viewer doesn’t get bogged down. And screening video art this way, rather than encountered on a small monitor in a gallery, makes for a compelling experience. MoCA’s no-thrills auditorium is the wrong shape for video screenings, and the production values are not exactly top notch. (This year: audio problems, and a visible computer pointer hitting the play and pause buttons and adjusting volume during the screening.) But the experience is enough like a movie theater to force the viewer’s attention the way a cinematic film does, despite the disparity of the work.

Bonnie Clearwater was shrewd to include the warped perspective of Carlos Rigau on the selection panel for this year. The man is absurdly smart about video art, and I pictured him fighting for inclusion of pieces like The Evangelists and Cut.

For years, Optic Nerve was a fleeting and elusive event: one screening, with an interested audience far beyond its capacity. But it’s improved: the program will be screened again at the De La Cruz space on October 13th. (It will also travel to the Big Screen Plaza in New York City.) Maybe next year MoCA will do a week-long run, which would allow for reviews like this to reach audiences and give them time to react, and would allow people to see it at their leisure, at the expense of some of the special-occasion-ness. We can also hope that MoCA will see fit to add text from the program to the event’s web page for archival purposes.

But mostly we should be grateful that Optic Nerve exists. Since it’s open to submission by anyone, it casts a wide net. It’s exposed several artists who have gone on to great things. And it’s helped raise awareness of video as art, and make the argument for its ongoing vitality (not as foregone conclusion as we might like to think: video was largely diminished in presence at last year’s Art Basel).

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Thursday April 24, 2008

Goofy Sony foam commercial shot in downtown. (via Miami Nights/All Purpose Dark)

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Monday March 10, 2008

Another video of an Alley Cat Bike Race. Looks like fun. (via)

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Monday February 25, 2008

Crazy video of the Miami Alleycat bike race. Via Rick to whom: 1) Where did you get the idea that this is a Critical Mass event? and 2) How is it a cyclist’s fault that some pedestrian walks out into the street without looking?

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Wednesday February 6, 2008

“While you’re drinking diet Snapple.” First of all, NSFW, even though all the f-bombs are beeped out. Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel have been an item for over 5 years, and this is a video she made for him for his 40th birthday. I get to post this because of a sketchy Miami connection: the clip was filmed at the Delano.

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Wednesday December 12, 2007

Miami Beach in the 1950s.

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Monday October 29, 2007

The Jeff Weinsier incident

Jeff Weinsier gets arrested Last week, Channel 10 reporter Jeff Weinsier was arrested in front of Miami Central Senior High. By now everyone knows what happened, but let’s recap: 1) Weinsier and his cameraman, while shooting from the sidewalk, are ordered, and more or less forced, by police to go across the street; 2) Weinsier calls his station, who calls the police department, and they’re “given permission” to go back; 3) upon returning to the sidewalk on the school’s side, another confrontation with the police ensues, and Weinsier is arrested; 4) upon being searched, he is found to be carrying a concealed weapon, which is illegal on school grounds.

Well, WPLG 10 has now released the raw video of the incident, and C.L. Jahn breaks it down. C.L. Points out the obvious — that the video doesn’t show Weinsier ever setting foot on the school’s property. This misses the rather obvious point that we don’t know what happened before the camera started rolling. Video footage and photography are like that: our brain is tricked into thinking we’re seeing all there is to see. It’s completely possible that Weinsier was standing on the grass before the video we see was shot. And if he wasn’t, the police can certainly claim so, which may give some legal standing to their “lawful order” for him to stay across the street.

The law here is murky: schools are surrounded by a 500 foot “school safety zone,” and in some regards this zone is considered an extension of school grounds. Carlos Miller addresses the various laws that come into play here and here. It seems clear that Weinsier violated the law by carrying the gun near a school. But if that’s the only thing he ends up guilty of, it may very well overshadow the much larger issue: whether the police were right in ordering him off the sidewalk, and in arresting him. Carlos says:

According to Florida Statute 810.0975, which defines trespassing in “school safety zones”, a person is committing an unlawful act if he loiters in the school safety zone, but “does not have legitimate business in the school safety zone”.

The emphasis is his, and with good reason: a possible hinge-point is whether television reporting constitutes “legitimate business.” The common-sense answer would be ‘yes,’ but of course common sense is irrelevant. What’s relevant is how all the various facts of the case, and the relevant laws, are going to be interperted here. If the officer had a legitimate reason for ordering the reporters to leave (despite the fact that he doesn’t give one on camera, he of course had a reason — TV reporters file reports from schools all the time with no trouble), does disobeying the order actually constitute trespassing? Will they continue to insist that Weinsier stepped on the grass? Is it legally relevant that the Police Department’s own Public Information Officer told the station that it was OK for Weinsier to be on the sidewalk?

Perhaps most important: will the WPLG stick up for their reporter, and fight this case hard? On Friday, the station suspended Weinsier for two weeks for carrying the concealed weapon, a violation of their company policy. Fine; they may just be erring on the side of caution in preparation for the fight to come. But barring more information, this is a clear first-amendment issue, and the station — we all — need to pursue it to make sure it’s resolved properly. If the police were not right, there needs to be a major counter-suit. And remember: if the only charge that sticks is the concealed weapons violation, the police were wrong. In this case, that constitutes a technicality, because it wasn’t discovered until after the arrest. We’ve all seen how well police reports can spin police behavior even when it is obviously and clearly wrong. Let’s not stand for that this time around.

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Wednesday October 24, 2007

Jeff Weinsier, a reporter for Channel 10 news, was arrested for “trespassing” while standing on the sidewalk in front of Miami Central High. After the arrest, police found a gun on him, so charged him with possession of a firearm on school property. Police say he had previously stepped on the grass, but the video clearly shows them arresting him on the sidewalk (“which is usually considered public property,” as the report incredulously puts it) after he refuses to cross the street. (Via Carlos Miller, who unpacks some of the law around this.)

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Monday June 18, 2007

Dark side of the Boom, a documentary about the housing crisis in Miami, is screening tonight at Barry University.

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Monday June 11, 2007

Vehicular transportation: two contrasting case studies

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“Ingots were buried under the Miami Performing Arts Center by workers installing the subterranean infrastructure. The performance was photographed. The ingots remain.”

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Saturday March 3, 2007

“Homosexuals are going to hell.” Annoying people on Ocean Drive. Note how this gets stranger and stranger as it goes.

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Thursday January 11, 2007

2007 We Media Film Festival

We Media Miami logo OK, let me see if I understand this correctly. A conference, We Media Miami (that’s a link to a post on the conference’s blog about the conference), which is now in its third year, and this year includes an “online film festival,” We Media Film Festival, which is aimed at short YouTube-style amateur video (in fact, you submit entries by uploading or by YouTube link). Back to the blog, and here’s a press release about the festival part. All of this is presented by ifocus, a non-profit, and hosted by the University of Miami School of Communications to present the conference.

The conference is expensive, and the film festival can be entered by anyone (deadline: February 2), so no action required. I mention this mainly because it’s another example of something interesting the UM School of Communications is doing (Tuesday we noticed BarCamp), and because it’s cool.

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Wednesday January 10, 2007

A great time-lapse movie of the sun setting over downtown Miami, with an unnecessary Ocean Drive coda. (No sound.)

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Saturday December 2, 2006

Things you CAN’T do when you’re NOT in a pool. Have a nice weekend, y’all.

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Monday October 16, 2006

Driving with Mr. Alesh

I’ve been out of pocket the last few days, sick and in bed. Here’s a video I made a few days before, driving down an unnamed street in south Broward, among lots of police activity. I’ll tell ya, though: trying to film and control the ol’ vehicle is like driving drunk, or driving and talkin’ on the celly. Anyway, I hear there’s been some sports-related controversy lately, but I stay out of that. More bloggin’ soon.

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Tuesday May 23, 2006

¡MAYDAY!

Oh, boy, here’s something everybody already knows about: local hip-hop duo ¡Mayday! teamed up with the amazing Cee-Lo Green and DJ Craze for the song Groundhog Day. The video, shot in Miami (it doesn’t represent quite to the extent of the Rick Ross video, but it’s pretty damned good), got uploaded to YouTube a week ago, and has become the most popular video there of all time. But nevermind the stats: the video is a funny tribute to Miami visuals (shot on Washington ave and around downtown, including shots on the Metromover), the song is a tribute to (I think) working in an office all day and doing coke all night (and samples a line about TPS reports from Office Space), and the beat is old-school and super-mellow. What’s not to like? (via R: 1, 2)

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