Saturday, February 21, 2009

Covers in Motion

Thanks to the Smartbitches I came across a short clip of a video by Robert Arnold, who
explores the concept of "continuous loop" video in works such as The Morphology of Desire (1999), which explores romantic love in popular culture illustrated on the covers of dime-store, romance novels. This work has won numerous awards, including the Best Animated/Experiment Film, Boston Underground Film Festival (2002); Grand Prix, Videoformes International Video & Multimedia Festival, France (2000); Best Experimental Film, Uppsala International Short Film Festival, Sweden (1999). (University of Wyoming)
often found myself in the aisle of a grocery store where there would be rows of books. I noticed that in the romance section, the images on the covers of these books were always nearly identical. And that’s one of the aspects of the illusions of motion in film — that the successive frames are nearly identical, but there’s some small degree of difference between them. I imagined that if you pushed your shopping cart down the aisle that had the romance novels, and you blinked in time with the passage of each one of those books, instead of a bunch of books going by, you would see, like a zoetrope, one couple in motion.

I decided to test that hypothesis. I actually had to collect romance novels — I started going to thrift stores where you could buy them for $.25 apiece or $1 for a box of them. I ended up building a collection of about 1,000 of them, so that I could start to look for the relationships between these different covers, and likewise organize them as a massive flipbook. I wanted simultaneously to assert that these were separate individual covers of separate individual books, but at the same time allow them to blend together, so it appears that it becomes one couple that’s moving in space, but is also shifting from a brunette to a blond, to one with green eyes, then blue eyes, in this constant transformation of all those identities merging together.
The result was Morphology of Desire, and you can see a clip of it here. That's only a small part of the whole, unfortunately, but here's a description of it:
The video is split up into various episodes, each introduced by a statement. In beautiful flourishing letters, texts such as 'She hovered between mistrust and the urgent will to believe…', and 'His gaze swept over her, hot and victorious…' set the tone for the images that follow. [...] Gradually, the thread of this video becomes clear, with the actions of the main characters growing more explicit. You can see their desire conflicting with any rational reticence, but inevitably, they are heading for the moment of surrender. The physical distance between the characters becomes smaller and smaller, and their glances less and less ambiguous. Eventually, all doubt disappears from their eyes, and it is clear that they only want one thing. Then, in the final episode, you can hear the sonorous sound of a church clock striking, and the rumble of thunder in the distance. The thought that something ominous is about to happen springs to mind, but the lovers are untroubled by this. The final image fades away with a shot of a knowing wink from a supremely happy blonde. (Netherlands Media Art Institute)
The clip from Morphology of Desire reminds me of Philip Scott Johnson's 500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art:

A full list of the music and paintings used in the making of that video can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. Sandpiper or a Star

    A sandpiper or a star.

    A wish for one, a wish for two

    I think I shall, with them both for you.

    What can I say, what could I do

    All I can do is send blessings to you

    We had sunsets to see, and places to be

    A life of romance, filled with sun, life, and dance

    Forgive me my love, forget those cruel words I said

    I was hurt at the time, and could only see red.

    Like a spoiled brat, I snapped back at you

    And hurled my cruel words, meant to cut through and through.

    I know you can forgive but will you forget

    Is there a chance, that we will see that sunset.

    A moonlit night, the morning sun’s glow

    Can we view them together? Can we continue to grow?

    Or are we done, this is the end

    I have lost not only a girlfriend but also a friend.

    To quote a quote on this tragic theme

    A moonlit night, a moon’s bright beam

    Neither here, nor neither there

    Such stars will twinkle everywhere

    If each of us are to have a star

    No matter how near nor how far

    And if then there would be a star for you

    Than you shall ever more have two