Monday, May 14, 2007

Raising the Bar

This appeared in the “Arts Briefly” notes in Monday’s New York Times:

Lars von Trier, the Danish director whose credits include “Breaking the Waves,” “Dancer in the Dark” and “Dogville,” has cast doubt on his future as a filmmaker after a bout of severe depression, The Associated Press reported. In an interview with the Danish newspaper Politiken, he said the aftermath of his ailment had left him “like a blank sheet of paper.” Mr. von Trier, a founder of the Dogma school of filmmaking, which seeks to purify the art by using hand-held cameras and spurning special effects and other gimmicks, was admitted to a Danish hospital for treatment around the start of the year. Since then, he said, he has lost focus and takes no pleasure in his work. “You can’t make a film and be depressed at the same time,” he said. “They say that it can take a couple of years to recover after a depression. But let us see.”

I really found this sad: because of Trier’s honesty, for one, because of the ax of depression, two, and also because of how fragile an artist can be.

Although I cringe at the cult around Trier – basically the hipoisie – I admire him for bringing stark and shocking (but not trying to be) drama into film. Plus, he really pushes form, but not as gimmick. As explained above, the no gimmick lies at the heart of the Dogma movement he helped found.

With the YouTube-ization of video, I think it is upon video artists to distinguish, even purify, the possibilities of the medium, to bring the art back into video. In honor of Trier, I propose these beginnings of a Video Art Manifesto, a set of rules for video artists in 2007:

1. Video will reduce narrative, so that upon entering the video space, a viewer can almost immediately grasp the extent of what happens in the work.
2. No filters from Final Cut Pro will be used except to perfect image quality (contrast, brightness, color balance, etc.)
3. Only music or sound that does not have a clear looping point will be incorporated
4. No transitions except for the cut are allowed.
5. Video will be projected or shown on un-branded monitors, but not with other “installation” objects like stuffed animals and tables full of food.

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