2.4 ART TART: fine film to commercial cool

As the artists of the twentieth century rejected the elitism and restrictions of the art schools of the previous generations, they sought out the new and the previously ignored. There began the first stirrings of a new art interest in popular culture and a desire to experiment with new media and to engage the ever-increasing technologification of society, as subject and as a method.

Artists began experimenting with the new technologies of recordable sound and vision, but on their terms They challenged the rapidly developing conventions of the industry being established by the works of pioneering film-makers such as W.D.Griffiths. They created films that sought to balance the importance of sound and vision, films that played with the increasingly conventionalised relationships between the two.

Films such as Ballet Mechanique maintain a pure relationship between film and sound tracks, neither interferes with the appreciation of the other as a piece of art in its own right but at the same time their combination creates a work beyond either. This tradition is visible in Merylyn Tweedie's '92 film 'Utopia' where the soundtrack was created entirely independently and should be played on separate equipment to the film, yet the two continually interact and combine during the screening.

Show me how

The work of post-modern artists who continually seek to deconstruct and reconstruct societal conventions with and within technology, creates new ways of seeing, new acceptabilities that are then picked up and incorporated into the commercial front line of audio-visual art, the music video.

As previously discussed, the concept of music video relies heavily on the focus being on the music, or the sound, rather than the visuals. The conventions of narrative film demand the opposite and in many ways their influence has helped to confuse the modern music video. Mini-narratives within music videos tend to distract the viewer from the message of the song or more critically, mis-translate the message with concrete imagery that overrides the original text[^1].

By providing alternatives to these conventions, alternatives more in line with the sound orientated structure of music video, ‘art’ film has had major influence on its content.

Its influence is felt in the content of modern music videos, where fine art film techniques such as abstract montage occur frequently, particularly in the videos for the musically abstract pieces by the current generation of techno and trance musicians. Other techniques such as direct film-making, where the physical film is written on or scratched, have also had considerable usage in music videos. “Turning Brown and Torn in Two”, made by Chris Knox, is almost entirely made up of stop-motion footage that has been subsequently drawn on, or treated directly in some way. This process is continuing, with new ideas on technique still coming through into video. A more recent trend is that of the reverse process.

The influence of avant-garde art is felt strongly in music video through its attitude. Experimentation requires a certain amount of risk, courage, and freedom. Music video is a format that provides an unusually high degree of artistic freedom for directors. Through providing a historical precedent of visual experimentation, the avant-garde has given music video directors greater courage to take on the risks.

Thank you thank you

As music video has matured over the last fifteen years, it has begun to give back to the art world. Music video is beginning to be accepted as a valid art-form, worthy even of inclusion in museums. Video directors, who can on occasion get better access to funding, technology, and resources, often have the chance to experiment in ways not available to the starving artists. In other cases, such as in the work of Chris Knox, it has been shown that a music video, even on no budget, can become a piece of art.

Perhaps the most important contribution of video to art is the popularisation of the experimental. It has an ability to screen extremely avant-garde visuals to enormous audiences, as part of a commercial machine that under normal conditions would never take such risks.

  1. [^1]This issue receives greater attention in the study of these effects on the “AFFCO” video, in the case study section.