Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Art Videos

Jackson Pollock drip paints outside his East Hampton home, 1951

Though German-born photographer Hans Namuth didn't much rate Pollock's work, he was fascinated by the man. Having taken over 500 photographs of him already, he turned to film. His resulting documentary captures the artist dressed head to toe in black, a cigarette hanging from his lip, drip painting on to glass. Best of all is Pollock's curiously droning narration: 'The method of painting is a natural growth out of a need.'

Andy Warhol's Blow Job, 1963

Titillating or just plain dull? Warhol's original black and white silent film stretches to all of 35 minutes and frames the face of a pretty young man (DeVeren Bookwalter, who just happened to be lolling round the Factory that day) while he's fellated off screen by person or persons unknown. This version lasts an adequate eight minutes. Honestly, who's got the time?

Francis Bacon interviewed, 1985

About half way through this excellent South Bank Show on Francis Bacon, the interviewer Melvin Bragg and artist sit down to lunch. In Bacon's case that's really a liquid lunch through which he proceeds to slur his way. 'Cheerio,' he clamours, presumably meaning cheers, while topping himself up. Then it's off to the Colony Room for more. ('I'm not one of those made-up poofs...' he toots at another punter). Priceless.

Jean-Michel Basquiat interviewed by Glenn O'Brien, 1978

Basquiat, aka SAMO, was about to become a New York art sensation and all-round celebrity thanks in no small part to his regular appearances on this live public access show called TV Party. Slapdash and piss-takingly earnest, it ran until 1982 and was hosted by Glenn O'Brien, also rock critic for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine. In 1981 O'Brien scripted a thinly veiled biopic (about Basquiat) starring Basquiat called Downtown 81, a trailer for which is also on YouTube.

Marcel Duchamp's Anemic Cinema, 1926

Shot in Man Ray's studio and officially the brainchild of Duchamp's female alter ego Rrose Sélavy (a pun on 'Eros, c'est la vie' and my, how convincing Duchamp was in drag) this hypnotic short film features a rapidly spinning disc on which a series of punning phrases appear. As much spiritual meditation as work of Dadaist anti-art. Man Ray's dotty Le Retour à la Raison makes an interesting companion piece.

Bill Viola's The Reflecting Pool, 1977-1979

American video-artist Viola has carved out a very definite niche: ultra slow-motion films, imbued with an almost painterly quality, and often tackling twin issues of mortality and spirituality. This early film fixes on a woodland pool and a man frozen mid-air over it. With intimations of birth and death, it's ultimately both creepy and moving.


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