Overview of publications on film and video

Overview by Anastasia Tishunina, Elena Ishenko, and Valeriy Ledenev

From August 24 to October 25, 2015, Garage visitors will have the chance to see Postscript after RIP: A Video Archive of Moscow Artists’ Exhibitions (1989–2014). The exhibition features video documentation from the personal archive of artist Vadim Zakharov, one of the key figures in Moscow underground art. Apart from art historical issues, an exhibition of videos inevitably raises questions related to the medium itself. Garage Research Department has prepared an overview of sources in Garage Library on the history of video. The selected publications consider video’s non-linear development in the 20th century and its many incarnations in cinema, the visual arts, and other related cultural practices.

David Parkinson, History of Film

London: Thames & Hudson, 2012, 264.

In this analysis, British historian and acclaimed film critic David Parkinson focuses on the development of film technology. Leaving aesthetic and cultural aspects aside, the book opens with a chapter discussing the links between film and science and the scientific discoveries that lead to the invention of cinema. Mapping the developments in black-and-white and then color film, Parkinson dedicates chapters to the history of Hollywood and its golden age (1927–1941), as well as to European and Asian cinema. The final chapter delves into the new age of film in the 21st century, which, according to Parkinson, began in 1995. Analysed in this chapter are some of the major cult films of today, including The Matrix, House of Flying Daggers, and Avatar. History of Film also includes a bibliography and glossary. A.T.

Gordon Gray, Kino: vizual'naya antropologiya (Cinema: A Visual Anthropology)

Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye, 2014, 208.

American anthropologist Gordon Gray discusses the origins of humanity’s great love of film and the role it plays in our daily lives, complementing an aesthetic perspective with those offered by sociology, cultural studies, psychology, and philosophy. For sociology, cinema is a source of information on the values shared by different groups of viewers. Cultural studies examine the differences in cinema production and distribution across countries (here, Gray compares the film industries in Hollywood and Bollywood, as well as filmmaking in French and English-speaking countries in Africa). Psychology studies the tricks filmmakers use to attract audiences, as well as the patterns of perception of films by viewers (independent films are compared to big-budget blockbusters). Finally, by introducing a philosophical perspective, Gray provides a foundation for film theory, including quotes from renowned cultural critics such as Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, and Theodor Adorno. A.T.

Kirill Razlogov, Iskusstvo ekrana: ot sinematografa do Interneta (The Art of the Screen fromCinema to the Internet) 

Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2010, 304.

A wider perspective on moving image is offered by film historian and cultural theorist Kirill Razlogov, who analyses cinema as part of screen culture, along with television, video art, and net art. Examined in the publication are both technical aspects of cinema and TV production and their social and psychological implications. Of particular interest, the chapter The Temptation of Endless Choice and the Copyright discusses the changing status of video as it moves from the TV to the computer screen. Calling attention to the increasing availability of any kind of content on the Internet, Razlogov, who understands culture as a network of interpersonal connections activated by communication, examines the changing relationship between screen culture amateurs and professionals, focusing on video blogs and bloggers. A.T.

Donald Richie, Ozu

Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye, 2014, 264.

One of the most in-depth analyses ever written of Japanese film director and screenwriter Yasujiro Ozu (1903–1963), this book, by American film historian Donald Richie, is based on Ozu’s biography as much as on a close study of his films. Featuring interviews with acquaintances and colleagues, the book introduces readers to both Ozu the man and Ozu the film director (indeed two very different people). The book is organized as a film and begins with a sketch-like introduction of the main character and his films. The chapter entitled Script explores Ozu’s screenplays: his humor, dialogues, and major themes. Shooting reveals some of the technical aspects of his work, such as composition, angle, and camera work, while Editing touches on his editing techniques, sound effects, music, and loops. In Conclusion, Richie shares his own impressions of Ozu’s films. Remarkably, the author does not capitalize on the “oriental” aspects of Ozu’s work, such as Zen philosophy, but rather attempts to make the director's work accessible to Western audiences and to integrate his filmography into the world history of cinema. A.T.

Boris Barabanov, ASSA. Kniga peremen (ASSA: The Book of Change)

St. Petersburg: Amfora, 2008, 280.

Garage Library also offers publications on particular films. Boris Barabanov's collection of essays, defined by the author as a "documentary novel," examines the cult film Assa from all possible angles, beginning with an examination of the film's original concept, its script, and the casting process. A section devoted to the shooting of the film features a number of stories from the film set. The publication also includes a selection of interviews and recollections as well as photo documentation from the personal archives of the director, Sergey Solovyev, and the film crew. Towards the end, Barabanov discusses the film’s success story: the promotion campaign, the premieres, and the concerts. In the book's conclusion, the makers of the film revisit their work two decades after its release. A.T.

Expanded Cinema / Rasshirennoye kino

Moscow: OOO “Art Gid”, 2011, 200.

The exhibition Expanded Cinema was part of the XII Media Forum of the Moscow International Film Festival in 2011, which focused on the intersection between cinema and contemporary art. The first part of the publication presents a collection of essays by Russian and international theorists, including Olga Shishko, Érik Bullot, Kirill Razlogov, and Peter Weibel, in which the authors discuss the history and theory of video art, the differences between video art and cinema, the relationship between text and moving image, the languages of media (text, cinema, television, Internet), and video art's place in overall screen culture. The second part is the exhibition catalogue, which includes detailed descriptions of the films and sound installations featured at both exhibition venues: Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA) and Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. The catalogue comes in both English and Russian language editions. A.T.

Gilles Deleuze, Cinema

Moscow: Ad Marginem Press, 2013, 560.

Gilles Deleuze’s two-volume treatise, published in Russian as part of Garage's joint publishing program with Ad Marginem Press, is perhaps the only seminal philosophical analysis of cinema. From the table of contents, readers may mistake the work for a kind of history of cinema, written by an outstanding philosopher and a passionate cinephile attentive to detail. Deleuze’s ambition, however, extends beyond presenting his personal perspective on the history of film: analysing the transformation of cinematic imagery, he maps the changes in the patterns of thinking and perception of his contemporaries. “With the invention of cinema, the image no longer becomes the world, but it is the world that becomes an image of itself,” Deleuze points out, proceeding to explain how the editing of a film and the camera work can tell us more about ourselves (“the lost creatures, alien to the world as they are to themselves”) than any theoretical speculations. A post-structuralist thinker, Deleuze rejects—and this makes his analysis unique—the structuralist approach to film developed by Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco, and others, stressing the intangibility of an image, be it in cinema or elsewhere. E.I.

Raymond Bellour, Between-the-Images

Zurich, Dijon: JRP|Ringier & Les Presses du Reel, 2012, 413.

First published in 1990, this volume by the French film theorist Raymond Bellour brings together 20 essays written in the 1980s. As he admits in his foreword, by the time of their publication these essays already seem somewhat outdated and have become a kind of archeological corpus. But this is exactly what makes them so valuable. Bellour was one of the first theoreticians to turn his attention to video art and study the earliest creative passages between film, video, and photography. Considering the works and strategies of artists and filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Bill Viola, Michelangelo Antonioni, Gary Hill, Ingmar Bergman, Chris Marker, Chantal Akerman, and Thierry Kuntzel, he reveals the slow but inexorable changes in moving image, suggesting three major dichotomies explaining the difference between cinema and video art: stillness and movement, language and image, and figurative and abstract fiction. According to Bellour, these oppositions lead the way towards the transformation of moving image through their mitigation. E.I.

Michael Rush, Video Art

London: Thames & Hudson, 2007, 256.

Michael Rush’s survey of video art will be interesting to those looking for a comprehensive introduction to the subject. Rush is a museum professional rather than a critic, and the publication is mostly descriptive, with little theory apart from a general historical background. On the other hand, the survey provides a detailed analysis of particular artists: from the established to the emerging. Although it lacks a CD-ROM with the videos discussed, the descriptions provided are so detailed, and the screenshots so many, that together they create a kind of stereoscopic effect. In the absence of any theoretical speculations on the nature and essence of video art, the author’s choice of artists might seem arbitrary, but Rush does warn the reader of the “flexibility” of his approach in the foreword, including a quote from Rosalind Krauss: "For, even if video had a distinct technical support […] it occupied a kind of discursive chaos, a heterogeneity of activities that could not be theorized as coherent or conceived of as having something like an essence or unifying code.” V.L.

Mifologiya media. Opyt istoricheskogo opisaniya tvorcheskoi biografii. Alexey Isayev (1960-2006): Sbornik (Media Mythology: A Historical Analysis of an Artist’s Biography. Alexey Isayev (1960-2006): A Collection of Essays)

Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye, 2013, 464.

This collection of essays compiled by art historians Olga Shishko and Lyudmila Bredikhina focuses on the life and work of artist and theorist Alexey Isayev, the founder of MediaArtLab Center in Moscow and one of the main promoters of video art in Russia. The publication features Isayev’s own writings, as well as documentation of his performances, videos, and other works. Equally interesting are the critical studies being built up around Isayev’s oeuvre, which extends far beyond his own artistic career. The volume consists of 9 chapters bringing together archival materials, articles, manifestoes, and recollections by many artists, curators, and critics who witnessed the golden age of media art in Russia in the 1990s. Although it offers no general framework for the understanding of Russian video art, the collection of texts presents a kind of archive of the era, reconstructing the ways through which video art theory and practice infiltrated the cultural field of post-Soviet Russia. V.L.