Cultures of Vision: Images, Media, and the Imaginary

By Ron Burnett | Go to book overview

5
Reinventing the Electronic Image

Prologue: To Be or Not to Be — Virtual

Portable lightweight video cameras and video recorders became a reality in the late 1960s in North America. This chapter will examine video and electronic images in general. Video is a hybrid medium incorporating electronic, celluloid, and photographic characteristics. I like to think of video images as carvings in time. For me, the paradoxes and pleasures of the television monitor are summarized in the rather strange, ghostly images that float across the screen during music videos. On the one hand, with reference to an older technology of synchronous sound, music videos use voice and lip movement to suggest that the singers are actually singing in real time. On the other hand, many of the videos are daring and experimental. Even as experiments, they incorporate the innovations that first appeared in the avant-garde film movements of the 1950s and 1960s and in the public performance styles of early rock stars. 1 It is precisely this hybridization that interests me. The medium encourages a playfulness that is built into ideas of portability. And while most music videos are shot in studios and increasingly are digital and generated through computerized technologies (e.g., Peter Gabriel's videos), they retain the desire to present their material as if the viewer is attending a concert. The temporal juxtapositions and poetic editing are reinforced by the active camera movements used by MTV camerapeople (or as is the case in Canada, by MusiquePlus and MuchMusic). VJs (video disk jockeys) operate within studio contexts where the hand-held camera plays with sensations of movement and the lifelike of rhythms of cinéma-vérité. These are instances of mixed media where sounds roar above and beyond the visual in a truly unconstrained process of imagining space, time, and experience. Even repetition doesn't still the shifting parameters within which I, as a viewer, do my work upon music videos. The projections are endless here, and they are manifested most intensely in the quickness with which the videos appear and disappear. They are anthems one day and

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1
The best book I have read on this phenomenon is Andrew Goodwin, Dancing in the Distraction Factory:Music Television and Popular Culture ( Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1992), esp. 49-71.

-218-

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Cultures of Vision: Images, Media, and the Imaginary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - Images and Vision 1
  • 2 - Camera Lucida Barthes and Photography 32
  • 3 - From Photograph to Film Textual Analysis 72
  • 4 - Projection 127
  • 5 - Reinventing the Electronic Image 218
  • 6 - Postmodern Media Communities 278
  • Bibliography 337
  • Index 349
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