I’m on the Supercuts panel at ROFLCon, moderated by Andy Baio (waxy.org and supercut.org), along with fellow appropriated video artists Rich Juzwiak and Duncan Robinson. I thought I’d post the full length versions of the videos I’ll be briefly showing along with some others that I won’t have a chance to get to along with some background on myself.
I made my first, what is now referred to as a supercut back in 1997 by recording Bill Clinton’s State of the Union Address on my VCR and later editing out everything except the numbers from his speech making him into a master auctioneer. The video was edited on a cut-to-cut editing system and mastered to 3/4″ videotape, not the easiest thing to do. At the time I was young and having fun, playing with the footage, seeing if I could make something by rearranging a single video source. The video was made for my student tv show called Freeform TV. Give a kid a 30-minute tv time slot and he’s likely to come up with horrible and/or brilliant ideas.
I’ve always worked with what I have. Once I finished school I lost access to video editing equipment and turned to the cheapest available means for creating films. I was given some old film and a splicer and began making 16mm found footage films (The Film and Windowfilm) that contained elements of isolating and repeating filmmaking techniques. I also began making in-camera edited Super 8 films. Most of these films were based around repetition and variation in the everyday, films like Still Moving (stop motion zooms) and Variations on Cannonball (filming water abstractions made by repeatedly jumping into a pool).
My first major 16mm film, Throwing Stones at the Sun, is a series of vignettes, many of which apply photographic serials to the time-based medium of film. The vignettes of shadows, oil stains on pavement, walls, convenient stores at night, God Bless America marquees, and blank billboards are in a way real-life supercuts.
In 2002, I made my second major 16mm film, a found footage film entitled Dissolve. Dissolve is made up of hundreds of film dissolves cut from educational films then isolated, arranged by descending duration, and spliced back together by hand creating a cut-dissolve-cut-dissolve-cut-dissolve-cut rhythm. Dissolve was based on my own experiments with found footage filmmaking and with multiple 16mm film projector performances that isolated transitions and other filmic elements like pans, zooms and tilts to create highly visual, ambiguous experiences.
Around 2003, with access again to video editing software through my day job, I revisited the State of the Union address and the States of the Union series was born, this time isolating the silences in George W. Bush’s address. I described the series as “an ongoing series of short videos that seek out the essential character of our Presidents from isolation of words and gestures during their respective State of the Union addresses.” Around 2002-2003 is when I began seeing more political remix and supercut video work popping up in the experimental/underground film festival circuit.
Displacement (2005) uses the discarded tail ends of 8mm home movies (the holes coming from identification numbers that are punched by machine into the film by the manufacturer) to create a meditation on lost memories.
I began making and posting video online around 2005. I was finally able to afford a Mac with Final Cut Pro, I bumped up to high-speed internet, and was introduced to videoblogging and using RSS to distribute video work on the web. I began a remix videoblog called Valdezatron Industries using appropriated video from cable tv, but as the size of YouTube and other online sharing sites exploded, myself and fellow videobloggers Erik Nelson and Adam Quirk started Wreck & Salvage.
Our mission was to use any video posted online as source material for our work, declaring open season on anything uploaded anywhere. This then novel idea is now a fundamental right embedded in the DNA of anyone growing up in the non-dial up YouTube era. I made many user-generated collage/compilations like Toyota Time, Dueling Banjos, Technology, Upload Tests, and the America, Your America series.
There’s no such thing as an original idea. I was accused of plagiarizing States of the Union (George W. Bush) from another artist who made a similar video around the same time, similarly Wreck & Salvage’s Erik Nelson made Palin’s Breath (below) isolating the gasps for air in Sarah Palin’s “Blood Libel” speech much like an earlier YouTube video Sarah Palin — Every Breath You Take. Back to 2003, similar audio-style experiments were being made by a group called Language Removal Services. Dozens of videos use the same technique with or without knowledge of past use. As videos go viral there’s now an almost predictable course of remixing or mashing up with previous memes that take place.
A good supercut to me embraces the art of editing, fandom and pop culture, and criticism. The videos I make I hope are able to operate on these multiple levels and are able to be enjoyed by different groups for different reasons, hopefully with some crossover. I’m Bruce (below) combines several supercuts of Bruce Willisisms into one video.
Now a highly used internet video genre I wonder where else supercuts can go. I noticed a few supercuts on YouTube have actually been remade, or re-edited by a different person just for fun and fully acknowledging the original. My most recent supercut is a remake of an early YouTube supercut Big Lebowski F*cking Short Version, employing Hollywood’s penchant for the unoriginal to the supercut, adding another layer of meta to the form by using the Big Lebowski XXX Porn Parody as source material.
I find most of the supercuts made today offer very little after reading the title and watching 5 seconds of the video. The genre has bled into the land of compilations and are churned out by blogs chasing unique views. Still though there some great videos calling attention to cliche dialogue, overused tropes, and the bat-shit craziness of certain actors. They allow me to meditate on my youth and wonder why I spent hundreds of hours watching tv shows about cars jumping things, or question whether reality tv is making us all talk the same. They are smart, artful experiences expanding narrative possibilities or just allowing us the simple pleasure of watching people getting hit in the nuts with baseball bats (yeah America’s Funniest Home Videos has been at it for years).