Experiments In Film: 14 Video Paintings (1981 and 1984)

For some time I had it set in my mind that nothing profoundly artistic could occur as a result of home video recording.  Simply put, the gritty, blurry and amatuerish quality of such a format was not intended to be used cinematically.  This was the opinion I felt until stumbling upon a set of experimental films created by ambient music pioneer Brian Eno.  His filmic studies titled Thursday Afternoon and Mistaken Memories of Mediaeval Manhattan are perhaps some of the most portrait-like pieces of cinema I have ever seen.  Created by slowing down recordings of his New York skyline and women engaging in everything from smoking to bathing, Eno's work is meant to be enjoyed by multiple senses in an almost unconscious manner.  The film image moves quite slowly and each little details pops and fades as though it were an impressionist painting.   It would be quite fair to call Eno's works ambient, because like his music they are meant to on the atmospheric elements of cinema, as opposed to the narrative or singular aspects of cinema.  It is meant to be something that can be enjoyed slowly and obsessively without distractions, as well as passively in the background of a party or other activities.  In essence, it is purely experiential cinema that is viewable in a variety of manners.

The mastery of Eno's experimental cinema is that it works as a literal piece of art.  Mistaken Memories incorporates notions of landscape painting, while Thursday Afternoon is clearly a rethinking of portraiture.  However, what separates Eno's work from a traditional painting is that it does in fact move, even if the movement is nearly undetectable.  Furthermore, the simple placement of ambient music to his pieces elevates the work to a new level of experimental art in that it is a hybrid of visual and aural experience that simply does not occur enough in the avant-garde community.  Finally, and perhaps most surprising is Eno's use of filters and camera effects in Thursday Afternoon to distort his images.  This technique was so overused with the onset of home video that I had become disdainful of anything involving its use, however, as should be little surprise Eno makes it seem poetic, provocative and fresh.  Simply put, Eno is, as with his music, very aware of each subtle detail in his films that it becomes a thing of both grand beauty and obsessive minutia that is fantastically mesmerizing.  I know that I am gloating on Eno's films to great length, but having already loved his music, 14 Video Paintings only makes me admire the man more and more.

For more information on Brian Eno or to watch an example of his work click either of the film stills below.  A warning that Thursday Afternoon technically contains nudity, although it is more in lines with a nude painting:


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