Monday, March 10, 2008

Nam June Paik's Zen for Film

This is rather brilliant - someone has uploaded a video of Fluxus artist Nam June Paik's 8-minute silent film Zen For Film. Plenty of experimental films have made their way to YouTube, for which I am very thankful, but this one actually pushes Paik's film in interesting directions.

Fluxus was all about rather dry jokes as art, for lack of a better definition, and Paik published an 8-minute reel of blank clear film for his Zen for Film. In the theater, you are experiencing the light unobstructed by any cognitive messages except for the wear and tear of the film - basically if you look closely and carefully, you are watching time, or at least its effects.

Transferred to video you would get the same thing, although videotape degrades in a much less satisfying way than does film. Push that into a digital format, however, and you have the fly trapped in amber, that all the degradations of the original versions are frozen in time, refracted through YouTube's own crappy lens. Repeated viewing might reveal that, over time, YouTube videos somehow degrade over multiple viewings, tiny pieces of digital information flecking off like pits of plastic. It might be a singular case where the internet made a film better, unlike, say, the weird myspace page for Derek Jarman's Blue.

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