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March 31, 2005


on the last official day of The Gates, during the 7-hour marathon walk through the park with ashton, rebeca mendez, and adam eeuwens, rebeca and i talked at length about locating art in time rather than space. The Gates, rebeca pointed out are a perfect example of artwork that has to be experienced over time. Seems true enough. However if it's true, how come the photos people took of The Gates seem to be more compelling than the video. i think it's quite possible that this is an artifact of the fact that many of us have developed decent amateur photography skills during a life-time of photo taking, and simply haven't had enough experience shooting video. but there may be something else going on, specific to The Gates themselves. would love to know what people think about this? to prime the discussion pump, i've put up a bunch of video snapshots that a friend and i made. and here's a link to the Gates Memory photographs on Flickr.

Posted by bob stein at March 31, 2005 3:36 PM


I read a web piece a few days ago on the phenomenon of nostalgia/memory and the fact that people often feel that a traditionally printed, paper-based photograph connotes something nostalgic and where a digital photograph does not. It seems as if some are scared off by the fleeting aspects of digital media, the zeros and ones if you will, as opposed to the static once in a lifetime snapshot of a sacred moment in time. Perhaps this intangible quality extends itself to video recording as well, as the act of filming is not something that is generally rehearsed, labored over ( you can always edit), and meant to be possessed within the archaeology of a family. The original photo exists as a treasured icon of sorts, where video has too many associations with mass media and amateur documentaries where people still push the wrong buttons or forget to turn on the sound.

Posted by: abigail doan at April 1, 2005 11:28 AM

So the more ephemeral the image, the less secure one feels with it? Interesting. I wonder if our instinct to seek out an image that repeats our experience means that we are attracted to the still image because of its percieved "realness," which echoes our "real" experience.

Or maybe the Gates were not so much about time as they are about landscape and the still photo interfaces better with our memory of other landscape studies: paintings, postcards and Ansel Adams photographs. Wait, that raises an interesting question: how does our memory work? Do we remember in still or in moving images?

Posted by: kim white at April 1, 2005 1:24 PM

I have to believe that we remember things in moving images - or at least as a string of images and sensations that we gather together for the keeping. I think that folks have a hard time associating ephemeral images with "nostalgia" as there is an element of possession involved like the travel postcard or a fetishized souvenir that one "takes away". Video can be a much more effective tool for bringing memory into focus, but I think that we are conditioned culturally to want to possess our images. We share them communally on a site like Flickr, but there is still a branding of sorts that does not exist with video unless we go the full length of documentary production. This makes me wonder whether Christo's preliminary drawings and collages are more real and timeless as the purest strain of the process, or whether for others the project only really exists when the have a snap shot or home video to share and replay from the experience? Does everyone's narrative follow its own unique book form? Does the art of storytelling and what we remember of an event truly depend upon the medium? Do our viewers in the end believe one medium over another?

Posted by: abigail doan at April 3, 2005 4:28 PM

I am not convinced that the still images of the Gates are more compelling than the video clips; they are merely more numerous and so scrolling through them, one can find at least one still to which s/he responds. The video postcard of the billowing saffron drapes (the third video postcard on the page bob posted) is among the most interesting artifacts to me and it did spark a memory that no still image invoked for me. On the other hand, Alex's movie seems a far better study of the Gates than several of the other artifacts put together. I guess it boils down to one's purpose for viewing; if we simply want recall--a souvenir--then a still or limited duration video may fill the bill, but if we are looking for larger cultural implications, visual parallels, and some commentary on the whole event, then the small orange movie serves that purpose admirably.

Posted by: virginia kuhn at April 3, 2005 11:21 PM

It's also useful to distinguish between different kinds of video documents. There are video snapshots of the sort that Bob posted, or longer documentary or meditative works, a la Alex's film (and of course in Alex's film, music plays such a key role). There's also a difference between films that capture a mood or a certain formal aspect of the Gates, and those that document social experiences of the event - anecdotal films. In general, I find that the photographs have been more successful in the first area, but video snapshots give them a run for their money in documenting the social dimension. For example, I added this video of a TV film crew interviewing a kid who was sledding through the Gates after the first snow. I don't know if this little moment would have made an interesting photograph. But as a short video, it captures some of the fun and absurdity of the Gates. If you watch closely, you notice the cameraman keeps pushing on the correspondent's butt, nudging her into position - I still get a laugh out of this.

Posted by: ben vershbow at April 4, 2005 9:52 AM

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