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Art and the Moving


The 1980’s Scratch Video

The 1980’s
 The 1980s were marked by an increasing diversity
of concerns and forms in England. A distinct
separation had occurred between film and video
makers, and television broadcast appeared as a
viable medium for artists with the advent of Channel
 Against the background of Thatchers conservative
policies, clause 28, the Toxteth riots and the spectre
of AIDS; issues of identity became a significant
concern for artists, which lead to the formation of
organisations such as Sankofa and Black Audio
Film Collective.
New Technologies
 During the 1980’s many artists began to move away from the
rigid structures and formal systems inherent in the Structuralist
film movement in the 1970’s
 Structuralism’s legacy to Artists film remained in filmmakers
continued interest in vision and perception, film technology and
the relation of time to movement
 Filmmakers moved away from non-representative imagery to
embrace new technologies and the growing media sphere.
 Much of this new work was both driven by and reflected the
consumer revolution in electronics.
 Artist’s working with moving image, moved from minimalism and
conceptualism to image saturated content.
Scratch Video
 A wave of fast-cut (Scratch or improvised) Video emerged.
 Film-makers re-edited TV and film footage using Political images of subjects such as
Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and the Military as targets.
 Filmmakers re-invented the notion of Soviet Montage to create parodies often with rock
music soundtracks
 The movement named Scratch video was primarily British and was characterised by its
use of found footage, fast-cutting and multi-layered rhythms.
 It is significant in that, as a form of outsider art, it challenged many of the establishment
assumptions of broadcast TV - as well of those of gallery-bound video art.
 Scratch video arose in opposition to broadcast TV, as (anti-)artists attempted to deal
critically and directly with the impact of mass communications. The context these videos
emerged in is important, as it tended to critique the institutions making broadcast videos
and the commercialism found on “youth” TV, especially MTV.
 Much of the work was politically radical, often containing images of a sexual or violent
nature, and using images appropriated from mainstream media, including corporate
advertising; using strategies inspired by the Situationist concept of detournement
(Turnabout/De-rail)and William Burroughs’ theories of Electronic Revolution.
Key Artists
 Nick Cope
 George Barber
 Cabaret Voltaire
 Nocturnal Emissions
 Gorilla Tapes
 Kim Flitcroft
 Sandra Goldbacher
 Richard Heslop
 Psychic TV
George Barber
 Absence of Satan UK 198Video 4 mins, Colour, Sound

 A beautiful woman screams at something unseen off camera.
Paul Newman appears eating salad and soon the famous
sequence of Paul Newman closing a car door cut with a
helicopter takes place. Absence of Satan is probably one of
George Barber's best Scratch works and is a deft reworking of
cinematic narrative and cliché.
 Scratch video makes use of found images from films and
television, cutting seemingly incongruous imagery together to
make a new meaning; it has been compared to the record-
scratching techniques of hip-hop music, hence the name.
 The rebellious techniques of Scratch Video that used then cutting
edge editing equipment, were very quickly subsumed into TV
Advertising and music videos. The 1980’s became a turning
point in which artists video filmmakers and techniques were
integrated into Television.
 Zbigniew Rybczynski is a Polish filmmaker whose film - Tango
(1981) won an academy award for best short animated film.
 Rybczynski’s techniques were lately repeated for an Ariston
Pop Promo’s
 Artists such as Sophie Muller (Who attended Central St Martins
and then the Royal College of Art) found their techniques
perfectly suited to the needs of expanding TV networks, Pop-
promos, particularly with the birth of MTV (1981).
 Muller has directed over a hundred music videos and has been a
longtime collaborator with acts like No Doubt, Blur, Annie Lennox
and Eurythmics.
 Here we see a video from a Video album she created for the
Eurythmics’ Savage album in 1987
 Here we see the techniques of Avant-garde film (elliptical
editing, pastiche, repetition, emphasis on duration, flicker and
blur) seeping into Industrial or commercial film and video.
Summing Up
 Over this decade young experimental artists and
film-makers blended easily into the commercial
sector and embraced the taboo of commercial
 The reason is partly due to;
 A distaste for over theorising,
 The growth and interest in Media Studies
 The general acceptance of the worth of popular
 The consumer boom in electronics and the rise of
youth culture once again.
Practical Task
 George Barber’s works reflects on the false perspective of reality
used by advertising, Commercial film etc.
 Taking the video files you have been given, attempt to subvert the
meaning of the adverts/film footage through editing and collage.
 Try to use at least once, the key techniques of Scratch Video
 Repetition
 Collage
 Parody or Subversion
 Rhythmical Editing

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