Video Experiment: Darkness and Uncertainty

I’ve made a new video, which is something. I haven’t made a video in a long time. Well, let me clarify that: I haven’t finished a video in a long time. (“Finished” for my purposes essentially means “exported into a shareable file,” because no work ever feels done to me.) A few weeks ago a friend inspired me to start working on video again. I pulled all the video files off of my iPhone, which is my main shooting apparatus, and realized I had nearly a hundred files I’d shot, mostly spontaneously, over the last three years.

Now I’m making my way through the videos, trying to figure out what they are. This is a process I go through with every piece I make, even those that start with a clearly defined concept. I make something and then try to figure out why I made it. I do, however, find analysis harder when I created something without a notion of what it would be, as with these videos.

It’s possible that they aren’t more than a catalog of observations, fodder for more complete creations. But I want to spend time with these videos, and to share them. I’m going to call them “experiments,” because that’s a pretty standard way of evading creative commitment while still putting some work out there.

The first video I chose to work on I was drawn to precisely because I knew the least about what it was.  I’m not even certain where the video came from: it was in the folder with my iPhone videos, but it’s a standard definition file with a 4:3 aspect ratio. The iPhone shoots 16:9 HD, so this video makes no sense. I haven’t used a camera that shoots 4:3 SD in ages. It’s as though it spontaneously generated from mysterious digital forces.

Visually, the video is quite dark, with only slight hints of light, shape, and movement. I do not know what I am looking at, and I like this, because I want to revel in the uncertainty of it. It does not require me to know what it is, it only requires me to look at it. I like to become lost in its uncertainty. I like to be swallowed by its darkness, its refusal to show me anything I can identify.

In the past, particularly when I was in graduate school and had to make a lot of work and come up with a lot of clever ideas for assignments for various classes, I would end up feeling quite uninspired. My brain generated no new visual ideas, and I wondered if it ever would again. In these moments my impulse was to create works that were very dark: to, for example, stick a camera on a shadow on a wall and shoot that for a long time, and then to just look at it. It would be like the visual manifestation of my creativity: blank, devoid of content. Nothing to say. But not nothing.

Strangely, I never made those videos. Perhaps the idea of that nothingness seemed too silly, too easy, or too frightening. Or perhaps I was just too busy. I’m happy with this video because I finally have one of my dark videos. Even if I don’t know how I got it.

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