Underground Film Journal

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787 Cliparts (And The Terror Of Found Images)

By Mike Everleth ⋅ July 17, 2008

I’ve been introduced to the digital video work of Oliver Laric several times via various articles by Ed Halter, most recently through “Recycle It!” on the Museum of the Moving Image website. This is an article that traces the use of found footage in the cinema, starting with the budgetary-friendly borrowing of other film snippits in early Hollywood productions up to the modern age of digital remixing by artists like Laric.

(As an aside: Two brief additions I want to add to Ed’s filmography are: 1) Ed Wood inserting sequences of running buffalo and dancing African tribes in Glen Or Glenda?; and 2) the 1987 horror sequel Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 uses — and this is a rough guesstimate — 75% flashbacks from the first film before getting on with its own story. But I digress …)

Above, Laric’s 787 Cliparts is a found footage video of sorts. It doesn’t sample other film or video work, but Laric has assembled exactly what the title says and has strung these tiny anonymously-drawn figures and cut them together to give the illusion of motion. It’s a really an amazing little short that begs an almost immediate second viewing to figure out how he did it. (It’s also silent, so don’t bother turning up the volume.) Also, the first time I watched it was as a Quicktime loop on Laric’s website, which makes it seem like an endless progression of images.

Another, better example of what Ed mostly writes about — yet, not embeddable, so that’s why it’s not here — is Laric’s Message The, which I also love. Laric took the video for Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message,” divided it up into its individual words and re-arranged them all alphabetically. What I really like about it is I feel that a person isn’t familiar with the original video, you might think Laric’s piece is the way it’s supposed to be shown.

This brings me to an issue that interests me that Ed doesn’t get into too deeply in his essay: When is it cool to fuck with somebody else’s art and when is it dick-like behavior?

I’m definitely open to and would probably most likely fall on the side of it’s always cool, whether the new piece is successful or not. But I have to ponder the question because there are definitely times when my hackles get raised. Why is it that I can fully appreciate Laric’s Message The and consider it a piece of video “art,” while somebody else taking a Stan Brakhage film and uploading it to YouTube with a homemade soundtrack kind of annoys me. You can find those videos if you search for Brakhage’s name on YouTube, but see, I don’t feel right linking to them and would never feature one in an Underground Film Journal post.

I like to think I’m a pretty forward, progressive thinker, but maybe I’m totally an old fuddy-dud. I do think Brakhage is a great artist who intentionally intended his films to be silent and only meant them to be screened on film, despite giving his approval to the Criterion Collection DVD released just three months after his death. So, adding a soundtrack to one of his films feels like blasphemy. But why is Brakhage’s work any more sacred than the anonymous (to me, anyway) dude who directed the original “The Message”?

The other topic that’s interesting to me is that for a video artist who creates a piece wholly out of found images, does that artist actually “own” the finished product? Again, Laric puts Message The on his website and I really want to embed it on the Underground Film Journal, but can’t. Yet, it wouldn’t cross my mind to grab his video and put it on YouTube myself. Ok, it crosses my mind, but I’d never do it. If he wants to make it embeddable, then great. If he doesn’t, SOL to me.

Am I just stuck in Life, version 1.0? I don’t know the answer right now, but I am very interested in the question.