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Future-Past-Present: A Journey Through the Twenty-Tens So Far

Curated by Video Data Bank

VDB TV: Decades
2010s: Future-Past-Present

An original program for VDB TV: Decades curated by Omar Kholeif.

"How can one even start to articulate the conditions that determine the artistic output of a decade that has started to experience such violent rupture? How does one give voice to a decade that began with the utopia of post-millennial transparency only to descend into a whirlpool of continual lies? ‘Post-truth’ is the accommodating misnomer that has been instrumentalized by news media to articulate the ‘alternative facts’ that have been propagated by the presidential campaign and policies of the newly-elected President of the United States, former reality TV star and real-estate mogul, Donald Trump."

— Omar Kholeif

This program is also avaliable on VDB TV: Decades, a unique five-disc compilation that casts a distinctive eye over the development of video as an art form from the early 1970s to the present. This five-disc compilation was released during 2017 in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Video Data Bank. Each program was curated by an inspiring artist, scholar or media arts specialist who has focused on a specific decade, diving into the archive of the VDB to create personal, distinctive, and relevant programs, accompanied by original essays and texts. VDB TV: Decades is the perfect accompaniment to VDB’s iconic anthology Surveying the First Decade: Video Art and Alternative Media in the U.S. 1968-80, providing another essential tool for understanding the development of video and media art over the past five decades.

# Title Artists Run Time Year Country
1 O, Persecuted Basma Alsharif 00:11:37 2014 Palestinian Territories, United Kingdom
2 Beirut Exploded Views Akram Zaatari 00:28:00 2014 Lebanon
3 The Empirical Effect Rosa Barba 00:22:01 2010 Germany, Italy, Netherlands
4 Storyteller Nicolas Provost 00:07:40 2010 Belgium
5 Alone With You Doug Ischar 00:18:13 2011 United States
6 Welcome to David Wojnarowicz Week Steve Reinke 00:14:01 2016 Canada, United States

O, Persecuted

Basma Alsharif
2014 | 00:11:37 | Palestinian Territories, United Kingdom | Arabic | B&W and Color | Stereo | 16:9 | HD video


O, Persecuted turns the act of restoring Kassem Hawal’s 1974 Palestinian Militant film Our Small Houses into a performance possible only through film. One that involves speed, bodies, and the movement of the past into a future that collides ideology with escapism.

"Basma Alsharif’s O, Persecuted confronts layers of history and ideology emanating from a recently restored 1974 Palestinian militant film. The grainy black-and-white images often appear hidden, barely glowing from beneath a thick, perhaps painted surface, which a performer methodically removes over the course of the film... There is an outburst of energy as the film shifts registers and shows a series of wildly energetic beach party images. Alsharif diagnoses a troubling uncertainty and disengagement in youth which slingshots from the past to the present day."

— James Hansen, Filmmaker Magazine

Beirut Exploded Views

Akram Zaatari
2014 | 00:28:00 | Lebanon | English | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | HD video


In a city post-apocalypse, young men communicate only through smart devices. They make home out of urban debris. They can’t speak to each other, but are still able to dream.

"Akraam Zaatari’s Beirut Exploded Views shatters the stillness of daily life. Tracking shots follow a number of young men toying with their mobile phones around construction sites. The final shot finds the camera taking on the perspective of a fighter jet, subjecting us to the ways in which disruption can occur without warning thanks to the current instability of the region."

— Tess Jaspers, Film Comment

This work was commissioned by the Gwangju Biennial 2014 and produced with the support of ACE-Saradar Group.

Director of Photography: Bassem Fayad

Editing: Ali E-Darsa 

1:1.85 letterboxed in 16:9

The Empirical Effect

Rosa Barba
2010 | 00:22:01 | Germany, Italy, Netherlands | English | Color | Stereo | 16:9 |


"Living on the slopes of the volcano Vesuvius is a strange contradiction: always in stress and yet also sleepy, waiting for what might happen. In close cooperation with the Osservatorio Vesuviano and several inhabitants of the 'Red Zone' of the volcano, Rosa Barba constructs a lyrical portrait of this area, which shelters Mafia members and illegal Chinese immigrants. Historic footage, measurements, maps, and aerial shots try to capture what is always uncertain."

International Film Festival Rotterdam, 2010


Nicolas Provost
2010 | 00:07:40 | Belgium | None | Color | Silent | 4:3 | DV video


Storyteller recomposes aerial shots from the Las Vegas casino skyline to create a slick, artificial world, reminiscent of science fiction. At first glance, the viewer might think of jewelry-like space ships floating slowly through the universe. When the camera zooms in on buildings and architecture, the detailed glitter and kitsch of the city hypnotically reveals something of pure beauty and madness. Using the relatively simple technique of the horizontal mirroring screen, Provost manoeuvers and influences the interpretation of images, carefully balancing between the figurative and the abstract.

Alone With You

Doug Ischar
2011 | 00:18:13 | United States | English | Color | | 4:3 | Video


At the heart of Alone With You is the notion of impassioned avarice, i.e. the kind of motivated acquisitiveness that drives both erotic desire and obsessive collecting.

Alone is built around two main characters, a hot young pro-wrestler – the maker’s object of desire – and Robert Mapplethorpe, the artist/collector par excellence, who serves as both alter-ego and nemesis for Ischar himself. But there are no neatly contained categories here, and elements slip constantly between the various qualities of compulsion/compassion being explored. Alone... is a densely ‘vertical’ work, its use of superimpositions and shifting frame sizes giving it an almost ‘anti-cinematic’ quality. The work is roughly divided into two parts with the second section re-shaping and re-employing elements from the first.

Welcome to David Wojnarowicz Week

Steve Reinke
2016 | 00:14:01 | Canada, United States | English | B&W and Color | Stereo | 16:9 | HD video


Welcome to David Wojnarowicz Week is the follow up to A Boy Needs a Friend. Reinke proposes a new holiday with the motto MORE RAGE LESS DISGUST: David Wojnarowicz Week and takes us through his seven days of celebration.

Plankton, Kafka, Bette Davis, Wednesday afternoon visits with friends, more plankton, burning villages, Hollis Frampton, Sammy Davis Jr. as a libidinal machine producing sadness, opera, disembowelment, and poetry.