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Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

Lambert is a Chicago-based musician and media artist. His creative output primarily consists of vocal driven art-pop music and pop-inflected video art made from repurposed industrial and commercial media. This comprehensive collection of his works reflect, critique and ultimately transcend American zeitgeists and Lambert's own consumption within them.

“Sitting somewhere between these two styles [Animal Charm and Bryan Boyce] but inflected with the serialism of Steve Reich, Kent Lambert's videos are elaborate mood pieces evoking moments of strange joy or dread… In contrast to the limited-edition model of gallery video art, Lambert early on aligned himself with an anti-copyright ethos, ending his videos with a note that his works were in the public domain, and setting up a website to exhibit them freely. In this sense, he overlaps with a younger generation of artists who emerged as Internet natives, engaged with sharing video as a social activity.”

Ed Halter, “Recycle It,” Moving Image Source, July 2008

“Graced with a keen sense of editorial timing, Lambert uses his subject's own words to twist their egos into knots without going straight for the cheap laugh. But beyond humor, Lambert can turn his source material into sonic landscapes with a beat — à la EBN — and juxtapose images to unlock the cultural bias contained within.”

Jason Halprin, CINE-FILE, August 2009

# Title Artists Run Time Year Country
1 Ken Burns Give You Something Kent Lambert 00:03:30 2001 United States
2 Condensed Movie #1 Kent Lambert 00:10:05 2002 United States
3 Security Anthem Kent Lambert 00:03:30 2003 United States
4 Hymn of Reckoning Kent Lambert 00:06:30 2006 United States
5 Sunset Coda Kent Lambert 00:03:30 2006 Japan, United States
6 Gaijin Kent Lambert 00:04:15 2003 Japan, United States
7 Majic Kent Lambert 00:01:20 2004 United States
8 Piracy Kent Lambert 00:00:35 2004 United States
9 Teenagers Kent Lambert 00:01:00 2004 United States
10 The Biggest Night in Music Kent Lambert 00:02:33 2004 United States
11 Mother-in-Law Descending a Staircase Kent Lambert 00:00:47 2004 United States
12 Dudley Pippin Kent Lambert 00:02:15 2006 United States
13 Condensed Movie #2 Kent Lambert 00:00:30 2008 United States
14 WHS VHS #1 Kent Lambert 00:03:20 2009 United States
15 Fantasy Suite Kent Lambert 00:07:17 2009 United States

Ken Burns Give You Something

Kent Lambert
2001 | 00:03:30 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

In January 2001, the KEN BURNS’ JAZZ promotional blizzard hit New York City. Billboards, banners on buses, elaborate retail displays in book and record stores, feature coverage in every major print, radio and TV outlet, chatter around the water cooler at the office — total saturation. I’d already been indoctrinated against Burns by University of Iowa film studies professors, and early reviews suggested that JAZZ basically dismissed post-60s avant-garde acts like AACM and Cecil Taylor, so I had no interest in watching the show, and I resented its invasion of all corners of my world. The final straw for me was an uninvited email from Amazon.com urging me to purchase official JAZZ merchandise and to watch a series of Burns interview clips. My first instinct was to delete the email. Instead, I impulsively clicked the link to the clips, and soon enough I was shooting excerpts of them off of the computer screen with my Mini-DV camcorder. While editing the clips, I told myself I was making some kind of crazy 21st Century video jazz — Burns, Wynton Marsalis, and the rest of the traditionalists be damned. By the time I finished the edit, the rage and resentment were gone (I’d even come to feel a strange fondness for Burns and his self-promoting incantations), and I moved on with my life.

"Redeems (?) the whitest man in America, Ken Burns, by making him scat, riff and syncopate more than all the hours of his multi-PBS JAZZ series ever attempted. The void of the PBS drone is regenerated in a cut and slice Shiva dance of creation."

— Kyle Henry, Cinematexas, September 2002

“Subverts the famed documentarian's notoriously finicky filmmaking with a jittery cut-and-paste style worthy of William Burroughs.”

Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle, September 2002

This video is also avaliable on Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

Condensed Movie #1

Kent Lambert
2002 | 00:10:05 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

During my stint as an entry-level acquisitions scout at a now-defunct art house distribution company, I amassed a small collection of VHS tapes from a vast pool of unsolicited submissions. By the standards of the art house canon, these were very bad movies, but I adored them for the sincerity of their intention. Bits and pieces of these movies became source material for a number of the videos on this compilation (Teenagers, Hymn Of Reckoning, Fantasy Suite). My favorite of these tapes by far was Silverwings, an ambitious Des Moines, Iowa production about a pilot transported by lighting storm to a medieval fantasy world in need of rescue from an evil overlord (a plot remarkably similar to that of the subsequent Martin Lawrence vehicle Black Knight).

I wanted to somehow share Silverwings with the experimental film/video festival community that had embraced Ken Burns Give You Something, and I didn’t want to simply assemble a comedic highlights reel. I wanted to show every scene, shot and character, in sequence. I was advised to trim its 123-minute duration to a more programmer-friendly 10 minutes, and recording the movie in fast-forward mode resulted in a piece much longer than that. Ultimately, I edited out almost every instance of dialogue, focusing instead on the often protracted pauses between lines, and on the faces and facial expressions that would never make a Hollywood cut.

This video is also availiable on Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

Security Anthem

Kent Lambert
2003 | 00:03:30 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

Security Anthem’s requisite components came together relatively slowly. I’d known for years that I wanted to make something out of the Oto speakers’ most sinister, suggestive sentences. I’d taught myself to program music on a Game Boy using a cartridge I’d bought from a Swedish programmer, and I composed a sequence of ominous music that seemed well-matched to the speakers. I’d recorded John Ashcroft singing his self-penned song “Let the Eagle Soar” through a media player window, and I knew that it somehow belonged with the speakers and the 8-bit music. I remember feeling frustrated at a lack of forward momentum in an early, more Dadaist edit, so I typed all of the speakers’ sentences into a text file and re-arranged them until they were as close to a linear narrative poem as I could get them. It read as the kind of poem a deranged teacher might write for and read to a kindergarten class. The period of obsessive final editing and tweaking happened early in the winter of 2002-03, as Bush/Cheney and company laid out their plans for more war, as if the world were their classroom of oblivious toddlers. Security Anthem premiered at KJ Mohr’s Discount Cinema series in late January 2003, along with an early cut of Laurie Jo Reynolds’ Space Ghost. Ben Russell was at the screening and insisted that I add a short pause between the speakers and the Ashcroft cameo. I complied and saw that he was right and knew that the piece was done. It went on to have a wider reach and a longer and more robust screening life than anything else on this compilation by far.  

“A ritual recitation of the mundane for uncertain times.”

New York Video Festival

“Kent Lambert's chilling Security Anthem is an exercise in post-September 11th dementia in which banal lines delivered by talking heads ("The onions made him cry") become increasingly sinister, leading to a surprise ending featuring John Ashcroft.”

Fred Camper, Chicago Reader, August 2003

“A ‘Red States Agonistes’ in which a chorus of concerned faces from the heartland narrate a tragedy of found poetry. Dirty potatoes, sharp knives, an only son, and too-fast driving augur certain catastrophe that not even the intervention of deus ex machina John Ashcroft can divert or relieve.”

Spencer Parsons, Cinematexas, September 2003

This video is part of the Oto Trilogy and is also avaliable on Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

Hymn of Reckoning

Kent Lambert
2006 | 00:06:30 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

In an interview I did earlier this year for the Milan Game Video/Art exhibition, I deflected a question about the connection between Hymn of Reckoning and Reckoning 3, discouraging the idea that there was much of a link between the two videos, apart from their names and their use of video game material. Now that I’ve thought about it more, I can tease out more connections. Both pieces were more ambitious and laborious than work I’d made before, and with both I attempted to critically engage with media products I’d willingly consumed (as opposed to found by chance or at a day-job). Both feature recognizable Hollywood actors (as opposed to obscure or unknown performers). For both, I recorded synthesizer figures and chords to provide connective tissue between sequences.

I made Hymn of Reckoning in direct response to the torture plots of Bush/Cheney-era television entertainments, plots that provided insidious support for the architects of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the like. I’d shot Julie Christie sobbing in Afterglow off of my TV in Brooklyn in the summer of 2001, and in the months after 9/11 I’d tie that clip in my mind with Tom Cruise sniff-hyperventilating in Magnolia. I thought I’d try to make an unbearable clip reel of actors sobbing hysterically, an expression of the grotesque, compounding sorrow of those months and years, the sorrow that was never as viscerally present in public discourse as I thought it should be, a sorrow that of course continues on and on. I avoided the sobbing clip reel project until the winter of 2005-6, when Hymn of Reckoning was a feverish obsession and I needed a sequence to close it out.

“The masterful Hymn of Reckoning (2006) combines images from old computer games and Lost to create a carefully calculated age-of-terror mental maelstrom.”

— Ed Halter, “Recycle It,” Moving Image Source, July 2008

This video is part of the Oto Trilogy and is also avaliable on Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

Sunset Coda

Kent Lambert
2006 | 00:03:30 | Japan, United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

After the shrieks and howls of Hymn of Reckoning, I felt that I needed to close out the Oto trilogy with a gentle flashback, to a 1980s sunset beach on a tropical island. The bulk of this video’s work was in animating the speech-bubbles so that they’d blend in with the VHS scene. Playing the scene once and ending the piece felt too fast and fleeting, and I feared that nuances in the conversation would be lost, so I approached it like a verse in a simple, one-part song: I repeated it once again, with just the slightest modifications to its sonic textures.

My brother translated and helped me to phonetically spell out my mother’s Japanese for this video’s subtitles.

This video is part of the Oto Trilogy and is also avaliable on Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

Gaijin

Kent Lambert
2003 | 00:04:15 | Japan, United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

Gaijin = A non-Japanese person. In 1984 I celebrated my eighth birthday on my mother's island. My Uncle Pat set a VHS camcorder up on a tripod and left it running to record the festivities. A year or two later, I accidentally recorded a snippet of the sitcom Mr. Belvedere over some of the footage. In November 2003, I combined some of these VHS artifacts with music I made on a Game Boy and images found on Google using the keyword “gaijin.” The images were animated in After Effects within my first few days of using the software, under the tutelage of Ed Rankus (I audited his class at SAIC for a few weeks). I made this piece quickly, within a couple of short sessions/days, so that it could premiere at London’s Exploding Cinema, at the invitation of Jennet Thomas.

This video is part of the 5 Video Hits series and is also avaliable on Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

Majic

Kent Lambert
2004 | 00:01:20 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

In the spell of one of the most exquisite pop songs I know, with the most rudimentary of animation skills, I sought to produce a smooth and rapid transition from innocuous kindergarten silliness to faux-Lynchian horror. As with Gaijin, I exploited the then-novel Google image search heavily for this video.

"Like Gaijin, these five videos were made very quickly. My goal was to make all five of them in the span of a workweek, one video a night. If I remember correctly, I succeeded with all but one of them (it took me a few nights to get The Biggest Night in Music just right). These videos were commissioned for and premiered in the April-May 2004 Dialogue with Pop exhibition at NYC’s The Tank."

This video is part of the 5 Video Hits series and is also avaliable on Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

Piracy

Kent Lambert
2004 | 00:00:35 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

Via Jonathan Pryce in elaborate costuming, Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) unwittingly sounded a clear and full-throated argument for the appropriation of so-called intellectual property, for the video remix/rework/quotation, practices and forms that would become ubiquitous on YouTube and its ilk a few short years later.

"Like Gaijin, these five videos were made very quickly. My goal was to make all five of them in the span of a workweek, one video a night. If I remember correctly, I succeeded with all but one of them (it took me a few nights to get The Biggest Night in Music just right). These videos were commissioned for and premiered in the April-May 2004 Dialogue with Pop exhibition at NYC’s The Tank."

This video is part of the 5 Video Hits series and is also avaliable on Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

Teenagers

Kent Lambert
2004 | 00:01:00 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

Why do teenagers get drunk?

"Like Gaijin, these five videos were made very quickly. My goal was to make all five of them in the span of a workweek, one video a night. If I remember correctly, I succeeded with all but one of them (it took me a few nights to get The Biggest Night in Music just right). These videos were commissioned for and premiered in the April-May 2004 Dialogue with Pop exhibition at NYC’s The Tank."

This video is part of the 5 Video Hits series and is also avaliable on Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

The Biggest Night in Music

Kent Lambert
2004 | 00:02:33 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

This video is part of the 5 Video Hits series.

This piece still seems relevant to me somehow, perhaps because its main characters remain titans in the entertainment industry. But what of Janet Jackson, off-screen then and now?

"Like Gaijin, these five videos were made very quickly. My goal was to make all five of them in the span of a workweek, one video a night. If I remember correctly, I succeeded with all but one of them (it took me a few nights to get The Biggest Night in Music just right). These videos were commissioned for and premiered in the April-May 2004 Dialogue with Pop exhibition at NYC’s The Tank."

This video is part of the 5 Video Hits series and is also avaliable on Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

Mother-in-Law Descending a Staircase

Kent Lambert
2004 | 00:00:47 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

This was the epitome of the one-video-a-night project: an un-altered home video clip set to a sped-up Game Boy version of a Roommate song, rendered as Video Art by Duchamp-derived title (suggested by the original wearer of the Pac-Man costume).

"Like Gaijin, these five videos were made very quickly. My goal was to make all five of them in the span of a workweek, one video a night. If I remember correctly, I succeeded with all but one of them (it took me a few nights to get The Biggest Night in Music just right). These videos were commissioned for and premiered in the April-May 2004 Dialogue with Pop exhibition at NYC’s The Tank."

This video is part of the 5 Video Hits series and is also avaliable on Kent Lambert Videoworks: Volume 1

Dudley Pippin

Kent Lambert
2006 | 00:02:15 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

Commissioned for the Ocularis curated Free to Be…You and Me Invitational compilation, which premiered at Brooklyn’s Galapagos Art Space and also screened at Chicago Filmmakers, where Mercedes Landazuri and I performed a banjo and synth rendition of “It’s Alright to Cry” (the song that followed Dudley Pippin on the compilation).

Condensed Movie #2

Kent Lambert
2008 | 00:00:30 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | DV video

DESCRIPTION

I loved and was haunted by Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild and found Sean Penn’s cinematic adaptation to be absurdly overwrought. My original plan for condensing it was to string together all of its grandiose slow-motion shots. I quickly realized that the result, like the movie itself, would be interminably long. A friend suggested that I leave out everything but the five-second shot that provoked me to make my video in the first place, the shot at which several audience members in the second-run theater (including me) laughed out loud.

WHS VHS #1

Kent Lambert
2009 | 00:03:20 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | Video

DESCRIPTION

I made this piece within my first year of using Facebook. Dozens of people I’d thought I’d never hear from again were suddenly accessible to me in mystifyingly dynamic, flattened form. The cognitive dissonance wrought by this collision and collusion of past and present, distant and immediate, provoked me to dig out a strange artifact: a VHS compilation tape produced annually for three or four years at my high school. It was spearheaded by an A/V club teacher, produced by students, assembled via Amiga Video Toaster, and sound-tracked by corporate royalty-free music libraries. I enjoyed the most exquisite horror when I first slowed the bonfire scene down and turned its music up. I did not enjoy seeing my teenage theater self again, but thought it only fair to give him a cameo. This video marks the only time I’ve played with a split-screen two-channel form, maybe I’ll do that again someday. I think I lost at least one Facebook friend because of this video. As of this writing, I haven’t been on Facebook in over a month.

Fantasy Suite

Kent Lambert
2009 | 00:07:17 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | Video

DESCRIPTION

Fantasy Suite was the last standard definition video I made from VHS tapes. Like WHS VHS #1, I made it to premiere at Roots & Culture’s Zummer Tapez, and speed manipulation figured heavily into its construction (the Bachelor material was not interesting or even tolerable at normal speed, but slowed down slightly, it became fascinating to me). Shana Moulton’s work was a strong influence on this video (I programmed my piece to play after hers in the Zummer mixtape), hence the animated facial masks and SkyMall imagery.