Chicago Art

Path, 2003

Path combines striking imagery of the earth’s topography from the air, the ground, and beneath the sea. With calming shots of living ocean coral and acrobatic aerial footage of the Illinois prairie, Path investigates the physical sensations of the body as it moves through time and space, closely observing the natural world.

Spanish artist Jaume Plensa (b. 1955) creates sculptures and installations that intend to unify individuals through their relationship to memory, the body, and spirituality. Often referencing literature, psychology, biology, and history, his practice speaks of a shared humanity despite the world’s complexity. In this way, language acts as a metaphor, and the human figure a universal symbol. Plensa is perhaps best known for works that engage groups of people in public spaces.

This single channel tape was created from a 4-channel live mix of 4 VCRs, an A/V mixer, and a sampler. Hypnotic music, idiosyncratic singing, and soft, yet insistent voiceovers accompany television images portraying notions of happiness, the work ethic, and social success in a subtly alienating video collage. "Repeat with me: I now feel confident about opening to others and projecting charisma."

A young communist girl named Sharambaba resists her suitor in a carriage. She speaks of what he calls her "fantasy world". All of the dialogue is played backwards with accommodating subtitles.

This title is also available on Jim Finn Videoworks: Volume 1.

Shooter, 1999

Shooter explores the idea of overt manliness, exposing it to be a flaccid gesture and an exercise in posturing. In the video, I assume the persona of a metal head wandering an urban landscape, making threatening yet empty gestures to passersby to create an exaggerated sense of power and machismo. I use three different songs by Motorhead, that are never allowed to get past the opening guitar riffs, to further construct a sense of masculinity that falls back onto itself. I also utilize humor to facilitate exposing the paradoxes contained within my actions.

An homage to Chicago's East 95th Street Bridge, Calumet Fisheries and to a couple of the city's infamous brothers.  The take-out shack, originally glimpsed in the background of a scene from The Blues Brothers, still operates.  It has become a real-world portal to a cinematic past.  Propped along the edge of the 95th street drawbridge, the building is framed by the towering infrastructures of the Chicago Skyway and Calumet Harbor.

Hollis Sigler (1948–2001) was a Chicago-based artist. She received degrees from both Moore College of Art and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her mature artistic style was faux-naïve, featuring paintings whose subjects, furniture and clothing set in doll-house type interiors and suburban landscapes, were stand-ins for the implicitly female figure. She was an openly lesbian artist and a prominent member of the faculty of Columbia College in Chicago.

The unusual combination of a sound like a singing saw accompanies sweet images of frolicking lambs in the meadow, galloping horses, and a strange boy, is eerily beautiful and pure.

This title is also available on Animal Charm Videoworks: Volume 1.

Bob Snyder is a Chicago-based composer, video artist, and author who has been experimenting with sound and video synthesis since the 1960s. As a musician, his interest has always been in the relationship between music and visual imagery. In Snyder’s work, music is the central generative source of meaning, although he also creates a dialogue between the sound and images of nature and architecture.

Interview by Rafael Franca. 

1. The idea that a film about a city, a quiet, architectural film no less, can tell us anything that we don’t already know about urban life at this point in our new century is perhaps a bit arrogant. But the city is an organism that changes constantly; our knowledge of it is provisional at best. So a film that examines the urban environment under the cloak of darkness must presume to reveal a reality that we don’t know, and tries to dispel projections and fears that are for the most part located in the imagination... in a memory of film, television, or the novel.

A laser disk compilation of all of Snyder’s works, remarkable for their formal elegance, conceptual scope and sensual lusciousness. Available for sale only. "

Space Ghost compares the experiences of astronauts and prisoners, using popular depictions of space travel to illustrate the physical and existential aspects of incarceration: sensory deprivation, the perception of time as chaotic and indistinguishable, the displacement of losing face-to-face contact, and the sense of existing in a different but parallel universe with family and loved ones.

Physical comparisons such as the close living quarters, the intensity of the immediate environment, and sensory deprivation, soon give way to psychological ones: the isolation, the changing sense of time, and the experience of earth as distant, inaccessible, and desirable. The analogy extends to media representations that hold astronauts and prisoners in an inverse relationship: the super citizen vs. the super-predator. Astronauts, ceaselessly publicized, are frozen in time and memory whereas prisoners, anonymous and ignored, age without being remembered.

[This] is my first attempt to construct a video piece using one set of generative intervals for both sound and color. All of the color in the piece is orchestrated in brightness ‘octaves’ corresponding to the registration of the pitches in the soundtrack. Each hue from a circle of twelve corresponds to one of the pitches of a tempered scale. The articulation of the piece consists of a series of loudness and brightness ripples which move across the piece in speed relationships derived from the hue and pitch proportions.

Stuffing, 1998

In Animal Charm's masterful example of video montage, a monkey is mesmerized as he watches two dolphins toss a woman from snout to snout. Go cross-eyed with cross-cutting. Sometimes, in order to prevent the insidious absorption of mass media, it is necessary to apply Vaseline to your eyes and ears. Other times, you only need to watch Stuffing — it’s inside of everything.

super-max, 2003

I drove around the U.S. filming these super maximum-security prison buildings the spring and summer after the World Trade Center bombing. I knew that counties within various states had been frantically outbidding each other to get these high-tech gulags to replace the farming and manufacturing jobs that have been lost over the last 25 years. The timing seemed right to remind everyone what we have been doing with our public funding and to draw parallels with the neo-liberal economic policies espoused with variations by the Reagan, Clinton and both Bush administrations.

Swamp Swamp and Wurmburth are each comprised of a series of tightly cropped shots of small, hand-made table-top sculptures or "sets".  Paint and many other materials that behave like paint (i.e. lotion, shampoo, foodstuffs) are blown through these environments with plastic tubing and forced air.  Each edited collection of shots makes an endless cycle of primal sludge and rupturing goo.  Often, they are reminiscent of nature television, surgical documentary, science-fiction landscapes, and primitive forms of puppetry and special effects.

Target, 1999

Why is this injured man driving around and around a shopping center parking lot? Just what is his Target? An atmospheric mystery tale that hints at a sad story.

The Magic Hedge explores a bird sanctuary located on a former Cold War Nike missile site on the Northside of Chicago. Left to wander and observe, the viewer becomes aware of the park's open secret: men looking for fleeting sexual contacts within the trees and shrubberies. The video highlights the many contradictions of a site historically devoted to military surveillance and now designed to preserve and control the "wildlife".

Begun as a consideration of the upgrading from manual to digital film editing techniques, Transitional Objects explores the anxiety and loss inevitable in such a transition while also suggesting the consequences of other life transitions. The video takes its title from D.W. Winnicott's theory of children's use of transitional objects to negotiate the gaps between internal reality and the shared reality of people and things.

This tape deviates from the more purely formal investigations of Snyder’s earlier work; it has no soundtrack and uses camera images exclusively. Employing Quantel digital effects and editing procedures, a novelty in video post-production at the time, Snyder manipulates images of tract houses shot in a small Indiana town. Cubist re-constructions of the monotonous facades fracture spatial planes into intricate geometric arrangements, with frames enclosing frames, spiralling like Chinese boxes.

tryphon: three sounds is a candid portrait of the artist Thomas H. Kapsalis (b.

A rural sunset at the edge of the water in Wanda Wega Waters. The natural rhythmic movement of the water’s surface becomes a highly colored abstraction in motion, a meditation on the intersection of nature and technology.

This tape exemplifies Snyder’s early experiments with the image processor. Articulated patterns of alternating wavelength and amplitude of both sound and light are arranged to produce abstract compositions. Voltages processed by an Emu sound synthesizer are systematized through characteristic interval structures that affect the image processor’s functions.

This title is only available on Bob Snyder: Sound and Video 1975-1990.

What are all of these photographers trying to capture, and just who is collaborating with whom? This short piece could be a take on fame and the cult of the personality — or a tourist portrait with the audience as subject.

This title is also available on Animal Charm Videoworks: Volume 1.

Wurmburth, 2001

Swamp Swamp and Wurmburth are each comprised of a series of tightly cropped shots of small, hand-made table-top sculptures or "sets".  Paint and many other materials that behave like paint (i.e. lotion, shampoo, foodstuffs) are blown through these environments with plastic tubing and forced air.  Each edited collection of shots makes an endless cycle of primal sludge and rupturing goo.  Often, they are reminiscent of nature television, surgical documentary, science-fiction landscapes, and primitive forms of puppetry and special effects.