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Ars Recapture Artis

from The New York Times

Capturing History With Video of the TV

A number of years ago, the critic Amy Taubin, in a hilarious review of a misbegotten movie from Abel Ferrara, wrote that it “inspires the ontological question ‘What are films, and why is this not one of them?’ ”

The same question buzzed through my mind while watching the weirdly compelling if almost unclassifiable “Lithuania and the Collapse of the USSR,” the latest work from the filmmaker, poet, archivist and cinematic avenging angel Jonas Mekas. “Lithuania,” I hasten to add, is certainly not misbegotten — but given that this nearly five-hour work consists almost entirely of bits and pieces of news programs shot off a color television with a video camera, it does inspire some aesthetic rumination.

The question of what constitutes a movie in the digital age is far too large to tackle here, though it is worth noting that “Lithuania” was shot in video and will be shown in video. (A different version is being presented as a four-monitor video installation at the Maya Stendhal Gallery in Chelsea, through Feb. 21, as part of an exhibition of Mr. Mekas’s latest work.) Increasing numbers of movies are actually videos or are digitally created — there is not a single film frame involved — crucial information that often goes unmentioned and even unnoticed in reviews. For artists like Mr. Mekas, who has been shooting in video for years, such distinctions seem irrelevant. The work counts, whatever the format.

[ click to continue reading at NYTimes.com ]

Posted on February 7, 2009 by Editor

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