Friday, February 27, 2009

video thumbnails as art part 1

Str8 Sounds "Inner Light of Love" video still.

This post contains thumbnails from some of my Videos by Steven E. Streight on Vimeo.

The March 2009 issue of Artforum arrived in the mail today. It contains two feature articles on Music Video and Avant Garde Video Artists, including Dara Birnbaum.

As I looked at the video stills in these articles, I was intrigued by the function and independent form of the small sized video still or "thumbnail".

Str8 Sounds "If I Was Human" video still.

Is the video still, the thumbnail image, akin to condensed novels? Abridgements and abbreviations? Or closer to semaphore, morse code, smoke signals?

Or does it have more in common with free samples of pizza handed out at a grocery store?

Str8 Sounds "Drill Down" video still.

Perhaps we can compare video still thumbnails to book covers, dust jackets, and movie posters. But this still relegates the thumbnail to a subservient role, inferior to and dominated by the full motion picture or video work of which it is a very small, but honorable part.

Str8 Sounds "Other Centric" video still.

When it comes to micro-content, let's not forget the little thumbnail, the still photo derived from a video or film. I often wonder how editors select the one, two, or three thumbnails they will include in a review of a film.

Str8 Sounds "Cartoon Delusion" video still.

I especially love the thumbnails that capture an image superimposition moment, with one image layered on top of another, at a precise degree of assimilation, where one image is somewhat stronger than the other.

Str8 Sounds "Flame of Devotion" video still.

What does a single thumbnail say about a video? How can one stationary image "stand for" a long sequence of moving images and sound?

Str8 Sounds "Spleezy 7.2" video still.

These marginalized works of videography, the "derived images" that serve "only" to point to the full, intact film which they are a subset of, standing as signifiers of the larger work - - can't they stand on their own as art "in themselves", apart from the films they represent?

Str8 Sounds "Hungry for You" video still.

Are thumbnails symbolic of the larger video work? Does a thumbnail give you enough visual information to help you decide to view or purchase an art film? How can one or a few thumbnail stills capture and convey the "heart" of the film?

Str8 Sounds "Weightlessness Upon My Smolders" video still.

With such impossible requirements, no wonder the thumbnail longs to be free!

Metaphysical Platypus "Sleep Talk" video still.

By presenting these video stills, in a mini-gallery of photo art, what does this do to your own perception of thumbnail vs. film?

Str8 Sounds "Mr. E Goes to Boston" video still.

We say the thumbnail is a representation of the film which contains it. But the thumbnail also contains the entire film, or is used as such by the film critic and reviewer.

So...could we reverse the situation, and say that the full film is just a representative, a carrier of the thumbnail image?

Let's detach thumbnails from the videos they're derived from, and appreciate them as distinct images, without a necessary relationship to a larger work.

Consider these thumbnails from my video work as Str8 Sounds, Metaphysical Platypus, and Proust in a Field of Plastic Flowers. Do they make you curious about the full video from which these micro-scenes or static snippets are derived?

Str8 Sounds "Bowling is Mandatory" video still.

Do we see thumbnails as not existing in their own right, thus not to be taken seriously, or stared at for very long. How does one's gaze adjust itself to the "tiny fragment of larger body of work" bias?

Are thumbnails similar to those 30 second audio clips of hyper-protective music recording labels that fear you might figure out how to download an entire song, so all you get is a "sample", labeled "incomplete" or "partial"?

Are thumbnails similar to portions of a large painting, what is called "detail", when just a small section of the work is displayed?

Camouflage Danse "Nausea and Fear" video still.

Are thumbnails of any value, even if you never want, or for some reason are unable, to view the films from which they have emerged?

Str8 Sounds "Star Burner: Phase Shift Shimmy" video still.

Vimeo, under Settings > Thumbnail, enables video uploaders to select a thumbnail (to replace their default selection) from 12 different images, or you can upload your own. YouTube gives you, under Edit Video, a choice of three images. The images in this post are from my Vimeo uploads.

Str8 Sounds "Taxidermy Clinic" video still.

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