Downtown (video series) by Valerie LeBlanc

(1) In Your Wildest Dreams


(2) Pastimes


(3) Splitting Image


(4) Watching


(5) Nature


I’ve tended not to feature a whole lot of videos in which the emphasis is more on the video than the poetry, and the text couldn’t stand on its own. But that bias is a little unfair to the avant-garde videopoetry tradition, which has always emphasized the interdependence of the two. Canadian artist and writer Valerie LeBlanc’s Downtown series from 2003 is solidly within this tradition, and each video is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The common-place thoughts ascribed to urban apartment-dwellers gain depth and pathos by juxtaposition with the unreal context upon which they are superimposed as simple kinetic text. In her very interesting notes on the series, LeBlanc discusses how she played with visual ambiguities and the expectations of viewers, and cites French philosopher Gilles Deleuze as a central influence:

Part of my practice involves using video in ways that are sometimes perceived to be proprietary to film. In my 2003 series Downtown, the images on billboards are literally positioned as ‘the thinking image’ [1] as defined by Gilles Deleuze in Cinema 2: The Time-Image. The images of people, laid out by marketers to sell condominium lifestyle, are juxtaposed with texts that speak thoughts for those future residents. The subjects contemplate existence and the videos end with the revelation that it is the voice of an image that speaks over time, in what is literally ‘a 2-dimensional world.’ In reality, on closer inspection, it becomes obvious that some of the subjects have taken on character weaknesses closely resembling the problems sometimes associated with high-density living. For example, in Splitting Image, the young Asian male on the balcony actually appears to be more in the headspace of committing suicide than ‘Living the Dream.’ When viewing the image even closer, it becomes obvious that this character with the fully developed imagination of the protagonist is less than a full image. He had been constructed from a face and shirt pulled from a marketers’ catalogue, and yet, he has everything he needs to sell inner-city condos. Not many, if any of the GRP’s (Gross Rating Point) passing audience members will probably notice that he has no hands and no lower body. The ‘half-man’ is floating above the balcony wall. And yet, with a quick drive by, he appears complete, the man who ‘owns’ in a desired real estate market.

Read the rest.

One Comment

  1. Reply
    Tom Konyves 9 August, 2011

    Re: “Splitting Image”

    An interesting example of the function of image-as-perspective in a videopoem: signalled by the drum roll, in one continuous shot, a reverse zoom reveals that the presented drawing is being viewed through a chain-link fence, then tilts up to reveal a crane above the billboard, then pans right onto a street lamp – each movement progressively reveals more of the original “cut-out” of “reality”: the shot provides a seamless context and objective resolution to the observation/question premise at the start.

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