The Second Life of Images
I designed this video program based on the invitation that I have received from the organizers of the 9th Cairo Video Festival, 2019.
Given my interest in the history of using sculptures, images, footage and readymade texts in the production of works of art, I have chosen seven videos where the makers use the “Found Footage” technique, either throughout or in specific parts of the videos.
Found Footage as a tool for video-making
In the early 20th Century, in April 1917, Marcel Duchamp placed a urinal in Grand Central Palace in New York, naming his work of art “Fountain.” Ever since, so many things have changed in understanding the process of artistic production, and in understanding the connotations of the word, “artist.”
Henceforth, employing audiovisual material that is already “found” in films/videos (which their production is not necessarily linked to art), have become part of the spectrum of artistic production, as in Duchamp’s urinal.
Duchamp’s readymade “Fountain” introduced a strong stand for transcending rigid aesthetic concepts at the time. It has also changed the concept of the artist’s work that is conditioned to his ability to create or skillfully craft only.
“Fountain” was a sculpture that Duchamp did not produce, it was merely a sculpture that allowed the recipient to communicate with the original; the “urinal.” The urinal does not only exist as is, but also as a changing philosophical and metaphysical state that appeals to the recipient’s mind. A clear representation of Kant’s Transcendental Schema, “Fountain” is an artwork that transcends form, yet it still exists; it’s a sculpture that cancels an idea, yet allows it to manifest more vividly and transcendentally.
This may also be the case with using found footage in films or videos!
In the world of Contemporary Art, Christian Marclay’s 2010 video installation, “The Clock,” is the most famous video where the found footage technique had been used. Marclay took thousands of film and TV scenes that show clocks, hand-watches, alarm clocks, or any dialogue where a specific timing is mentioned. He arranged them to create a 24-hour video where every minute shown on the screen corresponds to the actual time. Thus, the video itself, in a gallery or a museum, is like a big live clock which includes thousands of found scenes and footage.
Sculpting in Time
In his book, “Sculpting in Time,” Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky says:
What is the essence of the director’s work? We could define it as sculpting in time. Just as a sculptor takes a lump of marble, and, inwardly conscious of the features of his finished piece, removes everything that is not part of it – so the film-maker, from a ‘lump of time ‘made up of an awful, solid cluster of living facts, cuts off and discards whatever he does not need, leaving only what is to be an element of the finished film, what will prove to be integral to the cinematic image.
When using the found footage technique, there is no need for a camera to make a film/video, because editing then, becomes the technical core process. Hence, editing for video makers is like a sculpting tool that cuts off extras. However, the only difference is that this tool is not only for cutting off extras, but, as Tarkovsky says, is also for adding.
Selection and Program: Alaa Abdelhamid