Art Made for Nobody, and Other Video Essays to Watch April 2024

[in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film & Moving Studies, the first academic journal dedicated to video essay scholarship, is one of the most valuable and venerable resources for fans of the format. The most recent issue marks the journal’s 10th anniversary and its move from being hosted by MediaCommons to the Open Library of Humanities. In celebration, two selections for this month’s column are from that issue. On top of that, we have essays about Israel’s war on Gaza, artificial intelligence, and art made for the very few, or no one at all.

“The Future Ahead Will Be Weird AF (The Ultimate AI CoreCore Experience) – Part Two” by Silvia Dal Dosso

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As the title suggests, this is a sequel to an earlier video by Silvia Dal Dosso. “Corecore” is an internet (mostly TikTok) aesthetic that’s difficult to define. Mainly, these videos edit together film, news, and social media clips that convey the general bad vibes of living in the 2020s. These two essays evoke the queasy uncertainty caused by the increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence-created sounds, pictures, and videos. An AI-generated Adam Curtis voice, for instance, provides narration. This is both one of the better imitations of Curtis’s style and a great example of deploying AI to a deliberate artistic effect rather than as a shortcut.

“Palestine” by Shaun

YouTube video

Shaun is among the most straightforward of YouTube’s popular video essayists, delivering extended arguments wallpapered with simple visuals. His affect — measured and patient where many go for bombast — is refreshing. Here, he calmly and methodically makes the case that Israel is currently committing genocide in Gaza — a topic that many YouTubers have been too afraid to touch. For example, he analyzes how political Zionism as envisioned by Theodor Herzl was explicitly a European colonialist project, and explores both Jewish Anti-Zionism and Zionist anti-Semitism.

“Watching The Rehearsal” by Jason Mittell

Jason Mittell, who previously charted new ground in video scholarship by assembling a first-of-its-kind monograph of Breaking Bad (2008–13), analyzes Nathan Fielder’s mesmerizing nonfiction experiment The Rehearsal (2022–ongoing), which starts as a reality show in which people rehearse for upcoming events, before evolving into a deconstruction of the reality show format. Drawing from his own background in video production and analysis, Mittell imitates what he critiques by staging his own recreations of scenes from the show to guess at what could be “real” and “fake.”

“I Learned an Awful Lot in Little Rock” by Catherine Grant with Laura Mulvey

The very first issue of [in]Transition featured an essay by film theorist Laura Mulvey, who remixed a small moment from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), replaying it over and over and inviting the viewer to consider a different aspect of it each time. Here, Catherine Grant remixes the remix by having Mulvey provide new audio commentary and analysis of the same images. 

“Art for No One” by Jacob Geller

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I generally try to keep these columns varied by not featuring consecutive appearances by the same creators, but I had to make an exception here — Geller’s latest is both incredibly good and highly relevant to the readership of this site. He looks at artworks that have been intended for either a limited audience or possibly no one at all, including Michael Heizer’s City (1970–ongoing) and Goya’s Black Paintings (c. 1819–23). It’s a riveting consideration of how much intent and access play into our perception of art.

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