[Video letter to Barbara London]

Anda Korsts and Mark Fausner sit down in front of the camera for a video letter to Barbara London, the video and media curator for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. London had requested information on the role of Videopolis in Chicago's video development for an upcoming exhibition on Chicago video.

0:00Copy video clip URL Korsts explains that in order for her to talk about Chicago video, she feels she should describe her most recent project, a four-monitor video program based around a theatrical performance of work by Antonin Artaud. She believes that the Artaud project is a major new step for her personally and also for Chicago: “I feel, in many ways, that Artaud is a culmination of the best in Chicago video.” She explains that she doesn’t normally like video letters and finds them gimmicky, but that had sat down to write down her feelings about the Artaud tape, but ended up writing 27 pages and thought it would be better if she limited herself to a 20-minute videotape. She warns that it is hard to watch the Artaud tape without any background, but notes that it also was a “deliberately difficult tape.”

2:00Copy video clip URL After this introduction, Korsts gives a brief history of Videopolis, which was to be supplemented by a packet with the videotape. She says that Videopolis was the first video collective in Chicago and that they taught a lot of people and did a lot of shows. She mentions that she also worked with TVTV, then says that she stopped this type of work because “Chicago is not a place for documentarians, and also because I was exhausted, and the time had come for me to change from a kind of public figure, where people would call me up and say ‘Tell me all about video’ and I would tell them, in a nice sort of way, to growing personally.” She begins to explain why Chicago is particularly conducive to videomaking and has a particularly vibrant scene: “I think it’s the only place where people still feel free to experiment and take some chances without having to guarantee success to anyone.”

3:11Copy video clip URL Korsts explains the details of the Artaud program. Artaud had a four-monitor setup with one actor reading from Artaud’s writings. She says that the words was relatively obscure, and she didn’t think she could do the project when she read the script. However, the actor that they used brought the script to life, and the use of video made the play clearer to the audience. One monitor had a single continuous take of the last hour of Artaud’s life, as he was dying of cancer. A second monitor had intermittent documentary-style segments explaining details of Artaud’s life – factual information – that would come on according to what the actor was reading on the stage. A third monitor came on periodically to try to indicate something about Artaud’s state of mind, using an image processor to create subtle, intuitive moods. The fourth monitor had abstract images that indicated his dream states. “We also tried very hard in the stage phase, to figure out how to use the most current tech – the high tech, the DV and Image Processor – jointly, with good shooting and concepts to enhance the content in such a way that the audience had a better chance to understand it, at a kind of gut level, intuitively.” She reflects that the multimedia stage presentation was very effective and that the audience was very moved by it, “probably because the information was fairly dense. The idea was to give the audience so much information that they didn’t know which way to look.” Mark: “The heaviness of Artaud’s writings necessitated another vantage point.”

7:15Copy video clip URL Korsts describes the making of the tape. Because of her primarily documentary-oriented background, the tape required wide collaboration. “The real point was to translate theater into television.” She describes the project as “very Chicago” because of the level of collaboration involved. Almost all the equipment, studio (donated by Optimus), work, etc was donated. “I’m very familiar with people around the country, and as far as I can tell, Chicago’s the last place where people want to work with one another, people want to learn something new. People are still enthusiastic and eager.” “It became apparent to me that we could use each other’s strengths to make fiction to entertain the mind of the viewer.” She talks extensively about experimenting with the high tech equipment at the Optimus studio.

13:39Copy video clip URL Korsts returns to a discussion of the goals behind the tape. “The intent was to create an electronic set that wasn’t a reproduction of the stage set, but rather was a pattern of colors that set your mind right about the state of mind of the subject. (Artaud, in this case).” She describes the thought process behind the development of the electronic set. Korsts claims that the success of the backgrounds was totally due to Megan Williams (who worked on TVTV), who Korsts believed had an unnatural ability to sort through hours of image processed video and find the perfect moment from memory. She rehashes the same themes of Chicagoans being uniquely willing to experiment, enthusiastic, and willing to collaborate.

18:25Copy video clip URL Korsts discusses past attempts at broad collaboration, including It’s a Living. She describes the tape as “a Chicago-style tape, which meant that it was simple and disciplined and not out of control and not star-tripping.” She says that this tape also was made by all local people who were trying totally new things. “I don’t think there’s another place left in the United States where videotape makers still get off on each other.” She describes her semi-rebirth as a videomaker as this project got her out of her documentary rut, and says, “I’m as excited about video now as I was when I bought my first Portapak and got my first grant.” “I really think that this kind of effect, to explore the richness of the incredibly fast-growing complexity of technology will change television – how people view it and what it does to their minds – far more than giving better information about a documentary subject.”



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