Video killed the radio star
I loved David Joselit’s chapter from The Visual Culture Reader, “The Video Public Sphere.” His case study between ‘The Cosby Show’ and the work of video artist Peter Campus is interesting and illustrates the point that he makes later (and I feel is the crux of his argument): “For contrary to normal practice in the discipline of art history, I have attempted to challenge the stability of a medium as both the locus for historical genealogies and the privileged category for formal analysis. I want to bring commercial television and video art — which share a technological apparatus but circulate in distinctly different institutional and discursive networks — into productive association;” to continue, “I want to put pressure on an obvious but significant fact: that several different image-making practices can and do cohabit the same technology;” “that we undertake a genealogy of particular image technologies without artificially dividing them into a priori categories such as ‘television’ and video art.”; “Collectively, we might call such approaches Visual Studies.”
I feel that these are Joselit’s main points of his argument and what he is trying to accomplish by discussing Campus’s work and ‘The Cosby Show.’ I liked it because he explains what I am attempting to do within my own research and the conflict I feel exists between Art History and Media Studies (film, photography, new media). Within the last 15 years Visual Studies and Visual Culture have become increasingly more popular and available within university departments. Sometimes it is part of/an off-shoot of the Art History Department, sometimes it has been associated with the Cinema department, or Communications, or its own entity. I really feel that Visual Studies is the direction Art History and these other scholarly disciples will go in the future, and there exists a dialogue in furthering and establishing this field. Biases exist within the art history world (the more conservative voices), I hope to research and help ‘build a bridge’ so to speak between the disciplines. I dunno, I just really liked the way Joselit approached this problem, how he explained it, etc. His article really resonated with me.
In Rosler’s article, it was inferred that bourgeois ideals prevailed in the dissemination of mainstream video media (tv and film). Of course such a statement has merit, after all the funder for video media are capitalist producers of goods looking for a means by which to advertise their products. Naturally, then yes bourgeois consumerism would definitely be at the core of much mainstream video art and it irrefutably had a significant impact on the growing middle class which was and continues to be in shift and subject to changing terms of definition.
However, what is overlooked here, at least what I think is not given enough study, is what I would like to term the Bohemian ideals injected into mainstream video art. Yes, “The Man” is almost always funding mainstream media; but more often than I think is recognized, the media creators often have revolutionary social change at the heart of their paradigms. While writers, actors, and directors ultimately had to and have to answer to their financial backers, they have very regularly pushed the social envelope. Thus rather than aligning with a critique of mainstream media suggesting that it is all a money game where unchecked consumerism reigns supreme, let us all remember that most media makers attended classes like this one and are trying to make a living while doing what their fields allow to aid society in its growth and its evolution.
I found the observation of video (as opposed to film) is more personal, in the way we watch it as well as the original content of the medium an how the line between commercial and artistic expression thought the media, to be worth of further discussion.
Since most of my fellow MFAs (and myself) seem to be exploring the use of this media for our personal and educational projects, I would be interested in discussing how everyone sees their projects fitting into this nebulous meter of the commercial and the artistic and why/how.
Video was a very eye opening and challenging week for me. I had to do the history of video and I found myself consumed in the attempt to connect the science/engineering world to the art world. I never felt more as if science has been left out tremendously from the evolving art history and now more than ever, we need to understand how the two connect and grow in the digital age.
I find the idea of magnetic tape alone to be astounding. The notion that we can record sounds! on a thin material is like a child believing in Santa Clause. Video dynamics have changed with the rise of the digital age. There are new edits/ HD quality etc. And art forms more now than ever are linking to social networks. Now you don’t have to be as much in the know and physically locate to see the work, with the click of a mouse you relocate yourself to their perception, their artwork, and the artists world.
In Chris Meigh-Andrew’s, History of Video Art I enjoyed reading the idea of the medium of Video being a liberation, disconnecting one from the tradition of judgement of high art in the art world and the idea of it being liberating to women and those in lower class. Now more than ever one can purchase a VHS for something a little less or more than a buck. Think of all the possibilities of what we can do with these left behind art mediums.
Reading this week was very exciting and I learned a lot. For instance I now know the distinction between full animation and limited animation! Not only that but limited animation isnt necessarily a bad thing, it’s simply another method with which to animate something. Who’d a thunk it?
I enjoyed all the stuff about animation in the 1940s. I had no idea there was something called the Army’s 1st Motion Picture Unit during WWII. That sounds like it was probably a pretty awesome command to be a part of.
The UPA sounds like it was a good group. The anti-Disney and caste system seemed like very refreshing ideas. Although as I read about what they were all about I began to wonder if they were harassed by Joe McCarthy and the HUAC. I read a few more paragraphs and my questions were answered. Of course they were! Truly, the 1950s must have been an awful time to be alive unless you were a dyed in the wool arch-conservative robot.
Now the real meat of this week’s book learnings was the article about Ren and Stimpy. I know I am dating myself here but this took me back to my youth because I was knee high to a grasshopper when this show debuted. I thought it was funny how the article began with Kricfalusi claiming Nickelodeon didn’t understand the show he had created. I never knew Nickelodeon had so much in common with my mother!
I really found it interesting that Ren and Stimpy had been envisioned a a show to be watched as a family. I don’t know why this surprised me because I remember sitting on the couch with my parents and sister doing just that. But I agree with the article completely when it is very surreal to think about this show coming on after wholesome fare such as Rugrats and Doug.
Finally I love co-creator Bob Camp’s tirade about merchandising for the show.
“We’re gonna do great stuff! Enema bags, butt plugs…we want really stupid toys not your regular GI Joe crap. We want toys that leak on you and explode in your face!”
This is a such a great quote regardless but I can also relate to it. Prior to arriving at good ol’ SIU I was a military photojournalist in the Navy and worked for dolts the likes of which would have only been too eager to take a quote like Camp’s at face value. One time I was in NYC taking photos of sailors who were in town for memorial day and I took a photo with a street performer dressed as Elmo. When I got back to my ship my superior asked if I had gotten any good photos. Well I felt like being a rascal and told him of course I had and showed him the picture of me with Elmo. Well being an idiotic troglodyte of the primordial ape-genus he assumed I was being serious about publishing that stupid photo and flew into a rage berating me about there was no way this could be done.
I do believe Ren and Stimpy was vastly underrated for what it got away with. For instance the show was aired on Sunday mornings right after church for Christ sakes. I do remember seeing Log in a store at one time but that might have been the extent of the toy invasion.
I’ve also never actually considered the differences between full and limited animation, so I am glad Furniss brought it up. I commend her for pointing out that limited animation is not necessarily lazy or crummy, but in some cases can be utilized creatively and imaginatively. So what if you recycle a bit? As long as you do it with grace and intelligence, go for it. Maybe the critics might frown upon reuse of drawings, but I think it’s justified when it’s done with wit and innovation, especially in the light of deadlines, budgets and production costs. Limited animation just shouldn’t be used to the extent that a film runs like a tediously long and ugly series of episodes of Déjà vu, and neither should it be used as a substitute when animators do have the time and resources to animate something that is much more precise and thoughtful. (And I offer my sympathy regarding your Elmo fiasco…I’ve suffered through similar experiences).
I always remember watching Ren and Stimpy when it first came on and having the unnerving feeling that I was not supposed to watch it. But going back and watching it on late night MTV of all places, it really was a different show now that I see it through the eyes of a college student.
I would like to take this week to get my end of break rant out of the way. Unfortunately this reading stimulated the vomituse commencement. I would first like to tip my hat to Ren and Stimpy. Without this animation in my life, I would have never come to terms with the practice of being a disgusting male in search for freedoms, comradery, and happiness. I was also pleased that Langer was able to point out the positive allocations of the disturbing humor. Parents in that day either ignored what thier kids were being exposed to or forbade it. Looking back i think it’s safe to say that I did gain some good moral ground because of that show. If nothing else, I learned to stay positive with the everyday chant of “happy happy joy joy.”
I do understand that Furniss pulls together a fair argument for limited animation, and i respect her approach. But I can’t help but feel that this mass productive short cut approach is contributing to the bad social standards of race and gender. It seams that the creators of full animation put so much more time and effort into the aesthetic influences of animation. Limited animation is high output with quick return so that it can keep up with current trends and continue manipulation.
On the other hand, limited is a means to an end. It provides a quick and effective way to get out much needed expression without taking four years to finish. The question then begins to surface. Does approach, and technique and even medium really matter? Is this just away to idolize bad work that took too long to make? If something is effective, isn’t it going to be effective regardless?
I too wonder what kind of person I would be had I never been exposed to Ren and Stimpy. I somewhat pity all the whipper snappers in this class who read this article and were forced to scratch their noggins in an ape-like stupor over what they were reading. I imagine I would feel the same way if I were surrounded by oldsters waxing poetically about how great Dick Tracy radio serials were.
Yeah, I was very much the picture of a mystified ape when I was reading the Ren & Stimpy bits of this article. And now I feel a big tidal wave of regret splashing down on me. I will say I’m intrigued enough to devote some time this summer to watching a few episodes. Most of my childhood revolved around Goosebump books, excavating my backyard for dinosaur bones that just never seemed to be there, and wondering how the heck lightning bugs worked. As you also brought up, I sometimes wonder how much of ourselves is shaped by the shows we watch as youngsters. Sometimes I suspect that The Wild Thornberrys may have contributed slightly to all my outdoor adventures, and SpongeBob (or more specifically Squidward) to my eternal fascination with Easter Island. And a special thanks and huzzah goes out to Invader Zim for sponsoring my love of science fiction. It’s really strange and fascinating to think that the best parts of the person we are today may have been spawned from the ingredients of bygone animated shows. Cartoons = character building. Huh. Fancy that.
I totally agree! I sort of bash Ren and Stimpy in my response below but I really enjoy hearing about how it shaped everyone on here, and your particular stories as well. At least you took a fascination away from Squidward instead of his personality traits. I say that’s a success in terms of making cartoons for youngsters :]
Your view on limited animation is very interesting, definitely a different take however I can’t help but think, isn’t that really up to the animator as far as what goes into their work? I mean, sure, it’s easy to make up a short storyline based off of jabs at stereotypes however I feel like most would try to avoid that as much as possible.
I enjoyed Langer’s discussion of the cultural commentary utilized in television animation. I’ve actually never seen Ren & Stimpy (slap me, scold me, but please forgive me… I had a deprived childhood). In fact, I rarely watch television at all, but one animated show that is always dear to my heart is Futurama (which, I add tearfully, was cancelled this summer). Futurama was created by everyone’s favorite fella Matt Groening (the beautiful brain behind the Simpsons). It’s a whiz-bang of a sci-fi show that takes place one thousand years in the future and features a variety of traditional SF characters, ranging from robots to mutants and, of course, aliens. Anyway, the show makes numerous references to past science fiction television programs like The Twilight Zone, mainstream SF movies like The Matrix and Minority Report, and to much more obscure science fiction works unheard of by most sane people. I love all this cultural commentary and knowing winks. As a viewer of a show that makes countless pop culture references or caters specially to a specific interest (like science fiction), I feel not only more connected to the show itself but to all those science fiction aficionados like myself out there. In this way, Futurama extends beyond the episodes it airs and instead embraces a science fiction culture as a whole. I feel like I’m getting a warm hug every time Futurama nods to Star Trek or some other SF delight from eons past. In moments like these, I feel bonded to the filmmaker in some fashion. It’s like Futurama’s friendly hello to the world’s science fiction fans.
Concerning the censorship of some Ren & Stimpy episodes, I’ve always wondered how much of the original animators’ or creators’ ideas were modified before the show was aired. How much of an artist’s imagination has been filtered through script changes and other edits? This is a concern that has haunted me since I first started falling in love with cinema. I understand certain alterations need to be made sometimes, but keeping as close to possible to the creator’s visions should really be prioritized.
As Langer noted, there has been a growing fascination in animation art amongst the public. Admittedly, I too have been captivated by the storyboard and concept art of animated films. Most computer animated films today publish books about the art and processes involved in the creation of the film. There’s a diverse line of such books with titles like “The Art of Toy Story 3,” “The Art of Brave,” “The Art and Making of Hotel Transylvania,” etc. These books are not the typical paperback you’d read out on your patio; they’re much more suitable as weapons for clobbering villains but they’re also extremely enchanting and (of course) expensive. These books appeal to avid animations fans like myself, but they also offer a really mesmerizing inside look at the animation process. Not only do we get to see stupefying artwork, but we also get the privilege of learning about all the fun little stories and artistic inspirations that contributed to the making of the movie.
Don’t worry about not watching Ren and Stimpy when it first came out, in all honesty your parents would have scolded you for watching it at a young age. Heck, my parents did not want me to watch Ed Edd and Eddy when it started airing. And yes there was a lot that was censored about the original Ren and Stimpy. Go online and watch some interviews on Youtube, you’ll be surprised a bit.
I’ll catch hell for this but don’t care…I can’t stand Futurama. I get the references and the jokes but don’t think much of it is funny. If I watch an episode I may titter once or twice and that’s on a good day. It’s only fair I ‘spose because I am sure there are droves of people who hate the shows I adore (such as Squidbilles, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Superjail)
Futurama is one of my favorite shows, but I can see how some people may not enjoy it as much as others. I love many of the shows on Adult Swim. I am sure I have come close to bursting blood vessels in my eyes with how hard I have laughed at Squidbillies. But like with Tim and Eric, I just cant watch it because to me its a sketch comedy show with them just making noises and nothing is really accomplished. Thats honestly the only show I can not watch on Adult Swim.
Oh trust me, you’re not the only one who hasn’t seen it. I lived in a box essentially as a child too, so there’s that. Anyways, i’m glad you mentioned the computer animations process books, I absolutely love these! It’s awesome to see inside the minds of those animation artists. I always find myself thinking, “Wow, I never would have thought of that!”. It’s very inspiring.
On censorship, I agree. The sad thing, is that these decisions are primarily made by producers. What they have yet to realize is that when they let the creator have creative control without censorship, that is when their audience ratings will skyrocket. In recent years, Rob Zombies Holloween and 47 Ronin, were both destroyed by censorship. Fortunately the original edits of these`films do exist. Once they are realized, and the public voices it’s opinion, maybe things will change?
Out of this weeks readings, I can’t help but pull out the large going on about animatophilia. When I read the line ” Animatophiles are a taste group characterized by a high degree of knowledge about animation.” I couldn’t help but laugh. It seems a tad overzealous to categorize someone as a name ending in ‘phile’ for just an interest in the subject, especially with the negative connotation that the ending already has. Anyways, moving on…using the animatophilia to discuss the rational behind John Kricfalusi’s actions with his show and the negative reaction from Nickelodeon makes sense, but I believe it’s a bit too far. I mean, if you’re that invested in your work you’re going to be upset at any criticism towards it, especially when Nickelodeon “didn’t understand the series”. Personally, I’ve never seen Ren & Stimpy, aside from advertisements or on commercials etc. However, I know tons of people who absolutely adored the show and with that it makes me wonder if it had been put out there how it was originally, would the audience still have enjoyed it? Bigger or smaller audience? Did Nickelodeon make the right decision? In the end it’s all marketing however it’d be interesting to see what would’ve been if it were left alone.
The discussion on full and limited animation was also quite intriguing. I didn’t realize there was a difference between the two, well let me clarify that; I believe I just assumed there wasn’t a different name for each style in a sense. Perhaps in my mind I just like to over-simplify things because to me, it seems both of these style are utilized at the same time within certain animations.
I think it’s just our culture that’s put a negative connotation on it, i identify as a cinephile…. (just sayin’)
I’ve never really thought about there being a difference between full animation and limited animation. I suppose somewhere in my brain while sitting on the kitchen floor in my pajamas eating Captain Crunch while watching Pokemon, or whatever show was on, it crossed my mind that it was different — but I haven’t put much thought into it. This class has ruined me. I can no longer watch movies of any kind without noticing the editing. Pokemon recently was just put on Netflix and I rewatched part of it — they mostly use limited animation, but there are some sequences that utilized full animation (particularly in the later parts of the show). I understand the logistics of needing to limited animation for television — but I feel that it negatively impacts animation as an art form and exhibits its purely commercial properties. By cutting out the nuanced details you lose so much from the medium — and you sacrifice it on the altar of capitalism. Whatever. Artists do it a lot.
Correct me if I am wrong, but UPA stayed active until the 70s or 80s, correct? I’m glad to see that their ideals were able to survive McCarthy and his band of crazies. Speaking of UPA — I need to see Gay Purr-ee. I would have liked to have seen other animation studios (in contemporary practice) adopt more social aware/active policies — animation has so much visual power, I’d like to see people using that medium for good and not just for profit. Why does EVERYTHING have to be merchandized? This consumption driven society is just sad. I dunno. Le sigh.
I liked the stuff about Ren and Stimpy and not wanting to merchandise. I never watched the show when I was a kid — we didn’t have cable (only 7 channels). If the nature of television shows continue to change and they go to an online format (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, etc.) are there still going to be commercials that will allow people to push these products? The consumption driven society we have lived in for the past century is collapsing on itself and a new paradigm is becoming necessary — what is the place of animation and merchandising in this paradigm?
I really enjoyed reading about how animation became mainstream over the years, from the disinterest in the early 60’s to the booming machine it is today. it’s weird to thing how the turning point was Ren and Stimpy, and I don’t remember watching it as a kid but I wasn’t a big fan of the segment we watched in class. In a similar vein of Cow and Chicken and Courage the Cowardly dog, it emphasized grossness but also was interested that it had such a message of creating an animated cartoon (and therefore being self reflexive at the same time). I think the grossness turned me off to it (although i love Courage), but I can see where it may have been the birthplace of modern syndicated cartoons. It has the buddy comedy element prevalent nowadays in (get ready) Spongebob, Adventure Time, Breadwinners, Stephen Universe, The Regular Show, and Rick and Morty just to name a few, with more of the refined grossology (oh yeah, remember that book?) that we’ve come to expect from cartoons (and kids these days…). Have you seen breadwinners? do you see how many butts and farts there are? I blame Ren and Stimpy.
Going back to Furniss’ reading for this week, I always found it interesting to see which shows use which styles without ever knowing what to call them. I often catch a repetitive cycle, which sometimes comes off to me as lazy and is quite prevalent in japanese anime, unless it’s an intense action scene later on in the series when their popularity and budget have both expanded. I’m a big fan of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, etc because they deviate from cycles sometimes with very impressive results. Both have their merits, and hey, if i were in charge of producing long form animation, i’d probably go the easy route for some things as well. That opening to the Cowboy Bebop movie with Ask DNA was rotoscoped from actual footage, and that takes a hell of a long time to do nicely.
With these chapters I find a reoccurring trend that I enjoy reading about many of the animations from decades that have passed. I particularly enjoyed the segment about Disney’s Clock Cleaners. Watching some of this in class was a treat and now that I have read about what went into making such an animated short, I can say this helped give me a better understanding about Full and Limited animation.
I also really liked the other side of this when you look at Cannon’s Gerald McBoing Boing. How the entire short was not completely animated. This gives the limited animation its explanation and yet this was an award winning short. I really felt as though the reliance on sound to really tell the story is what helped. But if you look at this short in context to a lot of the animation of its time, it was ground breaking, just by not filling things in or animating what needed to be seen. As it said in the chapter, the whole thing takes place in a very ambiguous space.
I also really enjoyed the discussion of shows like The Simpsons and King of the Hill, and how not everything done in the episodes is full animation because of certain movements and parts. I can now see how some particular spots in Futurama could be this way as well. A very thought provoking read.
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