Mike Morris: Thoughts on books & videos, plus a few recommendations

Given the Hawn Gallery’s location in the Hamon Arts Library, one of the goals of the exhibition program is to reveal the natural intersections between art, artists, books, videos or other resources SMU Libraries provides. This posting is for those bibliophiles and videophiles who love to learn about what other people are reading and watching. When asked what books and videos have influenced his work, Mike Morris, artist of the film, ARK, and adjunct film studies professor at SMU, offered the following titles with a few extra recommendations.

·         Are there titles on particular artists or topics that you would say informed your work? If so, how?

Since this particular project was so engaged with working from the archive as source material, it would be difficult not to think about artists like Bruce Conner, Craig Baldwin, Stan Vanderbeek, or Jesse McLean. Conner, in particular, is notable for having used popular stock images to examine certain unconscious libidinal tendencies of society. His films like A Movie, Crossroads, or Report reveal many unspoken things that end up recorded in images and brought to light through montage. I hoped to do something similar with the footage used for ARK.

·         What films or videos?

Bruce Conner – A Movie, Crossroads, Report, Cosmic Ray, etc. Craig Baldwin – Mock Up on Mu, Tribulation 99, Sonic Outlaws. Jesse Mclean – Magic for Beginners, The Invisible World. Stan Vanderbeek – his many animations using found images and his Moviedrome project.

·         Which videos would you recommend and why?

I would always recommend the films of Bruce Conner because they’re just so brilliant in their critique of 20th century American culture, and so many of the critiques remain relevant, particularly those about nuclear weapons. People should also see the early computer films of Stan Vanderbeek like Poem Field No. 2 or Symmetricks. They are brilliant meditations on the possibilities of computers as an art medium at the very beginning of their use. More contemporary makers that use found footage take different approaches as the technology they are addressing evolves, such groups like Animal Charm or Negativeland who re-purpose the detritus of 80s and 90s audio/visual media culture. Everything is Terrible and Jacob Ciocci of Paper Rad also re-contextualize these eras of visual culture, but with a kind of psychedelic nostalgia that is self aware of digital remediation.

·         What are some titles that you would recommend for readers to give them a good overview of the history or landscape of video as a medium for art?

There are many. A good place to start for a kind of genealogy of 20th century avant-garde film would be Visionary Film by P. Adams Sitney. This book has a chapter on what Sitney calls the “Compilation Film” that explores the work of Bruce Conner and other filmmakers working in his mode. Other books and journals I’d recommend:

Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art

The Archive Effect by Jamie Baron

A Critical Cinema: Interviews, series by Scott Mcdonald

Incite Journal of Experimental Media (particularly, Issue 2: Counter Archives)

Film Culture Journal

Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood

Expanded Cinema: Art, Performance, Film by A.L. Rees

The Experience Machine: Stan Vanderbeek’s Moviedrome and Expanded Cinema by Gloria Sutton

Entangled: Technology and Transformation of Performance by Chris Salter

Millennium Film Journal

Touch by Laura U. Marks

Skin of the Film by Laura U. Marks

Experimental Ethnography by Catherine Russell

On The Camera Arts and Consecutive Matters by Hollis Frampton

Recipes for Disaster by Helen Hill (zine located here)

·         Have you recently or are you currently reading a book now that you would recommend to readers?

I’m currently reading:

Excommunication: Three Inquiries into Media and Mediation by Alexander Galloway, Eugene Thacker, and Mckenzie Wark

Hyperobjects by Timothy Fuller

Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump by Gary Lachman

The Tarot, Magic, Alchemy, Hermeticism, and Neoplatonism by Robert M. Place

I recently read and recommend:

Kill All Normies by Angela Nagle

Starry Speculative Corpse by Eugene Thacker

Chaos Protocols by Gordon White

ARK continues to December 9th, Hawn Gallery; Free to the Public
M – Th, 8 am – 9 pm; F, 8 am – 6 pm, Sat, 12 – 5 pm; and Sun, 2 – 9 pm

Featured image: Glimpse of the film footage, ARK, installed in the Hawn Gallery; image credit: Kevin Tedora

Thank you to Mike Morris for responses to these questions and recommendations.
Interview questions: Beverly Mitchell, Assistant Director and Curator, Hawn Gallery, Hamon Arts Library, SMU

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