Moving Icons
RSF 2003

text: Yevgeniy Fiks

Alina and Jeff Bliumis's Videolog, in which temporal modularity yields to a flexible temporal grid with consistent repetition of shots and stills, indexes a golden age of Russian underground culture. Pointing their camera at several cult figures of the Russian émigré community of New York in the year 2002, all of whom took residence in New York in the 1970s, the Bliumises signal a growing interest in Russian avant-garde, which is inevitably becoming a recognizable trend in the aftermath of the 1990s. The presence of poet Konstantin K. Kuzminsky, artist Vagrich Bakhchanyan, and sculptor Ernst Neizvestny, avangardistov par excellence, establishes in Videolog a clear connection between the Russian avant-garde and its representation. Although Videolog is constructed out of pieces of documentary footage -- the viewer witnesses one of Bakhchanyan's telephone-assisted performances and gets mesmerized by Neizvestniy's self-luminous monologue -- the factuality of documentary footage appears to be mutable through the use of juxtaposition and repetition. The artists comment on the fact that a piece of live action footage has become a sequence of graphics and lost its status as document. Breaking with the factuality of video, Videolog essentially presents a sequence of moving icons, where each icon becomes a graphic of (un)critical devotion.

The Bliumises draw heavily on the new media methodology, which manifests itself not only in their use of temporal-spatial montage, but more importantly in the use of one of the key new media forms -- the loop. By relying on the loop, which has become perhaps the most characteristic techniques of new media including CD-ROMs and computer games, the Bluimises essentially construct a new media narrative. The traditional narrative is not supposed to repeat, for it is supposed to function as a leaner progression through numerous events. The Bliumises interrupt the narrative flow: they present a continuous repetition of shots. Although one can find this form in early avant-garde cinema, it is only now that the loop is truly becoming part of the aesthetics of cinema and one of the narrative forms of new media art. Therefore, Videolog is very much a product of the contemporary new media culture that highlights continuity between technology-informed digital video and the early cinema.