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Older than youtube. Curator Laure Prouvost Explains Seven Years of tank.tv

08/01/2010
Angela Ferraiolo

Seven years ago, or about two years before the invention of youtube, the editors of Tank Magazine saw the possibility of an internet platform dedicated to video art. Their response was tank.tv, an Internet site that is part moving image archive, part online gallery, and part cutting edge video art exhibition.

After a quick and painless registration, tank visitors can wander by artist through a catalogue of some of the best short films of recent time, including works by Ken Jacobs, Pipilotti Rist, Vito Acconci, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Guy Maddin, Jeremy Deller, and Saskia Olde Wolbers. This archive alone is enough to make tank.tv a cultural treasure. But about eight times a year, tank also puts up shows organized by theme, and here films by emerging artists like Claire Hope and David Blandy are featured alongside more established filmmakers and more recognizable names.

“The sole focus is on the work,” explains curator and creative director Laure Prouvost, who has been with the site since its beginning. Prouvost describes tank.tv as a completely open endeavor, one that supports experimentation by accepting submissions and curatorial proposals throughout the year: “We have worked to make tank.tv a collaborative platform over time and we’re still looking for ways to open our programme as much as possible.”

(Left) Just a quiet peaceful dance by Dean Kissick, (Right) Your uncertain spirit by Jonathan Monaghan
Screengrabs: Just a Quiet Peaceful Dance by Dean Kissick (left) and Your Uncertain Spirit by Jonathan Monaghan (right). All images courtesy tank.tv

After running a series of solo shows in 2009, tank decided to finish the decade with the group show Open End. About twelve films were selected from the submissions tank.tv received throughout the year. Works by emerging artists received special attention. They include Just a Quiet Peaceful Dance by Dean Kissick, a rapid, flash cut montage that cascades in one smooth glide over its upbeat house track, and the dreamy, slightly disturbing 3D animation Your Uncertain Spirit by Jonathan Monaghan.

Momentary Seizures by Katja Aglert (left) and Across by Andrew Cross (right)
Screengrabs: Momentary Seizures by Katja Aglert (left) and Across by Andrew Cross (right)

Each of these films were beautifully made and conceived, allowing a special kind of online engagement. In the lyrically photographed Momentary Seizures, Katja Aglert gives us an allegory of war and genocide through the life of a garden snail. Filmmaker Andrew Cross uses a single shot of the landscape as a meditation on time in his film Across. In Pulcera, Nicholas O’Brien uses a series of long takes to explore the relationship between image, gesture, and memory. Filmmaker Michael Fortune exploits the conventions of the reality television and the non-fiction form to make visible the relationship between custom, ritual, and community in We Invented Halloween.

Pulcera by Nicholas O'Brien (left) and We Invented Halloween by Michael Fortune (right)
Screengrabs: Pulcera by Nicholas O’Brien (left) and We Invented Halloween by Michael Fortune (right)

Not quite essay, but something more like the spirit of anti-narrative informs other films in Open End. Among these is Jon Purnell’s CackULike, which documents men in white linen invading the mass transit system, and Steven Eastwood’s self-reflexive and ironic examination of filmmaking in Seminar in Film and Sound.

CackULike by Jon Purnell (left) and Seminar in Film and Sound by Steven Eastwood (right)
Screengrabs: CackULike by Jon Purnell (left) and Seminar in Film and Sound by Steven Eastwood (right)

Screengrabs: CackULike by Jon Purnell (left) and Seminar in Film and Sound by Steven Eastwood (right)

By deconstructing the war film genre, Matthew Johnstone manages a few genuinely harrowing moments in Modern Warfare, a film which combines aerial photography of a bombing run with routine and no-so-routine audio tracks depicting military training sessions. In Inadvertent Prose, filmmaker Mark Shorey distills noir down to its single essential moment of threat and violence.

Modern Warfare by Matthew Johnstone (left) and Inadvertent Prose by Mark Shorey (right)
Screengrabs: Modern Warfare by Matthew Johnstone (left) and Inadvertent Prose by Mark Shorey (right)

Animators are also represented. There’s the completely silly and kooky Conveyor-Iphone by Oliver Michaels, which just gets funnier and funnier as it runs its six minutes – really it is just wonderfully preposterous. Simon Woolham’s The Pile creates a mysterious and idiosyncratic relationship between an odd group of objects or states and their related sounds. In The Sausage Party #2, #D animator Michael van den Abeele pairs the evolution of a wire grid that slowly increases in complexity with the sound of a desolate, blowing wind.

The Pile by Simon Woolham (left) and The Sausage Party #2 by Michael van den Abeele (right)
Screengrabs: The Pile by Simon Woolham (left) and The Sausage Party #2 by Michael van den Abeele (right)

About twenty thousand visitors from sixty countries will see Open End. This is obviously good news for the filmmakers who show work here and audience reach is one of the main benefits of their being online. But tank curator Laure Prouvost sees additional benefits in internet exhibition: “Websites such as ours or UBU or LUX offer direct and fast access to work that would otherwise be very hard to view. It’s a fantastic way to get an introduction to an artist’s work. For us curating online gives us a lot of freedom – we have low overhead costs and can react very quickly.”

While the Internet will never replace the cinema or the gallery, Prouvost does point out its use as an extension of those spaces. As the quality of delivery improves, Prouvost believes the web will be used more and more as an introductory space for serious video art. If you watch films, a copy of Fresh Moves, the first DVD compilation from tank.tv can be ordered through tank.tv’s website.

If you make films, Tank is also accepting submissions for The Whole World, an upcoming show by curator Ian White. Prouvost explains The Whole World as a show about the idea of lists: “Both a formal device and a political strategy, film and video that deploys a list as part of its structure often does so with political intent: to subvert hierarchies, to undermine rationalism or to reveal contradiction. In contemporary culture the pop chart’s Top 10 has been replaced by an ever-expanding craze for “Top 100s” of everything from Hollywood genres to celebrity gaffes. The Whole World attempts to wrestle back the initiative. As part of the show we continue to accept submissions of list-centric videos so that The Whole World continues to grow over time.”