Week 15 Searcher Post

Alan Resnick is a filmmaker whose work has fascinated me for years. While he leans more towards comedy than most of the works we’ve explored in class, Resnick’s work is not only narratively and stylistically inventive but also thematically rich. He is most famous for his equally hilarious and disturbing Adult Swim short films, but arguably his most unique project is Alantutorial. AlanTutorial is a Youtube channel created by Resnick in 2011 that elevates the potential for the video-sharing medium and filmmaking in general. Released sporadically over the span of four years, these strange how-to videos at first seem innocuous but soon mold into a much darker story as we learn more about the dark life of the seemingly real character releasing the videos. While I won’t reveal the many twists and turns of the series, Resnick was able to tackle complex ideas such as Youtube’s (and our capitalistic system’s) exploitation of creatives for monetary gain and the dangers of losing one’s identity in chasing conventional notions of success. What is most fascinating to me is that the channel existed for years before people realized it was a work of fiction. By uploading the videos without any credits, flashy editing, or external context, Resnick was able to blur the line between reality and fiction. While not incredibly similar to How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (Steyerl, 2013), it is interesting that both projects parody the how-to format to explore complex thematic material.  

In the mid-2010s, Resnick began creating short films for Adult Swim that, like Alantutorial, were simultaneously hilarious, terrifying, weird as hell, and dense with social commentary. Upon rewatching one of my favorites, Unedited Footage of a Bear, I was reminded of a few of the films we’ve seen in class. When the woman in the commercial encounters the alternate version of herself, I thought of Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (Deren, 1943). Both the visual style of this sequence and the thematic ideas of the destruction of the self seemed to be influenced by Deren’s masterpiece. When considering Resnick’s Adult Swim projects, I am again reminded of Hito Steyerl’s How Not to Be Seen. The equally comedic and eerie tone and absurd narrative tangents of his films seem to take inspiration from the German filmmaker’s work. 

Overall, Alan Resnick is a contemporary filmmaker whose projects reflect many of the topics we’ve discussed in class. Refusing to sacrifice his distinct creative vision, opposing the stylistic characteristics and values of mass media, and offering thematically rich yet malleable messages that encourage active viewer engagement, Resnick exemplifies numerous principles of experimental filmmaking.

Final Searcher Blog – Wenxin Yan


This is the official music video (shot on Jan.26.2002) of the song Sleep Now In The Fire (from 1999 album The Battle of Los Angeles) by Rage Against the Machine.

Although this looks different from what we have studied, I still want to write about this, not only because I see it as an experimental short film, but also because the shooting process itself is an experiment.

Michael Moore, the famous documentary filmmaker, and political activist collaborated with the band to make this music video by asking the band to perform in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Before the shoot, Moore got the permission to use steps of Federal Hall National Memorial, but did not have permit to shoot the streets, or creating loud noise. In the video, we can see Michael Moore taken away by the police, but he did not let the camera stop rolling. Indeed, he told the band to continue playing no matter what happens.

After learning about the transition from film to digital, I started to think about the content of this music video as a product of digitalization. First of all, Rudy Giuliani’s smiling face was playing and rewinding on repeat, reminding me of Ballet Mécanique (1924). It is surprising to see that experimental expression like repetition still being applied after 80 years. The mass entertainment and TV element reminds me of Nam Jun Paik’s Global Groove (1973). Of course, after 27 years, we are all aware of the rapid development of technology which brings the world together, but different in its ideology, this music video is displaying mass ignorance and the influence of capitalism (in USA). For example, the constant footages from Who Wants to Be Filthy F#&%ing Rich? (The parody of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) intertwined with the band’s performance imposing on backgrounds like gigantic green US dollars, nuclear explosion, and TV commercials (mostly capitalist items). The experimental expression in the film is very simple, but the symbolization is successful and powerful, like when Zack sings in front of puppet faces of Al Gore, George W. Buch, and John McCain.

Gary Bauer’s voice appeared at last, “A band called The Machine Rages On… er… Rage Against the Machine, that band is anti-family and is pro-terrorist.” Note here, Bauer was once appointed by Trump to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and a person holding a board that supports Trump as president appeared in the music video. Nobody would have thought that would come true after 20 years. Going back to the point we have discussed in class about if a film can make people act, my answer is not sure, but they certainly have the potential. In this video, the riot of people storming into the hall happened during the film shoot.

And who would have thought Limp Bizkit’s music video of Break Stuff won that year, instead of this one… I seriously, seriously, DO NOT understand how that happened.


This is the more recent video. It is the official music video of Depeche Mode’s song My Favorite Stranger, in their latest album Memento Mori (2023).

I have a fascination with music videos. Most rock band music videos seem very experimental to me. I picked this one because this looks exactly like what I wanted to film. Just a black and white visually great cool guy/woman walking in places that you cannot tell if it is modern or not. I forgot to mention that my first homework film was also inspired by this video.

The cinematography creates a clear contrast in this black and white world. The black outfit, especially hat, symbolizes mystery. The stranger looks like to be pissing on a tree, but after the stranger moves away, what we see are blood stains. The picture is black and white, so you cannot tell what the liquid really is. However, you just know it is blood.

Throughout the video, the stranger walks in slow motion, so the high quality camera captures every little detail of the cool walking style and the movement of the long coat, creating a dream-like quality that resembles Maya Deren’s works. What makes the scene even more like a dream is the fact that the stranger walks along forest and streets (a contrast between primitive and modern) that not a single person can be seen. It seems like the whole world is muted and dead, and the stranger is the only one alive.

At one point, the stranger stops in front of a shopping window to see self-reflection. Not only the clear window, but also multiple vintage television sets on display reflect the figure. Like the lyrics say, the perfect stranger might just be ourselves. The figure in the video is a reality encapsulation of the dark side of our personality that we never reveal in real life.

In the end, we finally get a good frontal look at the stranger’s face, and guess what? The mustache is fake. This is an androgynous figure.

Week 12: Searcher Post

When I first watched Vertical Roll (Jonas, 1972), I struggled to understand quite what Joan Jonas was presenting us with. The disjointed, scrolling shots of Jonas’ body broken up by black bars and accompanied by audio of the repeated clanging of a spoon made for a challenging viewing experience. The constant fragmentation of her body within the video frame made me consider the idea of the fragmentation of one’s identity (possibly in relation to the medium of video?). Then, in the final minute, Jonas’ head enters the frame in front of the video screen, and she stares at the camera. While this conclusion might point to the liberation or unity of Jonas’ identity/body outside the screen or serve as a confrontation of the viewer, I failed to fully grasp the meanings of the film. I still don’t have a complete understanding of Vertical Roll, but this 2020 interview with Jonas provides fascinating context to her work and her fictional screen character of Organic Honey. The interview was conducted by Kristin Poor, Barbara Clausen, and Tracy Robinson from the Joan Jonas Knowledge Base. 

One of the first topics Jonas discusses in the interview is the relationship between film and video. She states her fascination with the connection between the vertical roll on TV sets and the frames of film scrolling by. This fascination is incredibly apparent in Vertical Roll, as it essentially serves as the broad structure of the entire film. Another interesting section of the interview is Jonas’ discussion of how her performances/work was influenced by a video shoot of Marilyn Monroe. Joan explains that she read something about someone watching Marilyn Monroe being recorded by a camera pointed at her, while the viewer watched Marilyn from the side. The viewer was interested in the difference between the camera’s view of Marilyn versus his view of her. This story about the differing views/perspectives of someone influenced Jonas’ performances and the concept of being watched by an audience. Lastly, I was fascinated by Jonas’ discussion of the use of mirrors in her work. I didn’t realize when watching Vertical Roll that the opening shot of a spoon striking an image of Jonas’ face utilized a mirror. While the artist didn’t reveal any of the meanings behind the use of mirrors, it was fascinating to learn about the prevalence of different kinds of mirrors in her performances. Furthermore, it made me consider possible themes of the film relating to the mirror, such as trying to escape one’s self-image or serving as a further fragmentation/distancing of the subject from the viewer.

Week 12: Viewer Response

My experience of viewing Vertical Roll (Joan Jonas, 1972) was certainly a complicated one. The persistent sound of metal tapping, spanning a daunting 18 minutes, not only constantly diverted my attention from the visual but also stirred a sense of irritation in my mind. Jonas’s use of this sound, as I interpret it, follows a similar approach to Buñuel’s famous eye-slicing scene in Un Chien Andalou (Buñuel & Dali, 1929). It presents a challenge and even a taunt to the audience while implicitly underscoring that the work is not designed solely for entertainment. As the film commences, we observe images of a woman emerging in the vertical direction, coming closer and then away from the screen. This design not only echoes the film’s title but, more significantly, emulates the operation of a film projector. Given the era when the work was created, it is reasonable to deduce that Jonas intentionally made this choice to illustrate that video art, as an emerging art form, held a broader potential compared to film as it could produce a similar outcome with greater ease. Another piece of evidence supporting this notion is that each segment of the sections in which the motion of the feet and legs of the woman is captured is a dynamic video sequence rather than a static photo as in traditional film projection. Therefore, the audience is offered a series of moving videos instead of images.

As the film proceeds to its end, a woman enters the screen, disregarding and disrupting the projection-like framework. Slowly, she turns her face to look directly at the audience which shatters the fourth wall. After maintaining this gaze for a while, she slowly departs from the screen along with the vertical motion of the background frame. This design distinctly ends the resemblance between this video and a traditional film projection, serving as a vivid reminder to the audience that they are engaging with a completely new medium that can offer diverse presentation forms.

My questions for this work are:

  • First and foremost, what is this video about? Is the woman who appears at the end the same individual as the subject of the video?
  • How can we interpret the breaking of the fourth wall in the final scene?

Week 12 Reader Blog


The Aesthetics of Narcissism

The article starts with, “It was a common place of criticism in the 1960s that a strict application of symmetry allowed a painter to ‘point to the center of the canvas’.” (Krauss, 50)

       It reminds me of the passage Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus Jean-Louis Baudry wrote. Both that passage and this one mention painting traditions. In fact, all art forms tend to position towards the center. In paintings, we usually see the main subject matter in the center, something like this (that I randomly found and drew):

That reflects the self-centered narcissism, which “describes a psychological rather than a physical condition.” (Krauss, 50)

       Video art is indeed a mutual process. When the filming apparatus works, the body that is recorded also has to respond to this process, creating a feedback loop, which connects to the artwork Boomerang (1974) in which the performer experiences a weird self-awareness when she hears her own voice keep getting send back to her earphones instantly after she speaks, like a “mirror” experience.

       Krauss also states the difference between “reflection”, which means external symmetry and “reflexiveness”, which is asymmetry from within. Reflection usually involves the use of mirrors, and it produces the exact same symmetrical image in the outside world. Reflexiveness in the context of video art is like the feedback from the artist’s inner mind and creates an interaction with the art medium itself.

       My question: A clearer explanation of the relationship between the projection on screen and the projection of oneself?

The Rio Experience:

Video’s New Architecture Meets Corporate Sponsorship

The content in this reading got me thinking that I have the gradual feeling that larger art projects involving using a large wall or a building’s exterior are becoming more and more prevalent all over the world. Coming from China myself, there are some buildings used for 3D animation artwork at major shopping malls in Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu.

The cost is usually very high, so it poses challenges to artists who wants to achieve this kind of art. Another issue also lies in the uncertainty of whether these arts can make profits. An imbalance and conflict between major corporations and independent artist thus forms. Unless the artists are extremely rich themselves, it is impossible to do without sponsorship. It is probable that these artists are respected better and have lesser difficulty in acquiring the funds they need nowadays. In future media landscape, there should be less conflict between the commercial and artistic value in order for video arts to thrive.

Week 11 Viewer Post

Global Groove:

“This is a glimpse of the video landscape of tomorrow, when you will be able to switch to any TV station on the earth, and TV guide will be as fat as the Manhattan telephone book.”

What follows this sentence is a video of woman dancing dressed in fashion of the time the film came out. The image has been altered with electronic methods I am not familiar with.

What follows the dancing are television clips or other videos with celebrities in them. I believe this urges us to reflect on the presence of media in our lives (of course, when this film came out it was still in the 70s in last century). I am not an expert on the female music performer, but I do connect Allen Ginsberg with the hippie movement that is in its prosperity then, and his relationship with the Beat Generation. When audiences watch this video now, this information might not be immediate to people who are not acquainted with this culture, but at the time, it should be obvious. I assume it is the same reason why John Cage appears in the film as well — public figures on media platforms, delivered by the medium of a video.

       I have some reflection on the film’s name: Global Groove. “Groove” is a term specifically associated with African American music, but the adjective “global” is added before it. It might indicate the period in which the film is made is a time of globalization. To state that, there are clips of performances derived from different cultures juxtaposed together. The video itself is also a manifestation of how technology connects people of different races, from different places, and with different believes, together.

       Anyways, the whole film is a mashup of all sorts of videos. I guess that is also one of the reasons it is called “video art”.

Above are unfortunately all I can interpret from this film.

Questions I have:

1, The clips selected must have some significance. Two are music performers, one is a literature representative. They all appear in the same film. What does that mean?

2, What is the relationship of this film with commercials?