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Movies by Michael Betancourt
 Going Somewhere
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archives begin in 1996

Duration Statement

story © Michael Betancourt | published June 13, 2003 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  


My work with movies has gradually developed towards shorter and shorter pieces, but not out of some need to purify and reduce the excess materials in my work. Instead it was the inevitable result of considering the question of duration versus the viewing habits almost all of us have when confronted by popular culture. I gradually reduced the length of my movies from a desire to explore issues closely related to duration.

The average viewer has an attention span for non-narrative moving images about equivalent to that of a TV commercial. In fact, for non-art audiences generally, these are the only works which they encounter that are not narrative in some fashion. The duration of these programs are typically either :30 or :60 seconds. This is the same duration as the majority of my recent work.

Historically the question of duration has tended towards an experience of time derived from Andy Warhols films (Eat, Kiss, Empire and the infamous Sleep) where the experience evolves from a compressing of time into monotony. This influence is apparent in my own work in a negative sense: in place of monotony, these movies are so brief that their effects come from being left wanting more, not less.

By reversing this traditional role of time and drawing upon the literal duration of television commercials these movies provide an immediate frame of reference for all viewers that is not specifically derived from an art context. However, the visual content of each movie has much more in common with painting than with either typical video art or the more traditional avant-garde film.

Movies is a catch-all term that I prefer for describing images that use human perception to create apparent motion, regardless of whether these are produced through technological means such as video or film, or in the more traditional historical methodology of painterly motion in representational art. By ignoring the distinction between these media their points of contact and similarity become immediately obvious and provide a framework that supports experimentation.

These movies are experimental in character. The majority of these related works develop within a specific set of constraints, and originate within the same video clip downloaded from the internet. This latent content remains visible through the quality of motion. By approaching this limited set of potentials in different ways and proceeding through a pattern of variations on the same procedures, very different effects and forms emerge. The resulting movie is much more than a product of how the digital information has been technologically transformed; it is a suggestive experience that is both visceral and intellectual at the same time.


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