Eyemediae wants to prove there can be 'video' without 'rock'
By BILL BROWN
NEWS ARTS WRITER
Even though the word “video” refers to a recently invented electronic technology, one that can record and preserve visual images and play them back, the only time one hears the word these days is in conjunction with the word “rock,” which refers to a style of music.
Rock videos, of course, are the four-minute, “mini-Hollywoods” currently being broadcast 24 hours a day on the popular cable TV service MTV (Music Television). Trade magazines and daily newspapers are writing about them. Record companies, and former filmmakers and producers of TV commercials, are recording them. Night clubs, some art galleries and a growing number of service-oriented businesses are showing them. Powering the whole thing are hundreds of thousands of American consumers, who are buying rock videos, other pre-recorded video cassettes and the means to watch them at home.
But not everyone is pleased by the present merging of video technology with rock music. The members of Eyemediae, a recently formed, Ann Arbor-based collective of film and video artists, think that there’s a lot more to video that just rock videos. The video art form, in their view, must learn to become independent of rock music, just as film became independent of theater nearly 50 years ago.
In its first bid to help video attain independence from rock music, Eyemediae has organized a weekly showcase of alternative video productions at the Performance Network, 408 W. Washington St. Starting Tuesday night, and continuing every Tuesday through at least February, the group will present two-hour dollops of rarely seen video tapes, most produced by local video artists, and live performances by local poets and musicians. Each show will start at 8:30 p.m. and require an admission fee of $2.
Unlike every other video showcase at the Performance Network, of which there have been four since 1982, the Eyemediae presentation will take place in the room behind the light booth, not in the main performance space. This un-named back room seats approximately 40 people, less than half the number of occupants that the main room can accomodate.
“Quite simply, we’re having the showcase in the smaller room because it’s cheaper to rent,” says Michael Clarren, a co-producer of the Ann Arbor Community Access Television program “Television Is Not a Box” and a founding member of Eyemediae. “With independently distributed videotapes running from 50 cents a minute to a dollar a minute, we’re going to have to keep things on a shoestring budget, at least for the first few months.”
No one, Clarren included, doubts that Eyemediae faces an uphill battle. To bolster its weak finances, the group, which is composed of several University of Michigan students, has applied for $400 in grants from the Michigan Student Assembly. According to a spokesperson, the MSA’s final decision on Eyemediae’s proposal will come Tuesday, the very day that the weekly showcase is to begin. If the student organization approves the proposal, Eyemediae may also be able to use U-M equipment and to stage future video showcases in U-M facilities at no charge.
Eyemediae presents a series of experimental videotapes at the Performance Network, 408 W. Washington St., on this and succeeding Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $2. Call 663-0681 or 994-4792 for more information.