A Brief History

Bill Jones, August Moons 6, 2011 Iris Print, 30" x 40".
Bill Jones, Equivalent # 5, 2016 Iris Print, 30″ x 40″ (click here for series slide show)

A Brief History is a project about media old and new from analogue photography and video to digital networks. It includes still and moving imagery as well as sound and music in multiple forms and grows out of a long interest in photography as a revolutionary picture making experiment. A Brief History focuses on the first hundred years after the invention of photography as the new medium’s aesthetic evolved, forming and reforming.

The core of the project is a series of eight video and music works each representing a stage in photography’s emergent history. Each reflects a personal take on the epoch and draws from the vast array of photographs in the public domain as samples and sources. The score of nine musical compositions grew out of a contemplation on a single song Kathleen Mavourneen published in 1839, arguably the year of the birth of photography. Kathleen Mavourneen was the most popular song of its era which is contemporaneous with the American Civil War where the work of Mathew Brady and others flourished. The 1911 recording accompanying Arise, the second work in the series, was performed by the great Irish tenor John McCormack. The year of its recording marks the second period of photography’s history and the consolidation of it’s 20th Century aesthetic, modernism. Three video works specifically engage the period. The central work dada remixes a 1927 film by Hans Richter, Ghosts Before Breakfast.  Richter’s work was heavily associated with avant garde music but the sound track to Ghosts Before Breakfast was destroyed by the Nazis so the film is not only a prime example of the dada sensibility but ripe for remixing with a new sound track.

 

Bill Jones, Reprise, 2016, HD video, 7:31 min.

Reprise is the final video work in A Brief History. It features a reclining figure from Henry Peach Robinson’s She Never Told Her Love, 1857. Robinson, a Pre-Raphaelite, popularized the combination printing technique, the for runner of the photo-montage and film compositing techniques of the 20th Century. He learned this method from Oscar Reijlander but had great success especially with his most notable work Fading Away which uses the same central figure but in a different setting. The figure appears in both Arise, and Reprise which begin and end the video series.

Bill Jones Cape Horn near Celilo # 1, After Carlton E. Watkins, 2016, digital print, 24x36 inches Bill Jones Cape Horn near Celilo # 1, After Carlton E. Watkins, 2016, digital print, 24×36 inches (for slide show of series click here)

Though discussions of process do not substitute for experiencing these works, one technical note may be important to understanding what they are. They are audio visual performance recordings each produced by and recorded in the VJ software modul8 which allows me to manipulate or play the video in real time on a standard musical key board. Thus there are no edits in these works and each is recorded in one take though many attempts were made before a finished work was completed.

 

Bill Jones, neue optik, 2016, HD video, 2:22 min.

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