The online version of BFI’s Sight and Sound magazine asked 30-odd video essayists to list their favourite video essays of the past year. Astonishingly, video artist Nelson Carvajal very kindly included something of mine on his list!
Vanishing Point is actually the only video essay I’ve made so far; I made it early in the year for visual essay jam, and at first my goal was to adapt the video essay format by using visual language more and almost eliminating narration entirely – but then, I threw in a lot of primary source quotes, and it got very discursive in its own way. In the end, it was a very similar process to how I make collages, even to the degree that where possible I was cutting up screenshots of the texts from their original print format. So it’s gratifying that Carvajal (who is a skilled mashup artist, speaking of collage methods) specifically highlighted this little weekend project as a proof-of-concept for how the video essay format might look in the future, as it becomes integrated into traditional critical education practices:
Vanishing Point: a visual essay Zoya Street
What’s special about Vanishing Point is how it employs quite literally the essay ‘text’ and footnotes and brings them to life. It gives an impression on what all essays might someday look like in school English classroom, with each student typing away and editing on their tablets or smartphones.
The way I’ve handled footnotes in Vanishing Point is bulky, overt, and definitely not for everyone, but I do think that referencing methods are an important thing for video essayists to think about. As Senior Curator of Critical Distance, part of my job is to prevent the site from presenting plagiarised ideas as original work, and I’ve been frustrated by bad citation politics on Youtube on an almost weekly basis. So it’s on my mind a lot, and while I didn’t think of it as something I was trying to explore with this video, it’s interesting to see it highlighted here. Footnotes are a format I’m used to, because I deal with academic writing on a daily basis, but they’re not the only way to achieve ethical derivative work – one of the most popular Youtube channels has a ten-year-old tradition of putting “links in the doobly-doo”.
Anyway, the BFI list is a treasure-trove of stuff that I can’t wait to dig into watching. Here are some of the ones they chose that were already favourites of mine: