Writing, August 2016

Welcome to the Video! Video! Criticism section, with texts about our video submissions from real live writers. Read hot video words from real live writers here online for free! This month’s contributor is Allison Shyer and Dakota Loesch.

Allison Shyer on BREASTFEEDING TUTORIAL: Pump! (w/ demo) by Tannaz Motevalli

How do we decide what is sexy? How do we decide what is instructional? How do we decide what is maternal? Tannaz Motevalli brings these questions into play with an off kilter humor in her video Breast Feeding Tutorial Pump! (w /demo.) Layered videos display a staggered moment of applying a breast pump. The repetition of the symbol of the pump in the layered videos contributes a sense of an event outside of time; instead of illuminating how the device is applied, it serves to lend still more of an aura of mystery and disorientation. The presentation of the act of pumping as outside of time asks the viewer to isolate the actions that must be performed in order to use the pump as in themselves ritualistically interesting, instead of the end goal—producing milk.

Tannaz’s choice of costume, red dress, red lips, pearls, is a mockery of some prepackaged notion of feminine sex appeal, bringing to mind PJ Harvey in her iconic Down By the Water music video. As the video progresses into a montage of touching and maneuvering, the viewer is asked to think about their own relationship to breasts, their existence as both a body part that serves the function of actively creating food, and a sexualized symbol of femininity. The contrast of the antiseptic and technical appearance of the pumping device with human fleshiness is stark, and amplified by Tannaz’s performance. Tannaz is also well versed in a particular kind of gesturing that is used to alert viewers they are watching something instructional, but by slowing down and repeating these motions, such as wiping the nipple with a cotton swab, she suggests another intention for the video. These two symbolic dialects, that of the sexy and that of the demonstrative, are amplified in their disparity in Breastfeeding Tutorial and serve to highlight a contrast that we often experience in sexual fetishism. Breastfeeding Tutorial asks its viewers to think about how we come to the idea of of sexiness; what do we ignore and what do we focus on? How do we come to the conclusion that an action is sexual or not? but does not leave us with any answers that are easy or convenient.

Dakota Loesch on How To Fall In Love by Ellie Hall

You ever stumble across something so strong and so fully realized that you literally say (out loud) to yourself, "What the fuck?" Ellie Hall's "How To Fall In Love" had me what-the-fucking aloud within 15 seconds of pressing play. First huge gut-punch laugh of total awe and appreciation? When our protagonist blows their nose into a piece of white bread. From that point on, I knew that this was going to be a chronic repeat watch. 13ish views later and I still want to rewatch it. This mise-en-scene, this minutia, it bites so hard that it actually hurts and almost draws blood even: the messy mathematics of a standardized convention, the strange science hidden behind popularized symbology, the loaded implications of peanut butter and jelly, the innumerability of the inherently wackadoo system of understanding that humans call love, the taking of notes interspersed with flashes of painted on tears. Is love just a sad and funny test? Is it a doomed-to-fail scientific experiment? Is love a sandwich you learn to make in childhood and continue to fuck-up but still try at for the rest of your life? I don't know, but Ellie Hall might. Or, if nothing else, this piece seems like it knows that none of us knows how this love shit works for sure. And I don't know what else to say besides, "What the fuck?" and, "If this ain't love, then I don't know what is."

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