Since the 1980s, I have conceptualized, articulated and worked within a new genre of video art for which I have coined the term “aesthetic ethnography.” This term refers to processes and form which attempt to illuminate people and cultures in specific historical moments and places through an aesthetic rather than a scientific methodology. Aesthetic ethnography is a hybrid intellectual art form which exists at the margins of video art, anthropology and cultural studies. At the conceptual level, the pieces within this genre explore the margins between fact and fiction--excavating the subjective and creative dynamic of historical memory. The work centers upon the intersection between individuals and cultures and focuses not on what happened collectively or individually but on how what happened has been cast up--by individuals, by cultures.
-Hans Breder, Threshold states
under a malicious sky, 1988
Like Celan's words, the images mix fragments of the real and imaginary in a hermetic effort to express the quest for a visual text that is at once personal reflection and cultural criticism.
-John Hanhardt, 1989
Ursonate 1986 is the result of a transference process utilizing computer and video technology to transport the 1932 phonetic poem, Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters, from the cultural setting of that period into a contemporary context. In the early part of the century, Dada artists who experienced with phonetic poetry were exploring the concepts of pre-language and pre-consciousness. The title of Schwitters’s piece, Ursonate, can be translated as “primordial sonata.” In Ursonate 1986 video and computer technologies, extensions of the nervous system, are used to parallel and extend Schwitters’s attempts to excavate the roots of language and to articulate the primordial. Repetition creates a pattern. The concept of this piece then is for the listener to get into a state of non-thinking.
7 + 7, 2015
The sounds of a piano, trombone, and Tibetan singing bowl are digitalized and ingeniously integrated electronically. Breder says the geometrical forms and the music forms are symmetrically arranged, that is, the image and the sound vibrate at the same frequency. The symmetry is maintained even as the audiovisual pulsating forms constantly change, disintegrate and re-integrate into gestalt wholes. Fragments symmetrically align even as they seem asymmetrically odds, and remain dynamically different even as they stabilize into holistic forms. Performed, each chakra seems to be informed by some enigmatic élan vital, made manifest by the changing image and the piercing music.