Film Theory as Praxis: The Potential of the Video Essay as a Means of Film Criticism
Trinity College Dublin
(at time of presentation)
Aidan Delaney is currently part of the DAH (Digital Arts and Humanities) Ph.D programme and undertaking his studies at the ATRL in Trinity College Dublin as part of their arts strand intake. His dissertation considers the potential of remixed video as a means of media criticism. Aidan also performs practice-based research through remix video and the video essay. His theory interests are in digital art, remix culture, space (virtual and urban), street art, post-Marxism, film theory, author studies, experimental film and video art.
Recent years have witnessed a growing impulse to use the video essay as a means of film criticism as exemplified by notable publishers such as Sight & Sound) now recognising the form. This tendency can be rooted in the audio commentary of DVD add-ons and has nurtured with consumer video editing and ripping software developments. These technological advancements have democratised the practice of video essay creation and allowed it to transmute into a sophisticated means of close textual analysis. Furthermore, by using the very substance of the source under examination, i.e. moving footage, the video essay is advantageous as a means of criticism or close textual analysis because it bypasses the mediation of the separate semiotic system of the written word. It is therefore analogous to what Edward S. Small calls ‘direct theory’ (creating theory/praxis arguments through experimental film. Fundamentally the video essay functions as a visual essay on a visual source.
This paper addresses the effectiveness of the video essay in film criticism, identifying and exemplifying its obvious advantages over the written word. Furthermore, it will reframe Small’s ‘direct theory’ and show its usefulness as theory beyond the experimental film genre.