Monday, March 10, 2014

Bursting Blings and Beta: the lost art of the basement tape

The past swims before my eyes. Or rather lurches and jostles, violently, in violet colors, with that grainy, almost sparkling lower frame which is the telltale sign of the 30-year-old Beta-format videotape. Something happens to these tapes when allowed to stew in their own nitrates in somebody's basement for two or three decades. A chemical change comes over them - an alchemy - and like a good friend going through a bad divorce, they come out Different. They go bad, actually, denature and denitrate (though they're probably not made of nitrate at all but some cheap acetate like a whore's stocking), but in some brilliant way they also spring into unique works of moving art. Thus Rich Correll, as he forever bounds on to the stage with his gigantic Citizen-Kane-sized name in lights, seems to strobe jubilantly as he saunters towards the towering structure that is the Squares, his appearance evanescent, almost incandescent as the Beta tape catches that fleeting second, that instant in time which is the Hollywood Squares Leave it to Beaver Day.

And here, a brilliantly-striped, strobing Rich sounds forth on something, the contents of which we will never know, but how beautifully he does it, in his violet/magenta/chartreuse/indigo tones interspersed with gaudy flashes of carmine. Beyond graininess or distortion, this thing has just gone all to hell with color, a striated peacock-tail of almost indecent hue, as if the colors were leaping and strobing right out of Rich Correlll's own creative head as he sits in that square behind his name. I wish there were some sort of magic crayon or acrylic or whatever that would paint in jostling, violently jiggling multicolored lines like that, for then I might be able to make something resembling art. The closest I've ever come is the Blingee, and to be honest the Blingee is not a very satisfying art form unless you sign up and pay for all those extras, like exploding flamingos and such.

But in a vain attempt to recapture the psychedelic, even hallucinogenic atmosphere of the aforementioned Hollywood Squares Beta clips, here are a couple of Blingees, I mean the kind you get if you don't sign up or pay, which look pretty low-res to me. The graceful fireworks I saw when I made this thing have sort of gone all to pot and turned into three-frames-per-second jerks. Oh well, chalk it up to low technology, which can, after all, have a beauty all its own.