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Brian Eno: 14 Video Paintings

’Tis the season of the video Yule log, a touch of holiday kitsch that may be more avant-garde than you ever thought. At least Brian Eno seems to think so. “I see TV as a picture medium rather than a narrative medium,” Eno, the music producer and sometime video artist, has said. “Video for me is a way of configuring light, just as painting is a way of configuring paint.” After acquiring his first video camera in the late 1970s from a roadie for Foreigner, Eno put his impressions into practice, shooting a series of “ambient videos” or “video paintings” which ended up being screened in galleries and eventually released on VHS and laserdisc. Rykodisc’s recent DVD release of two Eno series, Thursday Afternoon and Mistaken Memories of Mediaeval Manhattan, presents 14 shots of varying lengths and aesthetic intensity set to Eno’s own ethereal scores. Interestingly, Eno turned to traditional, even kitsch, genres — the female nude and the landscape — to explore the then nascent field of video art. In Thursday Afternoon, a friend, Christine Alicino, strikes dynamic poses in various states of undress while Eno fiddles with his camera’s special effects tricks. In Mistaken Memories of Mediaeval Manhattan, Eno frames several shots of Manhattan rooftops against wide and high fields of sky, while saturating the colors to vivid effect. In both series, Eno slows movement to a crawl, introducing a touch of abstraction into representational forms. Hardly content to stop there, he insists that his video works are best viewed with your television tipped on its side to break up, as he puts it, the narrative expectations of the screen’s “proscenium arch.” Rykodisc accommodates Eno — and adventurous viewers — by presenting horizontally rotated versions of both series, and my own experiments on a flat panel computer monitor bear Eno out. For those unwilling to tip their televisions, however, Ryko also includes letterboxed vertical versions.Other recommended new releases: Forbidden Games (DVD); Fox Film Noir: The Dark Corner, Kiss of Death, Where the Sidewalk Ends (DVD); Fox in a Box Featuring Pam Grier: Baby, Coffy, Foxy Brown, Sheba (DVD); Jackass: The Box Set (DVD); Shoot the Piano Player (DVD); Star Wars Clone Wars (DVD). Also released this week: VHS-DVD: Fantastic 4.DVD: 24: Season Four; Belle of the Yukon; Berlinguer I Love You; Captain Jack; Cause Célèbre; The Count of Monte Cristo; First Circle; Garfield and Firends: Volume Five; Kid Galahad; Konga; MacGyver: The Complete Fourth Season; M.A.S.H.: Season Nine; Messiah; Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica: The Final Season; The Ninth Day; Penguins Under Seige; Pet Alien: Lighter Side of Doom; Watermarks; Postcards from Buster: Buster’s Buddies.