Mistaken Memories Of Mediaeval Manhattan


The first ambient film, at least in the Brian Eno sense of the term, although one can think of other examples prior to this, not least Andy Warhol’s Empire (1964) which is possibly alluded to in a sequence showing the Empire State Building in the distance. Eno filmed several static views of New York and its drifting cloudscape from his thirteenth-floor apartment in 1980–81. The low-grade equipment (and NTSC video) give the images a hazy, impressionistic quality. Lack of a tripod meant filming with the camera lying on its side so the tape had to be re-viewed with a television monitor also turned on its side. The assembled videos were later screened in galleries with music from some of the Ambient series of albums, and also two unique pieces.


An edited suite of seven pieces running 47 minutes was released on VHS tape in 1987. Like the original recordings, these could only be viewed by turning your TV on its side, something I used to think was a combination of the hazardous and foolhardy to all but the most diehard Eno aficionados. Television sets in the 1980s were either portable things in cheap plastic enclosures (some with curved sides), or cathode-tube monsters that would require two people two handle, assuming they weren’t screwed to a stand. I’ve yet to hear of anyone other than Eno himself who ever went to this trouble to watch a single video recording. It’s notable that recent DVD reissues of these videos, and the later Thursday Afternoon, have included horizontal as well as vertical versions.

The screen grabs here are from a 26-minute edit of the suite. The 14 Video Paintings DVD is currently out-of-print but a vertical copy can be found at Ubuweb.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Brian Eno: Imaginary Landscapes
Thursday Afternoon by Brian Eno
Moonlight in Glory
Tiger Mountain Strategies
Generative culture
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

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