Rubyfruit in Pixelvision
December 14, 2008 1:54 PM   Subscribe

“The most revolutionary thing is to just love yourself and love what you do. You can't do anything more than that”

A Milwaukee tomboy got a $100 Fisher-Price Pixelvision as a Christmas gift from her dad at age 15. She left high school at age 16, under homophobic pressures, and came out as a lesbian at age 17. Sadie Benning used her kiddiecorder to tell this story, creating a series of intimate short films full of personality, desperation and fantastic hope, and founded on the intimacy of immediacy.

A New Year (1989) - Living Inside (1989) - Me and Rubyfruit (1990)
If Every Girl Had A Diary (1990) - It Wasn't Love 1, 2 (1992)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur (44 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
Reverend Dobson: "Fisher-Price video cameras are the homosexual recruitment tools of Satan."
posted by orthogonality at 1:58 PM on December 14, 2008


I myself can't really decide whether I think the YouTube compression which interferes with most art films' presentation is a major problem here, changing the way people will apprehend her work upon the first encounter. The authentic original pixelation is just... replaced. Of course, like most film forms, nothing beats seeing Pixelvision projected in a theater, with its gutterboxing writ large and the visible movement of its shimmering optical traces. But unlike, say, the Martin Arnold post I put up a few weeks ago, where the compression made small movements invisble, there's very little content loss here.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:14 PM on December 14, 2008


This qualifies as a wow, in my opinion. Fascinating how the buildup of tech can be used in ways for positive changes, albeit slowly.
Tough age, too.
posted by Heatwole at 2:15 PM on December 14, 2008


“The most revolutionary thing is to just love yourself and love what you do. You can't do anything more than that”

That's a pretty self-centered view of revolution.
posted by delmoi at 2:32 PM on December 14, 2008


...or a pretty radical view of love, depending.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:54 PM on December 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


Yeah, that view is both wrong and understandable. It's wrong, especially with those superlatives hanging out in there, because it's pretty incomplete if that's where your revolution stops. But it's also understandable: it seems she comes from a place where she knows from personal experience there are needs for that kind of thing.

And the world does need people who love themselves wisely and well, and if you can't do it at all the "love thy neighbor as thyself" thing kindof falls off a cliff. On the other hand, many of us are self centered enough that's really not the thing we need to be pushed towards. So...
posted by namespan at 2:55 PM on December 14, 2008


I try to love myself, but try not to be in love with myself.

The world needs more of the former and less of the latter. And most revolutions start from within.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:24 PM on December 14, 2008


This is the sort of post that initially I'm inclined toward snarking, but watching some of the videos I find that urge disappears. While moments do make me cringe, the further I get in to it the more I want to see.

i like it, and it's a great to see some depth within a fpp again.

However, The Wind that Shakes the Barley is on TV at the moment, and I hadn't seen it before, so I'm on a rollercoaster ride of brandy and emotion. Oh yeah, I've been drinking brandy.
posted by Elmore at 3:27 PM on December 14, 2008


Aw. I feel like i'm back in film school.
posted by flipyourwig at 3:32 PM on December 14, 2008


Reverend Dobson: "Fisher-Price video cameras are the homosexual recruitment tools of Satan."

I had a Fisher-Price record player as a tot. Did that make me mildly kinky at least?
posted by jonmc at 3:39 PM on December 14, 2008


A family of experimental film makers. Their home movies look completely different than the ones I grew up with, which mainly consisted of me and my sister eating ice cream, riding ponies, and posing in front of various landmarks.

And it's "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return".
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:45 PM on December 14, 2008


When I was in art school, having a working Pixelvision was the art nerd equivalent to owning a Porsche.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:50 PM on December 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Boring is the new interesting.
posted by regicide is good for you at 3:56 PM on December 14, 2008


Every once in a while I found out about some awesome cheapo equipment hack like the Pixelvision and am just gobsmacked that this thing got built and existed. I had no idea. Video on a cassette tape is just badass.
posted by cortex at 4:02 PM on December 14, 2008


“The most revolutionary thing is to just love yourself and love what you do. You can't do anything more than that”

That's a pretty self-centered view of revolution.


Less so, perhaps, coming from a 20 year old lesbian whose films were at the time inspiring a generation of queer filmmakers to allow their personal stories into their work. I think of it as humility.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:03 PM on December 14, 2008 [3 favorites]



That's a pretty self-centered view of revolution.


As slimepuppy said, And most revolutions start from within.

The personal is political.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:01 PM on December 14, 2008


People who start the outer revolutions before dealing with the internal ones are generally the very people who start the wrong kinds of revolutions and make things worse for other people rather than better. To be gay in a homophobic culture means that learning to love yourself is the very first and most critical step because it means you have to break free of one kind of hatred. It's where you have to start.
posted by Tehanu at 5:58 PM on December 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


Wow, uh, it might be vital to mention that, accd. to Wikipedia, she co-founded Le Tigre?
posted by tmcw at 6:52 PM on December 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


To be gay in a homophobic culture means that learning to love yourself is the very first and most critical step because it means you have to break free of one kind of hatred. It's where you have to start.

Yes.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:58 PM on December 14, 2008


In my FPP I was all

"Later she founded le tigre, but whatever."

then I baleeted it. :P
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:14 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


ahh, Pixelvision. Whatsisname uses it in the last segment of Slacker. The cameras cost $100 while they remained available. The image quality was low because the vixdeo was pixelated - I'd guess the pixels were 4X8 regular pixels, longer than wide.

The camera was withdrawn from sale in '89 or so. There were rumors that the tech had been rendered seekrit and turned over to the US miltary. I gave these rumors no credence until I saw the misslecam war porn used to celebrate the first Gulf War in '90, which were clearly made with the same technology.

I think the cameras were a revolution cut short. They were xerox machines for film. Lo-res media by no means requires lo-res communication. I miss them, even as I am happy to use my current gear.
posted by mwhybark at 7:50 PM on December 14, 2008


I bought one of these. I have about 200 minutes of some crazy times in the late '80s. The only problem is that I gave away the camera and have no way of viewing them. Anyone happen to know who can transfer them?
posted by JohnR at 7:51 PM on December 14, 2008


When I lived in Austin I attended a Pixelvision film festival at the Ritz on 6th street. Most of the films were pretty poor, but there's something interesting about people trying to make art with such lo-fi equipment.
posted by jayder at 9:06 PM on December 14, 2008


I have one still in the box at my parent's house. I don't think it was ever used.
posted by empath at 9:09 PM on December 14, 2008


I have one still in the box at my parent's house. I don't think it was ever used.

Then you should put that sucker up on ebay.
posted by flipyourwig at 9:26 PM on December 14, 2008


Ya, every person that knows me has been instructed, since about 1990, to buy one of these for me if they ever come across one...as my decades of thrifting have been fruitless. Fat chance, I know.
posted by chococat at 10:18 PM on December 14, 2008


Hopefully the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, her father James Benning is a brilliant filmmaker.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:18 PM on December 14, 2008


That's a pretty damn good image for a 120x90 pixel sensor. Wikipedia says these were fixed focus, but she gets some good close-up shots.
posted by DarkForest at 10:35 PM on December 14, 2008


Ebay has some. I'm kinda curious how hard it would be to record the audio tape as digital audio & turn that back to video.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:23 PM on December 14, 2008


A friend gave me a PXL when we were in high school, maybe 1994. The damn thing was a lot of fun while it lasted, which was only a few months. Unfortunately, they were not built like a toy - sensitive & easily broken. I remember looking into getting it fixed by the one guy in the country that serviced them. He wanted something like $200, a lot of money to a teen that'd rather spend his cash on weird guitar effects & dirtweed.

A great bonus to the camera was playing a cassette with footage on it in a regular audio player - you got a beautiful mess of noise not unlike, if I remember, the noise you got from doing a similar thing with a C64 backup cassette.
posted by item at 12:56 AM on December 15, 2008


I'm kinda curious how hard it would be to record the audio tape as digital audio & turn that back to video.

I seem to remember fucking around with this idea & just getting a blank screen.
posted by item at 12:58 AM on December 15, 2008


I was once about six feet from a Pixelvision camera in a Salvation Army in Minneapolis ... and then someone grabbed it about four seconds before I could get to it. Devastating.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:52 AM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Item: I didn't mean, hooking an audiocassette player up to your tv, but decoding it on a computer. Do you still have any of those cassettes? Could you record any of them as .wavs on your computer?
posted by Pronoiac at 9:38 AM on December 15, 2008


If you wonder what it sounds like when you play the tape on a regular player, here's a sample. Via Retrothing.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:44 AM on December 15, 2008


here's a sample

I'd be surprised if that contained any video data. It sounds like slowed down audio. Did it store audio and video data on separate tracks?
posted by DarkForest at 9:53 AM on December 15, 2008


OK, Wikipedia says:
The PXL2000 records the video information on the left audio channel of the cassette, and the audio on the right
posted by DarkForest at 9:56 AM on December 15, 2008


I'm going to go through some of my old, pointless, random videos and give them quirky titles and put a date after them in parentheses. Something about giving a title and a date to things makes them seem like art.
posted by jayder at 2:47 PM on December 15, 2008


- Reflections: Making Art "Art"
jayder, 2008

posted by Pronoiac at 4:11 PM on December 15, 2008


- jayder, Creating "Art" (2008)

posted by Pronoiac at 4:32 PM on December 15, 2008


- pronoiac, Exhibiting a Rather Dubious Sense of Entitlement (2008)

posted by Pronoiac at 4:33 PM on December 15, 2008


Put 'em in Projects if you do, jayder.
posted by contraption at 4:47 PM on December 15, 2008


It takes great ideas, not great tools to create great art.
posted by whatjusthappened at 6:03 PM on December 15, 2008


Self-linking being one of those great ideas, apparently.
posted by cortex at 6:58 PM on December 15, 2008


eponyronical!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:16 PM on December 15, 2008


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