Review :: Nico Vassilakis, "Concrete Movies"

(This is a slightly edited version of a review which appeared in Dirt #3. --PP)

Nico Vassilakis :: Concrete Movies
(DVD, 2005)

Wielding the camera like an itinerant madman lost in an art house nightmare, Nico Vassilakis presents his vision of language and its written incarnations as latticework which can be admired on a purely aesthetic level. In five video-poems which combine to last roughly an hour, he amputates letter from word and meaning from language. Set to silence – the perfect soundtrack – which first startles, then envelopes, and finally crushes viewers, Concrete Movies is a snail slow drift through a dense wilderness of shapes and symbols.

Soft, fuzzy shots and impossible close-ups typify the unique style of cinematography. Letters gurgle and bulge across the screen. Alien characters and loopy squiggles materialize at random. The movies often dissolve into eddies of thickly layered color. Then, as if driven by a will of its own, a lone 's' or 'q' will make its way across the screen. This is language ballet. Rarely are full words visible, sentences are obscured by unexplained visual phenomena. Vassilakis' work proves to be minimalist in both scope and presentation

Despite being a self-release, Concrete Movies is excellently produced and packaged. The cover is bare: To the top the title; to the bottom classic typewriter vispo. Inside, a thin mini-booklet names the individual films and gives their respective lengths. Open it and find a jagged four page stream of consciousness prose-poem: 'im drinking to stop the hurt, I will sit in a safer place, I will no longer hurt and eat my skin, if all goes well I will no longer hurt…'

Released last year, Concrete Movies was well received by the experimental arts community and has garnered applause from vispoets across the country. Screened at numerous shows (including SoundVision/VisionSound III, June '05), it is pioneering material from a solid name. These films are clear hints at wall art to come. Who among us cannot imagine a day when peeling portraits and yellowing photographs give way to swirling, digital tapestries of color, symbol, and language, and would not such constant motion would be an appropriate reflection of our age?

After the placemat come the feet. Nico Vassilakis' visual concrete work is shown widely. Leave enough room for animals. Leave animals alone. He is currently working on a play about Morton Feldman.

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