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 Burt Barr  (21st century)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: video artist

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Burt Barr's luminous tapes--spare, succinct (often no more than 15 minutes, sometimes less than 2), with and without sound--are elegantly conceived, fastidious presentations that might be described as post-New-Wave retro.  Part documentary, part feature in appearance, they combine the experience of real time and straight shooting with the scripted. A director who both seizes opportunity and is a control freak, Barr explains, 'My best footage happens when the camera's been left running. Others have the tendency to shut a camera off as soon as a take's been done, but I leave it running, recording. Many of my pieces are built on accidents, no matter how precise they later appear. (1)

Many also look as if he's spent time watching the works of Godard, Warhol and Hitchcock, as well as mainstream Hollywood movies and television from the '40s and '50s, succumbing to their characteristically leisurely pace, picking out details to be reexamined, buffed and reused to new effect.  Most compelling, he somehow captures the nuanced tonalities and fabulous, fictive light of the silver screen in its heyday.  Barr casts an aura of nostalgic reverie over his recent work, creating a timeless (or rather, a time-out) zone, an imaginary cinematic world where life is elsewhere, but heaven, if it exists at all, is here.  When present, the audio consists of ambient sound matched to the film's content. In a Barr scenario, which is always a little offbeat, a little skewed, a little skeptical, nothing is said, nothing much happens. Instead, he concentrates on one event, one action constructed "with the loosest of intentions" but the tightest of results.  The style is smart, subtly subversive and concentrated, wrapping up the wry, the ironic and the literal in "what looks good, who looks good."


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