awkward love

AWKWARD LOVE by Matthew Topartzer

still from “Awkward Love”

The new season of absurd is here as more new video works from the artists should, hopefully, be rolling out soon and will be posted up as they come. 

The first to come out of the gates is Matthew Topartzer with his feature documentary of sorts, “AWKWARD LOVE”.

If you took about a dozen thrift store or dumpster doven home movie shot VHS tapes, laid them on the ground and stomped on them continuously so they form one small clump, you might end up with Awkward Love. Like his previous film Mustard and Beer, this one is also comprised mostly of found VHS home movie footage. Of course it’s not as easy as a stomp job, as Topartzer went through a likely long and arduous process of selecting sequences, intersplicing them together and then interjecting his own more modern 3-D graphics into the mix.

Some of the manipulated imagery is beautiful, and some, if not a lot, of the found footage sequences are ugly and dull. The found segments go from horrible school video projects to talent shows to a bizarre failed short film called “Meat Hand”… and to everyday dull and awkward life; behind the consumer camera is someone with the belief that these recorded precious dull moments will be lovingly cherished forever. Instead, they get discarded. In some cases they’re found and used years later as part of surreal absurdist video art.

With AWKWARD LOVE, Topartzer doesn’t gimmick the material around with fast edits or clever and too easy attempts for laughs. Rather he let’s the original material roll…and speak for itself. This forces the viewer to sit through the sometimes excrutiating dullness and contemplate the absurdity of the act of filming these events; the haphazard choice of shots and subject the cameraman employs, the reactions of those being filmed, and the actual material itself. The real life moments we love, are often the dullest, most drawn out and uninteresting moments when recorded.

You have to factor in the time piece element to AWKWARD LOVE as well. These are once in a lifetime captured reactions and shooting styles, as video technology was newer at the time, more exciting, more clumsy, more seemingly “important”, whereas now we live in a world where nearly everyone has a video camera in their pocket, as part of their cell phone, and impromptu recording has become robotic, brief, and now delegated straight to instant social media publishing; a sort of one night stand, a sort of cheap love. With old consumer camera recordings, the act of filming was fresh and recorded as part of an intended longer relationship. 

The verbal reactions also make this a period piece as in one segment a young child says to his teacher, “You should put this on pay per view”, unaware that a thing called YouTube would soon trump such reactionary language.

Speaking of YouTube, unlike Topartzer’s past film MUSTARD AND BEER, (in which he was one of the first video artists to put a film on Amazon’s instant video, and charge for it) AWKWARD LOVE can be seen on YouTube for free as Matt chose to use that platform to upload it on.

YouTube is probably the worst place to watch this film. The small screen that most people won’t bother enlarging, the short attention span that YouTube watching has ingrained in most everyone, the buffering problem for some.  For most people Awkward Love is going to be a difficult, frustrating, annoying and long winded viewing experience as is. Using YouTube as a platform makes it even more brutal of a viewing experience. Topartzer probably knows all this, and probably doesn’t care.