Australian Videro Art Archive

Bonita Ely


Sunset Video

00:19:03 1975

Sunset Video was produced in 1975 at Melbourne’s first free community video access workshop in Carlton. The subject of the video is slides of the Hudson River, showing iconic images such as the Statue of Liberty, and New Jersey, the river frontage opposite New York’s Downtown Wall Street District, shrouded in air pollution at sunset. My New York studio on West Street overlooked Battery Park, which at the time was being extended by land fill. The progress of this process was documented in the slides, which were taken in 1974 every evening for many months. It was the first time I used documentation of a specific site in this, serialised, methodical way.

In the video the slides dissolve into each other onto a back projection screen, the camera moves are plotted so it looks like the camera is panning and zooming across a real landscape. I instructed Sue Ford on camera what to do from a story board. All editing was in camera. The sound track, composed on a Moog Synthesiser by Mark Freedman, a New York composer, is an evocative combination of James Brown-like funk with passages of lyrical Gershwin-esque jazz vis-a-vis Rapsody in Blue, capturing the insistent rhythms, pace and poignancy of New York. Sunset Video was made as a component of the sculptural installation, C2Oth Mythological Beasts: at Home with the Locust People. In a living room a family of half human, half locust people sit on their settee watching Sunset Video on television. The walls and furnishings are patterned with floral motifs; the carpet is mock grass - lime green shag pile carpet.

The viewer is welcome to enter the installation space to watch the television also, implicating themselves in the scenario.

The father’s head and torso is a locust’s, his limbs are human. The mother and baby daughter have a human body but locust limbs and heads. This hybrid mix of species is a metaphor, describing our rampant exploitation and destruction of the natural environment, and perhaps foreshadowing the development of genetic engineering.

The video and installation was exhibited in 1975 in West Street Gallery, Sydney; in 1976 in Three Statements on Environment, George Paton & Ewing Galleries, University of Melbourne; 1976, The Post Object Show, Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide; in 1995, solo exhibition, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne. In 2006 Sunset Video was shown in The Cleveland Street Project, a group exhibition to mark the passing of Cleveland Street as the location of Performance Space. This exhibition was funded by the Australia Council, and the NSW Ministry for the Arts.

Sound: Mark Freedman.
Camera: Sue Ford.
Floor Manager: Bonita Ely.
Photography: Bonita Ely.
Remastered by: Jamil Yamani.

DVD available.