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Dave Park

Tape and the Animated Loop: Narrative and Aesthetic Recursion in 20th Century Japanese Video

Dave Park


The appearance of home video tape in the late 1970s marked a new technological shift in film history that impacted both the production and reception of film images. Rewinding, fast-forwarding and pausing allowed images to exist separate from a narrative structure, providing newfound control over film material for individual spectators to foster unique emotional connections via an editorial viewing process. When spectators are given the same viewing capability as editors, individual fragments of the filmic process are heightened by repetitious viewing. What arises from these new practices is an emphasis, both from the audience and from the artist, on loops, visually, structurally and eventually, narratively. Television stations and news rooms began using the magnetic offering as a cheaper alternative to film, and by 1979 the mass adoption had begun, with a variety of companies offering different standards of mutually exclusive magnetic tape. By tracing the industrial history of the VHS tape and examining artistic practices of some 1970s video artists, with a particular focus on Japanese artist Katsuhiro Yamaguchi, the emerging power of the loop can be situated and dissected, until its eventual codification in a variety of Original Video Animations (OVAs) of the 1980s anime market. 1983’s film Dallos marks the first release of an animated work direct-to-video, bypassing a theatrical and televisual distribution network that has dominated the flow of images for decades. Original video anime is often produced in a limited animation aesthetic, reducing the amount of frames, backgrounds and distinct motions to save cost on the labor of producing drawn images. The animated loop is an economic tool that allows for anime works to be produced in a cost-saving manner. Animated video works become an assemblage of micro loops, small actions recreated at different depths and spaces to craft the desired narrative and emotional response. The growing importance of the loop in the 1980s, linked to both a technological change in the development of a home video market and to animation practices existent since the early 20th century, will be examined as a reflection of the shifting of audience from consumer to producer, as looping tapes alter the ways in which images exist, both on the screen and within collective memory.


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