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Tom Sherman

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Video still from <b>Envisioner</b> by Tom Sherman

Tom Sherman, Envisioner, (1978), 3:14 min.

Video still from <b>Wind-Up Wolf</b> by Tom Sherman

Tom Sherman, Wind-Up Wolf, (1999), 3:11 min.

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Clip 27

Tom Sherman, Off-Kilter: Talking to Nature, (2002), 3:01 min.

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About these works

Envisioner (1978)
Distributed by Vtape.

The message offered by Envisioner is a bleak one, terse and dissatisfied, held in tight control by the work’s rigorous structure.

The first few words from each sentence of a prepared text appear onscreen as scrolling text from an early video character generator, while we hear the full statements in voice-over. Between each sentence, Tom Sherman’s eyes appear in a central band “behind” the text, a confrontational partial portrait. As he points out, “The writing allows the author to extend himself into the space and time of the viewer. The video appears as an early example of interactive television (primary focus on the control end)” (Vtape online catalogue).

Envisioner was produced at the Western Front in Vancouver, British Columbia, and represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 1980.

Wind-Up Wolf (1999)
Distributed by Vtape.

Images recorded in the countryside on Canada’s Atlantic coast and in Sherman’s neighbourhood in Syracuse, New York are assembled as a portrait of family and environment. A soundtrack of "wolfish" noises contrast with glimpsed images of spiders, flowers, the seashore, berries, and human hair, ending with the artist’s own grin to the camera.

This tape is a condensation of favourite video memories, a composition of experiences Sherman wants to savour again and again. The quick pace and relentless march of images makes these recorded experiences even more perfectly, electronically, unnatural. The soundtrack, composed by Sherman, is an unlikely “dialogue” between crows and humpback whales pushed along by a pounding industrial beat.

Off-Kilter: Talking to Nature (2002)
Distributed by Vtape.

A text from Sherman’s collection of writings Before and After the I-Bomb (2002) is heard in voice-over, as the camera moves forward through a landscape. A strange blossom is held out, centred in front of the lens.

Sherman says of the piece, “These video recordings remind us of how far the world has tumbled out of balance. Our relationship with nature is screwed up, big time. Our excessive use of languages and technologies continues to drive a wedge between us and the wild animals and plants. We look to nature for companionship. We try to talk to nature in nature’s own language, to form new relationships with the animals and the plants and the earth between our toes. We take a wildflower for a walk across the road. We’ve tried all kinds of crazy things, but so far, nature hasn’t talked back” (Vtape Online Catalogue).

In a series of brief essays on video today, Sherman evokes his intimate knowledge of and love for the medium:

Video is a liquid, shimmering, ubiquitous medium that absorbs everything it touches. This liquidity makes video synonymous with intermedia, the art of filling the gaps between media. Today’s media culture and media art are composed of complex, hybrid forms of multi-sensory information. Nothing is very pure and one-dimensional these days. […] In fact, making video is like talking. In its essence it occurs in real time, permitting our minds to run ahead of the moment. Video is intimate and immediate (quick as light), and it is positively inclusive. Video will be at the heart of all forms of digital telecom in the near future. Video (intermedia) fills all the spaces between the arts today. (Sherman 56)

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