“Videoflashs”: The unusual alchemy between the real & the unreal is revealed in unique video art

By on June 15, 2018

We’re returning again to this three-hour full episode — which originally aired on August 17, 1984 — to focus on Michel Jaffrennou’s & Patrick Bousquet’s “Videoflashs,” which are excerpted in the second hour amid our incredible selection of video art, and their appearance on “Night Flight” was likely their U.S. television debut.

This fun-packed episode continues to be one of the most-streamed episodes on Night Flight Plus and it’s also complete with the original mid-’80s commercials!

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Jaffrennou and Bousquet’s “Les Videoflashes” (1982) — which translates to the incorrectly-spelled “Videoflashs” — are unique, humorous and poetic anecdotal segments acted out (or mimed, since none of the actors speak) with the pre-filmed actions we see on television sets, revealing the unusual alchemy between the real and the unreal.

The original French-language description we found online — and then translated to English with Google Translate — describes these “Videoflashs” as “small interludes proposing combinations between plastic elements, an anecdote with a humorous or even poetic tendency, and an unusual game on the television image.”

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Michel Jaffrennou

Jaffrennou is a video artist, multimedia artist, director, painter, sculptor, performer and graphic designer.

His experiments with video art — combining live performance and video technology — were ground-breaking in an artistic field where there were no models to build from, where everything that was to be done had to be newly-invented.

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“Videoflashs” won first prize at the Montbéliard Festival and the JVC-sponsored Tokyo Video Festival (TVF), which is open to amateurs and professionals for short and feature films, documentaries and fiction.

Founded in 1978, the JVC Tokyo Video Festival  is now the largest international video competition in Japan, gathering 40,000 works from 90 countries worldwide.

By the way, we’ve had to use Google Translate quite a bit to research online and find out more about Michel Jaffrennou, since nearly everything on the internet about him is written in French, and so we hope the translations are accurate or close to it.

You can read more about Michel Jaffrennou here and here, though, as starting points for your own research.

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Read more about Michel Jaffrennou and Patrick Bousquet below.

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Patrick Bousquet and Michel Jaffrennou (circa 1978) (photo by Patrick Bousquet, National Library of France/ Michel Jaffrennou, fonds

In the late Sixties, Michel Jaffrennou (b. February 25, 1944) attended the Académie des Beaux-Arts (Beaux-Arts School of Fine Arts), one of Europe’s most influential art schools, in Angers and Paris, France.

Originally, he was mainly interested in painting and sculpting. For a time he was involved with the French avant-garde movement Lettrism, which combines all the fields of knowledge, principally in the arts, with social sciences and natural sciences.

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“Chantier interdit au public” (1980), photo by Patrick Bousquet/Bnf

Jaffrennou’s paintings and sculptures were exhibited from 1964 to 1969, and his work even appeared in avant-garde art magazines, including Apéïros, the Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia.

In the early 1970s, he was hired as an actor by an creative advertising company in Paris who thought his youthful appearance was perfect for a campaign they were working on.

Jaffrennou first met Patrick Bousquet during the shooting of this commercial.

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Patrick Bousquet

Soon the two were devising art projects to work on, Bousquet filming what Jaffrennou created and performed in staged video art pieces.

Around this same time, they began experimenting with a 1/2-inch PortaPac camera set-up, which allowed them to shoot CC (closed circuit) images live.

They invented “schizophrenic adventures,” which involved acting and interacting and improvising to previously-filmed vignettes, which they considered the birth of their “video theater.”

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By 1975, Jaffrennou had become one of the pioneers of video art.

He became a member of Grand Canal Vidéo, which showcased a new generation of video artists and authors from various horizons in France.

In 1978, Jaffrennou and Bousquet created the ABI Video Broadcast Center.

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“La vie des ô, l’avis des ho, vide et haut” (1979), photo by Patrick Bousquet/BnF

Jaffrennou, Bousquet and Jean-Michel Champelovier then founded the Ontologic Theater collective, which also mixed live theater and video. “Videoperette” (1978) was one of the first of their performances, always using video technology to document the work for display later.

Jean-Michel Champelovier stayed hidden in the audience, secretely filming their reactions to the work they were seeing onstage — which involved abusing and manipulating a video monitor — and then their reactions ended up being show on the same onstage TV monitors, creating a looped reactive effect.

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“Les Totologiques” (1979), photo by Patrick Bousquet/BnF

“Les Totologiques” (The Totological, 1979-80) was another of the very first of these presentations, a “game” synchronized between two “television sets” involving two actors with many objects circulating images back and forth. This was later adapted in a “TV” version in 1981.

“Videoflashs” was conceived by Jaffrennou and Bousquet taking up some of the Totological ideas and situations they’d been working on during this same period.

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In 1980, Jaffrennou installed thirty “videosculptures,” including “Le Plein de Plumes,” at Galerie Stadler — for the Eleventh Biennial of Paris — which became part of the gallery’s permanent collection.

Jaffrenou and Bousquet were among the first group of artists and videographers whose work would be presented in the first Grand Canal catalog.

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“Electronic Vidéo Circus” (1984), Michel Jaffrennou, Centre culturel Georges Pompidou/Ville d’Orléans/BnF

In 1984, Michel Jaffrennou created “Electronic Video Circus” and also a band, “Circus,” for the Center Pompidou, a videotape show.

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Night Flight’s August 17, 1984 full episode also features experimental animation and video art from Chel White, who we interviewed here on the blog in 2015, as well as music videos by Dog Police, Eurythmics, Prince, the Time, the Psychedelic Furs, Slade, and much, much more. Check it out on Night Flight Plus!!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.