Santa Is Real

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Santa is Real: Video Arranged According to Chance is a reinterpretation of Jean Arp's Collage With Squares Arranged According to Chance. Rather than creating another stagnant, abstract collage, I transformed his work into a videomontage using the iSight camera built in to my MacBook (this also displays how a webcam can be used for traditional video-making purposes, however awkward the filming may be). I stayed true to Arp's idea formally as well as conceptually, with a few exceptions. I picked two recognizable scenes, one relatively urban and one relatively natural, and 'ripped them apart' by filming various elements of the landscapes in individual clips. [Except for the fact that I made this piece deliberately representational, the actual content of the film is irrelevant to the point.] I added basic video effects onto the clips, making five white/bright (high exposure) and ten blue (false color), in an attempt to match Arp's color scheme. Similarly, the length of each clip corresponds to the size of the squares.
The corresponding times, in seconds.

The entire process up to this point was deliberate, intentional. The only time that I left the outcome up to 'chance' was in the arrangement of the clips, as did Arp with his squares. Arp, however, mistook his subconscious for chance, and that is where my Experiment in Chance comes in. Arp dropped his scraps of paper onto a gray background, and arranged them "more or less" the way they had fallen ( Observe the collage below, however, and one will realize that none of the squares are overlapping or at a diagonal. It is clear that Arp either consciously or subconsciously reordered them into an aesthetically-pleasing composition. I decided to test the validity of his 'chance' claim and used an artificial tool to arrange the clips. I labeled each of the fifteen clips with a number (it does not matter whether this was random or deliberate) and used my TI-83 plus calculator to generate a random set of integers between 1 and 15. I did not want repetition in images, so I told it to generate a set of 100 integers, and I went through and circled the first time a number appeared in this set. I then reordered the clips according to what the calculator suggested.
My scribbles.

Thus this video was created. The transitions between clips are not supposed to be flawless. If one thinks the flow and order of this video is well-balanced, then that proves that it is possible that chance can retain artistic beauty if the preliminary steps are deliberate. If the transitions seem abrupt and the patterns seem inconsistent, as they probably do, then it is clear that chance will, in general, disrupt the beauty that can be created by the human mind (although sometimes this is effective).

The title of the final piece was derived from the first clip (which became the first clip by chance), which conveys the message "Santa is Real."

P.S.- Pay attention to the role sound plays.


Jean (Hans) Arp

French, 1886-1966

Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance, 1916-1917

collage of torn papers on paper

48.58 x 34.61 cm (19 1/8 x 13 5/8 in.)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1937

Links with More Information


National Gallery of Art

MOMA Podcast


This is a screenshot that I took with my camera phone because I don't have a normal digital camera. It shows the project in the midst of the editing process on iMovie HD. The clips are at the bottom, in the final order, all with precise time values (4 to 15 seconds for blue, 7 to 13 for white). It doesn't get bigger than this:


Here is the video itself:

It can also be viewed on Youtube (I think). Try searching for it!

About the Artist

Caitlin Barry was born in Switzerland on a warm winter's day in January of 1976. She spent much of her childhood years galloping through pastures and pretending to be a horse. One day, she decided that she didn't like war and became a dadaist, a couple decades too late. She decided the only way to gain some artistic credibility was to invent a time machine, travel to the future (2006) and reinvent a classic dadaist artwork using her newly acquired laptop. Then she got bored and wrote herself a short biography.

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