John Tarquinio spent nearly a month going through VHS-Cs that captured his family’s Christmas gatherings from 1999 to 2003 before he re-recorded and edited them into a 48-second sequence.
Set to music originally created by Connor Jude, the viewer is left with an image of Tarquinio, a 2016 media studies and production alumnus, at age nine, blissfully launching himself into two feet of snow.
“To remember something, and to try to experience it again, can just bring you sadness, but sadness isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” Tarquinio said. “To avoid talking about anything sad will leave you, in my opinion, with this disillusion that everything is okay.”
The experimental video, “Extension of Self: Disillusions of Happiness” includes three separate episodes, all focused on the theme of the discontent produced by nostalgia. The episodes were shown at CRUXspace, a new media art gallery, on Friday, alongside approximately 25 other artists’ pieces. It will be available to the public by appointment until Sept. 24.
“That’s what I meant by ‘extension of self,’” Tarquinio said. “This is a good way of speaking about all of these things without everyone being like, ‘Oh, are you okay?,’ like yeah, I’m fine.”
The piece was included in the gallery as part of the opening of Digital Fringe, a show CRUXspace created in collaboration with Fringe Festival that features “artists who incorporate performance and digital media into their practice.”
Andrew Zahn, director of CRUXspace, and Kim Brickley, lead curator, worked with Fringe to put together a piece that incorporated a wide range of videos.
After Zahn viewed Tarquinio’s piece, he invited him to be part of Digital Fringe.
“It just happened to work perfectly,” Zahn said. “We semi-curated the show by inviting certain artists to submit to it, and I thought [Tarquinio’s] piece worked really well because of the performative elements.”
Last year, Fringe Festival’s digital portion was only available to the public online and included pieces from 15 artists. Many of the artists reached out to Jarrod Markman, the Fringe Festival coordinator, hoping to have a space to celebrate each other’s work, so Markman began working with CRUXspace.
“I think it’s great that we have artists of [Tarquinio’s] caliber joining Digital Fringe,” Markman said. “I think specifically the content he’s created, the relationship between motion and stillness, is really interesting on a digital platform and it’s an example of work that we would love to continue to have in the Digital Fringe portion of the festival.”
Tarquinio graduated in July, after finishing an independent study, for which he created his video.
Tarquinio studied communications at York College of Pennsylvania before transferring to Temple in the spring of 2014. Originally from Reading, Pennsylvania, Tarquinio said a few aspects about Philadelphia intrigued him.
“I never thought I would actually end up in Philly, but I absolutely love it, and the city engulfs me,” Tarquinio said. “It does weird things to my state of mind, just being so close to so many different types of people, but it’s interesting what I can bring out of it, like this film.”
In his experimental video, Tarquinio included a scene on the subway to draw attention to the oddity of the social phenomenon that takes place.
“Riding a subway is so strange to me,” Tarquinio said. “We display such an incredible amount of trust in sitting on a train with a stranger. You have no idea what anyone is going to do. Everyone actually has the physical capability of doing anything, and I feel like we brush off the amount of trust we give everyone, but it’s incredible.”
Tarquinio’s work continues to be molded by those surrounding him, even after his pieces are finalized.
“The viewership of it is just as incredible as the film-making aspect,” Tarquinio said. “Someone watching it and then telling me what they thought is just as big as me shooting everything and then putting it all together, so it’s really a community effort.”
Jenny Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.