Brian Eno’s “Video Paintings,” where 1980s TV Technology meets Visual Art

Thursday Afternoon is a 1985 album by Brian Eno consisting of one 60 minute eponymous composition. It is the rearranged soundtrack to a video production of the same title made in 1984.

The original video, made at the request of and released by the Sony Corporation of America, was filmed in San Francisco in April 1984, and treated and assembled at Sony in Tokyo. Produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, it features seven “video paintings” of actress and photographer Christine Alicino, a friend of Eno’s, and has a running time of 82 minutes. It was filmed in “vertical format,” which necessitated the viewer either lie on their side or turn the television on its side, which often proved impractical for many viewers, and in most affected the picture tube’s color purity adjustments. The DVD reissue presents it in both portrait and landscape formats so that this is no longer necessary.

The content is a series of images that stay static for some time and then slowly move forward, often to pause again. Various video techniques were implemented, such as image feedback, to create a very different interpretation of video and the nude.

Eno himself was aware of the newness of what he was doing. “I was delighted to find this other way of using video because at last here’s video which draws from another source, which is painting …. I call them ‘video paintings’ because if you say to people ‘I make videos’, they think of Sting’s new rock video or some really boring, grimy ‘Video Art’. It’s just a way of saying, ‘I make videos that don’t move very fast”.

The soundtrack was recorded at Daniel Lanois’ studio in Canada, and is a longer, different mix. Three time-lapse GIFs give an impression of the subject matter and its treatment, although not the slow-moving speed of the video: 97K, 99K, 249K.