Van McElwee


MERCADO 2017 12:50.

Moments in the vast indoor markets of Mexico City are woven together into new patterns.


OUTPOST 2016 6:07.

Apparitions, maze marchers, new world natives. Recorded in Minecraft and Aguas Calientes, Peru.



Diagrams, time-forms and flow charts squirm through variations of themselves in a turbulent flux.

WANDERUNG (Migration)

WANDERUNG (Migration) 2016 3:40.

WANDERUNG (Migration) is a collaboration with Joseph Ketner II, commissioned by the German Consulate General, Boston, in conjunction with Emerson Urban Arts Program. The video was projected on the facade of the Goethe-Institut Boston, January, 2016.

ARCHAIC ROOMS 2016 9:31.

3D Anaglyph Video. For this project, floor plans from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur, ca. 2000 B.C.E, were extruded into an artificial 3D space. A virtual camera floats through this odd-angled honeycomb of halls, doors, and passageways, accompanied only by the sound of hands rubbing together. Archaic Rooms suggests a glimpse into an inaccessible level of the unconscious, one with no boundaries, no exterior, and no beginning or end. Dimensions variable.
Animation: Casper McElwee
Concept and Direction: Van McElwee
Audio Engineers: Hamilton Ketchum and Andrew Lottinger

Electric Pilgrims, Everyone is Everywhere 2015 12:00.

An intersection of worlds, crowded with apparitions.

In these times, when the American social contract seems so fragile and stressed by inequality and fear, it is wonderful to have a work which celebrates our ideals, but through a purely visual strategy, rather than a polemical one….strikingly beautiful throughout. 
David Finkelstein, Film Threat

Mexican Dream 2015 10:40.

A dream of coming and going, of a world deep in time.

Objects in a Landscape 2015 4:44.

World fragments, loosely connected.

Soft City 2015 4:44.

Rather than a storyline, a story-solid, a narrative foam.

Original Self 2013 10:27. HD projection with sound. Dimensions variable.

A procession branches into clouds of variation; one as many, many as one. The sound was created from the voices of Beijing schoolgirls reciting prose in unison.

"A fascinating visual study…strikingly beautiful." David Finkelstein, Film Threat

Travel Dream 2013 9:58. DVD projection with sound; dimensions variable.
Dream Travel 2013 11:45. DVD projection with sound; dimensions variable.

Mirroring the flux of dreams and memories, travel footage from a period of intense image gathering (roughly the 1990s) is woven into a grainy hypnotic tapestry; video into dream, dream into video. Dream Travel and Travel Dream are designed to be shown together.

McElwee is an alchemist, transforming footage — from ancient architectural monuments, nature and contemporary structures — into imaginative movements that bring the viewer to recognize the temporal nature of all we consider sacred. In a dream-like sequence with ethereal musical accompaniment, figures move slowly around both familiar and mysterious spaces. McElwee masterfully brings universal themes — life and death, sublimity and cruelty, beauty and tragedy — to new depths in relation with all that is.
Dickson Beall, Webster-Kirkwood Times, 

"Dream Travel is both a shamanic journey and a formally inventive synthesis." Peter Rose, Filmmaker "Beautiful, compelling... deliriously ecstatic.” David Finkelstein, Film Threat

AND/OR 2011 7:10. HD projection with sound. Dimensions variable.

A wandering figure traces tunnels through a space of possibilities.

“… A kind of evocative visual poetry, equally stimulating to the eye and the mind” David Finkelstein, Film Threat

HALF-REAL 2010 7:30. HD projection with sound. Dimensions variable.

Here the medium echoes the brain’s processing of older impressions into totally new forms, into fresh patterns to fill the empty screen of awareness.

"McElwee is inviting us to revel in the tactile sensuousness of light and color itself… shimmering, fascinating," David Finkelstein, Film Threat

SUPERNATURAL 2011 5:55. DVD projection with sound. Dimensions variable.

Waves of variation reveal the contours of impossible form, as if the process of decay were reversed, causing delicate structures to emerge from the grain of chaos.

“McElwee’s work is pure image-making…quite beautiful.” - Robert Duffy, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

RED AND BLUE ARMIES IN A FOREST 2010 6:23 minutes. 16:9 4:3 DVD projection. Dimensions variable.

YouTube Laser Tag footage is used here to represent two armies converging in a forest. In this scene, each group is monitoring the movement of the other, constantly updating simulations of possible encounters. Current and future events form a feedback loop between the real and the virtual; a simulation of simulations.

THE CAPITOL OF THE MULTIVERSE 2009 8:22. 16:9 Standard or High Definition, DVD projection. Dimensions variable.

A neoclassical form breathes and mutates, overlooking a shifting horizon.

“… Rows of columns breathing outward, like a great stone butterfly opening its wings. It seems like we are looking at a capitol, to paraphrase St. Augustine, which is like the center of a circle, which is centered everywhere.” David Finkelstein, Film Threat

NAVIGATORS Melting Chronons 2009 7:36. 4:3 DVD projection. Dimensions variable.

The grain of time is imagined at close range, revealing not a straight line, but turbulence, one moment melting into another.

VARIFOLD 2010 9:35. DVD projection with sound; dimensions variable.

A motionless camera stares at a city branching in time. The screen moves with half-real forms: a cross-section of probability space.

"In “Varifold,” Van McElwee draws us into a world of flux, a world which consists only of incessant transition, and dares us to feel at home in the exhilaration of this shifting universe… mesmerizing, mind-altering.” David Finkelstein, Film Threat

LIQUID CRYSTAL 2009 15:10. DVD projection,16:9, SD. Dimensions variable.

Imagine a fly's eye, but with each facet roaming independently through nighttime Tokyo. These multiple perspectives are woven together at brain wave frequencies, creating new patterns and new spaces.

“It can be argued that McElwee’s Liquid Crystal simulates a new reality conducive to human survivability in the hypermodern age.” Robert Kohn, Afterimage

“McElwee’s videos are not viewed so much as experienced. The repeated images, constantly changing, become embedded in the memory like a visual mantra.” - Rudy Zapf, Playback

ALTERNITY - A Figure in Manifold Space 2008 6:48. DVD projection. Dimensions variable

The vanishing point of linear perspective is expanded to a plane. This allows all of the potential events within that vanishing point to mingle freely on the surface of the screen. Local sounds blend and shift. The expanded horizon causes reverberating fractures in time; multiple realities branch and flow through one another, creating a sponge-space of possibilities.

APERSPECTIVAL HOUSE 2007 5:30. DVD projection. Dimensions variable

This house is under construction. Its design incorporates numerous points of view into one flowing form. The sound is a field of musical patterns without a tonal center.

APERSPECTIVAL HOUSE VARIATION 2008 5:30. DVD projection. Dimensions variable



This house is under construction. Its design incorporates numerous points of view into one flowing form.

The music for Aperspectival House uses a process of kaleidoscopic sound layering, as Hamilton’s parallel to the additive textures found in the video. All the original sounds are short recordings of construction sounds – hammering and sawing – which are transformed into somewhat coherent pitches and rhythms. TH

“Where today we seem to discern only shrieks and dissonance, tomorrow we will find a new tone, a new form, a new perception.”

Jean Gebser

HYPERPLASM 2007 3:42. DVD projection. Dimensions variable

Real-world objects are turned inside-out, imploding into unnatural spaces, becoming a single substance of endless forms.

DIAGONAL DRIFT 2006 10:00. DVD projection. Dimensions variable

Imagine a filmstrip of a nocturnal American landscape. The vertical frames, as usual, represent time, but here there are horizontal frames that represent parallel universes. This piece illustrates a diagonal movement across that field of frames, so that worlds continuously melt into similar worlds, always in-between realities. If these imaginary filmstrips are cut, twisted and turned back on themselves, the image changes abruptly. In keeping with the philosophy and the mood of the piece, a cellular automata program (Wolframtones) was used to create artificial mathematical melodies that constantly shift from one strange tonal system to another.

ARCADES 2002-2012. Video with sound. Dimensions variable.

In this world, the Paris Metro is a teleporter. Branching timelines lead to peculiar spaces that contain only fragments of the original Metro.

VAT 2005 22 min 51 sec

Manufactured items are ideas materialized. Vat, created from hundreds of actual objects performs a reversal: the artifacts emerge from all primal chaos into their ideal forms. The objects rotate continuously (the equivalent of an arcing camera), opening to reveal new spaces; as level upon level of impossible forms unfold. For the soundtrack, a recording of the ocean was literally played through all the strings of a baby grand piano. The results were used to excite the piano’s strings again and again, producing a variety of exotic tones and colorations.

“McElwee has used his considerable artistic skills to magically transform everyday objects into an entrancing visual spectacle, simultaneously calming and intriguing to watch… gorgeous, hypnotic.” David Finkelstein, Film Threat


The American flag as a symmetrical form with shifting hues, emblematic of complexities and contradictions. 3:22 or continuous installation

NATURELAND 2003 14 min 3 sec 2003

Elevator music branches and flows in new directions. Unadorned concrete structures exude layer upon layer of natural scenery. These virtual vistas unfold in surges, accompanied by mutating Muzak. Natureland reflects the crucial process by which we navigate the nested realities of our programmed environment, embracing illusion and its mechanism, weaving dissonant strands of experience into a pattern that we can call "our world."

"The expansion of consciousness, the creation of timelessness and the generation of new worlds embody beauty without boundaries in Van McElwee’s video art. His work is challenging; it compels us to experience, perceive, and ultimately to live more fully." T.L. Reid, Afterimage

“Breathtaking,” David Finkelstein, Film Threat

STUPAFORM 2002 7 min 25 sec 2002

Shot throughout Asia over a nine-year period, Stupaform gathers into one moment the myriad manifestations of the Buddhist stupa, or pagoda. Stupaform oscillates between the inner and outer aspects of this symbol of transcendence, distilling an essence. The actual structures become electronic phenomena, apparitions of the stupa’s inner form. The sound of a Nepalese bell follows this vector; a physical reflection of an unstruck vibration.

" McElwee goes to the essence of this type of building, showing us a glittering, shimmering, dissolving building seemingly woven of golden threads into a fluid temporal matrix. Sound and image are one." Ann-Sargent Wooster, artist, writer; program notes for NAP Biennial 

HELIOGOS 2001 10 min 15 sec

Three garden paths twist and turn through a labyrinth of time. The earth orbits the sun as a camera orbits the gardens. Six years are cut and folded as a playful edit-form spins its web. 11:00 minutes

"Ultimately, Mcelwee is tracking the effect of time on nature as he moves from summer to winter and back again. Editing is the key here to this complex origami project (think of each edit as a crease)." -Ann-Sargent Wooster, artist, writer

WAVEFORM MODULATION 2001 7 min 22 sec

In this piece, a radical work of Dutch architecture becomes the raw material for a series of experiments with time. Born in a computer, the building jumps again into video where it can mutate freely. Here, particles becomes pixels and matter becomes light, as the structure is melted, frozen, shattered, and melted again into a new, transmissible signal. Shot at the H2O expo, Zierikzee, The Netherlands. Architect: Lars Spueybroek/NOX.

"Van McElwee transports his viewers hypnotically, viscerally, imaginatively through ingenious fascinating images and sounds. Traveling through his video art, you know you’re in the hands of a dreamer and an artist." - Diane Carson, St. Louis Riverfront Times

PROCESSION 2000 18 min 1 sec

In communal celebrations, such as parades, the event creates a new space. A city becomes a fantastic version of itself; a new creature that erupts in the streets and then disappears. In Procession, awareness is given a richly dimensional vantage point on this phenomenon. The parade’s flow is intensely modulated by editing, folded into itself again and again. Waves of transformation surge through a fabric of recurring moments, until the river of time swells and floods its banks. Also available as a muli-channel installation. 

CONFLUENCE 1999 13 min 33 sec

A complex editing score is applied to images and sounds gathered by a video camera moving through crowded places: a market in Cairo, a carnival in St. Louis, commuters in Tokyo and a funeral in Benares. The unique edit-form of Confluence weaves these streams of movement together like notes in a musical score. Events are broken loose from their normal flow and organized into autonomous clusters. The result is a transformation of the recorded world, and its projection into a new temporal matrix. The tunnel of time becomes porous; crisscrossed by passageways and escape routes. 14:00 minutes.

". . . an exotic mélange of visual and audio rhythms." - John Columbus, Director, Black Maria Film & Video Festival

"In Confluence, McElwee jumps from one location to the next as if merging into an altered state" - TL Reid, Afterimage

LUXOR 1998 17 min 19 sec 1998

Luxor, Egypt, meets Luxor, Las Vegas, calling into question the nature of reality through a meltdown of the real and the replica. Each world is suspended and then reborn in the realm of video as past, present and future merge into one pulsing electronic moment. Luxor is also designed as a single channel installation. 18:00 minutes

"With its resplendent images, Luxor lures us into glittering hieroglyphic displays and sparkling sands as we ponder the mystery of where one location ends and another begins." - TL Reid, Afterimage

"The ‘real’ archaeological site meets its modern day ‘replica’ in Vegas, as McElwee collapses culture and history in the high desert." - Steve Seid, Curator, University Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, California

“Mesmerizing…ingenious originality… Luxor’s images shimmer like a heat-wave mirage.” - Diane Carson, Riverfront Times, St. Louis

RADIO ISLAND 1997 17 min 19 sec

In Buddhist architecture, the pagoda symbolizes Nirvana, the state of enlightenment. In Radio Island, this metaphor is expanded to include the entire built environment and the whole of ordinary consciousness. Mutating images of ancient and modern Japanese structures develop within a complex electronic score of radio signals and data transmission. Unusual editing techniques weave these images and sounds into a dense field of improvisation. The resulting texture becomes the raw material for totally new forms. Through a sea of noise, Radio Island charts a course from architecture to music; from the referential to the absolute.12:00 minutes.

"Radio Island takes the architecture of pagodas and broadcast towers, drawing staccato analogies between these transmitters of enlightenment." - Steve Seid, Curator, University Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley California 

"In Radio Island, McElwee enlightens while he tightens." - Marieke Van Hal, The Worldwide Video Festival, Amsterdam

"Power lines become like organic branches and pagodas pulsate with an inner life." - TL Reid, Afterimage

TRANSFINITE LOOPS 1996 10 min 3 sec

Transfinite Loops is a reflection on the mind's tendency to create metaphysical order in the face of chaos. The piece is both a model and a metaphor for that process. Nighttime images of carnival rides appear, mesh and then dissolve into blackness, accompanied only by the sound of wind. The work unfolds like a series of thoughts, as time and space are unraveled and woven back together into intricate knots.

"As gorgeous as any fireworks display, Van McElwee’s Transfinite Loops invents dazzling astral patterns." -Stephen Holden, The New York Times

"Vivid video origami erupts into a blizzard…leading out of time & space" -TL Reid, Afterimage

"Transfinite Loops is infectious, life-affirming and beautiful. It makes you feel good." -David Bonetti, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FOLDED FOLLIES is an improvisation on Bernard Tschumi’s deconstructionist follies at Parc La Villette in Paris. The structures, which the architect has described as "post-humanist, are translated into motion and then subjected to a radical transformation. Unusual demands are made of the recording capability of the medium, as video and audio signals are pushed to extremes. Space collapses and the follies are literally folded in time.

FRAGMENTS OF INDIA 1993 10 min 20 sec

The mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote "a temple is a landscape of the soul." Fragments Of India explores this potential in the realm of video. Hindu, Muslim, and Jain architecture merge into a unified pattern of images. The sounds of India’s temples, mosques, tombs, and marketplaces form a marriage of video and architecture.

BINDU 1993 17 min 19 sec

This piece embodies nested levels of form, content and abstraction. Visual fragments of the world come and go as packets of visual energy infused with the sound of the ocean. Watching Bindu should be like watching the space between thoughts; paying attention to the process of thinking rather than its content. The title is from Sanskrit, meaning roughly "Universal seed-point."

SPACE SPLICE 1994 12 min 6 sec

Space Splice is a form of conceptual architecture that could only be realized in video. Forward motion and edits connect interior volumes shot in The United States, Europe, and India. The viewer experiences unimpeded movement through a network of hypothetical spaces.

“Space Splice affects a transformation, rendering corridors, passageways and tunnels in new ways… McElwee creates an imagined architecture that builds to a dizzying peak.” - Jess Learner, Curator, Long Beach Museum of Art

“In Space Splice, McElwee’s fish-eye lens steadily wanders among countess settings as he creates a new folded space that advances in time, stretching out into infinity.” - TL Reid, Afterimage

“Watching Space Splice is like watching Bach.” - Peter Rose, Filmmaker

DISTANCE 1990 6 min 45 sec

The sound of a woman humming to herself is mixed with an expansive drone. This intimate acoustic space is visually extended by patterned images, moving in and out of a white field.

REFRACTION 1990 17 min 19 sec

Natural form is carried by editing into a new direction. Moving shots of bare tree limbs and the songs of a mother and her five-year-old son are made into a special food for the eyes and the ears. Intense looping, layering and tape speeding allow the viewer to experience over twenty million edits in five minutes.

SPACE TIME LOOPS : CITYSCAPE 1988 17 min 19 sec

Loops are used to create a new screen space and to play with the boundaries between space and time. With each loop, time is repeated and space is extended into a continuous surface.

INSIDE 1986 5 min 7 sec

Dream and architecture merge in this work. A large mall is extended into an endless tunnel, which is then revealed to be a unit in a honeycomb of similar spaces.


A doorbell rings, insects are electrocuted, light bulbs turn on and off; water spirals continuously

MOBIUS FILM LOOP PROPELLERS 1980 5 min or continuous installation.

A film loop twisted at its splice reverses a scene to its mirror image with each repetition.
Here, spinning propellers describe three different forms: an ascending helix of propellers, two lines of propellers intersecting and one propeller moving in a sideways figure eight.

SPLIT/FLOW 1979 11 min 20 sec

The screen is slit into colors. Through this moves a pattern that is constantly warped by waves. Another space opens up; level upon level of form is revealed. Clusters of voices repeat themselves. Alternating percussion and sharp edits counerpoint the auiovisual flow.

DOUBLE FLAME 1979 3:25 minutes or single channel installation

A symmetrical object of contemplation