Experimental Cinema: Paper Rad


Experimental Cinema is a brand new feature article series from Flixist that highlights some important, influential, or just downright cool experimental film and video pieces that catch our eye. Such as the one above by experimental video art group Paper Rad called The Peace Tape. The Peace Tape was released in 2009 and is made of appropriated footage and original animation.

Watching Paper Rad’s videos is like being thrown headfirst into a moshpit of cultural vomit from the 1980’s, and the only way to escape is by dancing your a** off. Paper Rad is an East Coast art collective that creates videos, interactive web-based art, music, television shows, plush toys, and crazy LSD-tripping fun. The three primary members are Jacob Ciocci (pronounced chi-ah-chi), Jessica Ciocci and Ben Jones. Jacob Ciocci also collaborates with David Wightman in their electro-noise-dance band: Extreme Animals.

Paper Rad’s style is unmistakable with their lo-fi yet overwhelming graphics, thrashing electronic soundtracks, and florescent four color process (CMYK) color pallet. At first glance, their videos could easily be mistaken for something superficial and almost childish. On the contrary, not only have they shown their pieces in museums and galleries, but their influences are deeply rooted in artistic traditions. They have in turn influenced a whole new generation of artists.

One of the reasons Paper Rad is so near and dear to me is that they are very invested in Internet culture and their pieces often celebrate this. They do a lot of appropriation work, which means taking images and symbols from other places and re-contextualizing them. Their work is also very influenced by Do-It-Yourself culture, collage works, and punk styles and values. Paper Rad’s works are also easily equated with Pop Art, in the sense that both Pop Art and Paper Rad comment on popular culture and use images that are easily recognizable. However, Paper Rad’s works often aim to trigger nostalgia in the forgotten and encourage reverence for the unknown and obscure, rather than a reverence for the ubiquitous. Ben Jones, one of the members, insists that “there is a deeper meaning beyond the clutter and noise and color on the outside. And that deeper meaning was ‘don’t worry, be happy’.”

Paper Rad - Don't Worry Be Happy

From: Trash Talking, 2006, appropriated footage, animation

Jacob Ciocci’s band, Extreme Animals, often creates the soundtracks to Paper Rad’s videos. Because of this fusion of interests, their video works have a very close connection to sound and music. Some of the first video pieces that Paper Rad created were bonafide music videos for noise metal bands like Lightning Bolt. The idea of creating a music video is often looked down upon in a lot of art schools and more traditional artist settings. Paper Rad destroys these silly boundaries, creating pieces that are respected for their visual flamboyancy AND their musical prowess.

Paper Rad is also clearly interested in technology, with just about everything in their videos being produced one way or another electronically, and then often appropriated by more technology on top of that. Even their music is produced electronically, drawing even more attention to their technological inspirations. In an interview about the role of technology in his art making Jacob Ciocci says, “Computers caused [this culture], but it is a beautiful mess computers have made”

Dark Green, 2010, appropriated footage, animation

One thing that I’ve heard over and over about Paper Rad’s work is that it isn’t just about technology, or mass-media or cultural critique. I mean, it IS about those things, but it’s also about people. It’s about being human, awkwardly human, and how we are functioning in this information age as regular people. Ciocci says, “I’m more interested in the relationship between the mind and popular culture. And that relationship has to do with innocence, some kind of acceptance—when you accept something and when you don’t.”

So really, I think Paper Rad’s works are relatable on many levels. We relate their imagery as something we watched as children or on Youtube, we may enjoy their enthusiastic-dance-inducing beats, but we also recognize in those videos something that’s in ourselves, some sort of weird feeling of being both captivated by and being totally weirded out by technology. This awkward stance that we hold as humans is simply magnified in Paper Rad’s videos. Also laced with acid.


Paper Rad get well card

From Paper Rad’s get well e-cards project.

If you’re not sensitive to seizures, check out Paper Rad’s website, Youtube channel, blog or watch some of their DVDs on UbuWeb.