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Watching the Watchers:
an outward-looking view

by Greg Burchall
November 29, 2007
The Age - Melbourne Australia

DING. Clack. What are those 86 earthmoving vehicles doing hidden in the woods and who is teh collector and what strange twists will the subsequent trail take?

Ding. Clack. The daring cockroach scuttles forth from under the fridge only to be caught in a glue trap and must get his comrades to chew off his legs to survive (they grow back).

Ding. Clack. There's this writer and a dream and hunting and statues and a speeding train...Keep up.

Clack, clack, clack, clack.

Vladimir isn't sure what sort of artist to call herself. Visual? "I'm a mediocre photographer." Filmmaker? "You wouldn't call most of what I do filmmaking."

Perhaps storyteller is as close as it gets because story, says Vladimir, underlies all and "structure is everything."

Especially when you have only 28 static frames to tel it.

Vladimir makes View-Master wheels — bizarre tales to be clacked through by viewers holding one of those plastic childhood low-tech media tools to their faces. Galvanised by the narrative possibilities of the story-wheel, Vladimir created tall tales and sold them online. Three years ago, she was talked into doing a View-Master performance at the Portland Documentary and eXperimental (PDX) Film Festival in Oregon, USA. It was the first time she had heard 400 View-Masters clacking together, as live narration and music provided a soundtrack to the yarns.

Now Vladimir loves to watch the watchers of her VladMaster shows. "I love that, as an audience member, you have control but you're also sort of being told waht to do," she says.

In Brisbane last week, Vladimir was amused to go on a river cruise where the points-of-interest travelogue was recorded.

"The boat captain had to slow down or speed up to make sure he was in the right place for what the tape was saying. It made me think about the ways we control what people look at."

In a telling twist, Portland was where William Gruber created the View-Master, as an educational tool, in 1935 (but they are made in Mexico). Vladimir still scours secondhand shops and makes bulk orders to have enough to distribute to each audience member.

"I've always collected toys and now I have something to do with them," she says.

So today, what 29-year-old Vladimir (she has even persuaded her parents and friends to call her Vladimir or Vlad or Vladi) does is create characters and narratives for mass and mind-bending fun.

But the last thing she wants to be known as is a View-Master obsessive. "There are collectors out there, very hung up on when a certain View-Master was made or what year a disk was made and who shot it, but that's not what I'm doing," she says.

So here comes the unreliable truth about Jeremiah Barnes. Clack. And the adventures of Stanley the know-all cockroach. Clack. And faster than a speeding locomotive...

The Vladimir Live Performance is at ACMI today at 8:30pm.