In Praise of Blur

On-screen text and images form an uneasy union. Most of the time they’re in a marriage of convenience, rarely of love. The many video essays that use on-screen text (epigraphic essays, essays with annotations or with captions) make this painfully clear. The texts all too often obscure the images across which they’re plastered instead of enlightening them. The words on the screen don’t commune with the footage, but are in (stylistic, aesthetic) conflict with them.


But not always. This exquisite video essay by Richard Misek and Martine Beugnet is the perfect example of what is possible with this particular format and visual strategy. Misek and Beugnet sing the praises of the blurred image in what they call a “brief respite from the visual precision of the ultra high definition image”. The on-screen texts that spell out their thoughts are somewhat blurred themselves, formally mirroring the subject matter. In addition this makes the viewer (reader) strain for the meaning of the aphorismic words that sprinkle the screen. Words and phrases that aptly abandon the clarity of the academic text for the poetic imprecision of the essayistic mode.