Dalibor Martinis (b. 1947) trained as a visual artist and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. During his studies in the late 1960s, he became interested early on in the creative potential of the new medium of video. Today he is best known for his multimedia installations and work in video, some of which before 1992 was done in collaboration with Sanja Iveković and has been shown in the context of both art museums and film and video festivals.
Video Manual belongs to a period of Martinis’ early experimentation with open reel video when, according to Nada Beroš, “the artist endeavored to deconstruct and demystify the medium." The name of the work (the artist himself titled it in English) is a pun on the word manual, which as a noun means “handbook” and as an adjective means “of or belonging to the hand.” In the short video, the artist balances a video camera on a tripod that is poised in the palm of his hand. The lens of the camera is directed downward, so that, in Martinis’ words, “it acts the part of witness and hostage of the action at the same time." Although the camera, together with the hand holding it, moves continuously throughout the film as the artist tries to balance it on the unstable surface of his hand, it also seems to stay still, and it is the floor that the filmmaker is standing on that appears to be sliding away—an effect that imitates vertigo, a DIY alternative to the classic “Vertigo effect” created in cinema with nonportable equipment. The video lasts for as long as the artist retains control over the equilibrium of the camera, which he manages for a little over a minute. As Beroš points out, the film deconstructs the then-new medium of video by referencing the common conceit of the portable camera as an extension of the user’s body. Martinis pushes the idea to its logical limit and shows the viewer the precariousness of taking the trope too literally. — Ksenya Gurshtein