The VHS as Monolith


This artwork, entitled VHS, stands over eight feet tall. It’s an enormous representation of a VHS copy of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. This sculpture was made by David Herbert in 2005. I felt gleeful when I saw first saw it.

Like all teens of my generation, my friends and I would often pop the 2001 tape into the VCR after one too many bong hits or swigs of pilfered vodka. Of course, this film is nearly impossible to comprehend when you’re sober, let alone intoxicated (although now I believe it’s about evolution – from monkeys to mankind to malicious machines). And the film offers a symbol for its unnerving unknowability in the form of an imposing black monolith that, um, floats around in space until it appears at the foot of your bed. Or something. Anyway, that monolith is the form that Herbert has emulated here, to terrifically amusing effect. The monolith in 2001 may represent something impenetrable, but the experience of watching a movie – and specifically this movie, on a tape – is just the opposite: nostalgic, mundane, and pleasantly familiar.

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