Stairwell Video

A Conceptual Art Experience by Daedalus Howell & Karen Hell

Stairwell Video recreated an 80s-era, VHS-only video store and invited participants to "rent" a video for the night – but the video can never be returned (the video store vanished in the night, erased like magnetic media and the dreams of a generation). The installation explored what happens when you squeeze nostalgia and a dead medium into a 110 foot Victorian-era stairwell. And then add late fees...

The production of the last video cassette recorder (VCR) occurred when last-known manufacturer ceases production at the end of July, 2016. Conceptual artists Daedalus Howell and Karen Hell celebrated the once-dominant home video platform with Stairwell Video, a recreation of an 80s-era, VHS-only video store, for a single night, 7 p.m. to 8:40 p.m., Friday, July 29 in a 110 foot Victorian-era stairwell in Historic Downtown Petaluma, CA. 

“Stairwell Video recreates what was once a regular secular ritual,” says Howell, who reminds that the installation is a one-night-only pop-up, so rented videos can never be returned. “From selecting a video, presenting your store membership card, viewing, and returning the video – or not, as the case may be – this was a ceremony performed by American families that’s lost forever. Stairwell Video provides a way to engage with this ritual once more and perhaps even introduce it to a generation who have only known online streaming and multiplexes.”

The event’s 100 minute runtime mirrors that of “A History of Violence,” the last commercially-released VHS video. As was recently reported in the New York Times, Japan’s Funai Corporation will quit the VCR business this July effectively bringing an end to a medium that changed our culture’s relationship to films.

“The video store experience was unlike the collective spectacle of a movie theatre or binge-based personal viewing on an iPad,” says Howell. “A rented video cassette was a sacred object that we took into our home, cared for, and tried our best to remember to ‘be kind and rewind.’ There's was a connection with the media on and an affection for the object itself. That its demise comes during the centenary of Dada is like two great tastes together at last – it’s sentimental and absurd.”

To host your own Stairwell Video or to collect the original installation, contact us here.

Related Press: Stairwell Video Revives Lost VHS Rental Experience in Petaluma, Bohemian.com.

Buy the remaining VHS video tapes!