TOM SHERMAN Who are you? Tom Sherman

What do you do? Career Highlights? I’m an artist and writer. I work mostly in video but also in performance and radio. I’ve shown a lot over the years, including solo shows at the National Gallery of Canada, Musee d’art contemporain and Vancouver Art Gallery. I’ve represented Canada at the Venice Biennale and been honoured with the Bell Canada award for video art and a Governor General’s award for visual and media arts. In the early 1980s I founded the Media Arts section of the Canada Council. I’m currently a professor of video art at Syracuse University in New York.

My interest in music video goes back to the mid-1970s when I was making music videos for TVOntario. I made a couple of hundred music videos for Nightmusic, a talk show hosted by Reiner Schwartz. We used these music videos as segues from guest to guest. Later I worked with musicians like Jean Piche and Bernhard Loibner and coined the term VidSonics to describe video music works where the video generated the music rather than the more conventional visualization of music. I teach a course today called VidSonics at Syracuse University to involve students in the critical analysis of sound/moving image aesthetics using the Web as source material.

What makes a good video? What stood out about your picks? I loved the opportunity to catch up on what’s going on in the Canadian music video scene by being on the Prism Prize jury. A good music video still depends on a great piece of music but the video component has to be inventive. The video has to move with the music but it should also push the music into a space it can’t reach on its own. A music video has to have magic transitions that give the viewer/listener repeated pleasure through a certain level of poetic expression. A great music video has to hold up and increase in power through multiple plays. It is not enough to impress people once—it should stand up well in heavy rotation, just like a great piece of music. That’s the challenge, to not kill or wrap up the meaning of a song with the explicit literalness of what video can deliver. The music video form is very challenging. When a director hits a video chord in resonance with a great piece of music, there is little in contemporary culture that can compare with the powerful pleasure of a beautiful music video.