“Home video is the art form of the people,” claims Matt Desiderio, a founder of MoVHS. “Anyone with a camcorder and blank tape can create.” Desiderio, who runs weirdo imprint Horror Boobs and curates the highly eclectic DVD section of Forbidden Planet in Union Square, teamed up with friends and fellow collectors to create a pop-up exhibit of rare tapes, artwork, and related memorabilia. It’s been a hit several times over, beginning in 2015 at the annual Severed Short Film Competition in Pennsylvania.
This Saturday, the Museum will make a one-day appearance at Superchief Gallery’s Ridgewood location. A full day of tape trading, screenings, and glimpses into a treasured past, the Museum’s New York City debut is sure to please die-hard aficionados, folks who may have forgotten the thrill of the Friday night browse, and those who never knew the thrill at all.
Josh Schafer, founder of video-centric zine Lunchmeat, tells me via email, “We all pull from our collections to make the most interesting, fun, and informative exhibition possible.” Each founder contributes something unique: from Schafer, various odds and ends from the height of video mania (some examples: a VCR lock and a metal memory box for “Baby’s First Video”); Desiderio provides original box art work (anyone up for some Death Spa?) and rare promo items; Earl Kessler and Louis Justin will provide some ultra-collectible tapes.
Desiderio assures that there will be some surprises too nifty to mention, but rest assured they will be “beautifully gruesome.” Transporting back to simpler times where the most important question of somebody’s week was “what to rent?”
“They are indeed artifacts from a different time and offer a window into that specific era and culture,” Schafer states, “but there is also so much artistry and aesthetics flowing through these items.”
Earl Kessler, who has created artwork inspired by the eye-catching boxes on video store racks for imprints Vinegar Syndrome and Severin Films, knows all too well of the artistry. A chunk of his personal collection of original box artwork will constitute the centerpiece of the Museum’s current iteration. Much like his fellow curators, Kessler never found that his collection of wares pulled from shuttering stores would make it out of the den, but when he realized VHS was making a comeback akin to vinyl records, he immediately began consulting fellow videovores, creating a team that grows with each new version of the Museum. “We now link a large community of VHS collectors and film archives to assemble each exhibit,” Kessler says. “Some collect just US released horror films, others specialize in tapes from Egypt or Japan sex movies.” He hopes that the collection, after touring the country, will find a permanent home that will operate as a fully comprehensive museum, event space, and functioning rental store.
In the meantime, the exhibit this Saturday will also host two exclusive screenings: first, a tribute to ’90s South Jersey-based production company Sharkey Video with a screening of Love is a Stranger (1994), a “SOV slasher epic” that’s so rare there’s barely any online info for it. Dave Castiglione, the film’s director and head of Sharkey Video, will hold a Q&A following the film. Then Screeching Weasel guitarist/cape-wearing swap phenom Mike Hunchback will host a screening of Caress of the Vampire 2, with director William Hellfire in attendance.
Tables full of tapes will be ready for swapping, so bring your dollars early for nine hours of analog madness from 1pm to 10pm. And you won’t have to deal with any sketchy clerks or sticky floors, even if, let’s face it, that’s part of the charm of the hunt. VHS is dead; long live VHS.