Inspirations for Vladmasters:
Gertie the Dinosaur
Early Fritz the Cat

The artist who goes by the name Vladimir is one of the only known filmmakers working with View-Masters, which, if you remember, are those cheap-looking toy binoculars usually filled with images of zoo animals or dinosaurs. Instead of watching her so-called films on movie screens, audience members hold “stereoscopic viewing devices” up to their eyes and click through picture reels of dioramas, action figures, and abstract photographs of trains. She calls them Vladmasters.

Through her website, Vladimir mails her handmade films around the world, each one accompanied by a spoken-narration CD and sound track. Her “picture stories” have included adaptations of Calvino and Kafka, along with some of her own writing, like the one about the pseudo-mystical congregation of farming machinery. She claims to “seek out the forgotten, the discarded, and the overlooked objects of this world… and [takes] tiny, tiny photographs in order to tell their stories.”

Since 2003, she’s become an anomalous staple in the independent film festival circuit, winning the World Champion of Experimental Film title on multiple occasions. She remains active in her hometown of Portland, Oregon (also the home of the View-Master), where she works as a projectionist, creates her own scratch-it Vladland lottery tickets, builds Super 8 film experiments, and works as a quality assurance engineer at a software company.

This interview took place over email, with Vladimir responding from both Portland and Brisbane, Australia, where she was participating in the Other Film Festival. In her final email she talked about her “amazing” new Christmas gift, the HYDRA Game Development Kit, and her plan to spend the next year creating her own abstract video games.

—Ross Simonini


THE BELIEVER: When you set up a performance—or is it better to call it a screening?—what happens, exactly?

VLADIMIR: Sometimes I compare my performances to synchronized swimming. It’s not an entirely apt metaphor, but it’s always nice to be reminded of synchronized swimming. At a performance, everyone in attendance is given a viewer and a set of my handmade disks. There is a brief instructional introduction, and then we begin the sound track, which leads everyone through a tiny private screening experience just past the end of their nose. There are ding noises on the sound track to cue the turning from one image to the next. Sometimes there is a narrator and sometimes there’s just music. Perhaps the most exciting moment is participating in the ker-thunk of tens or hundreds of View-Masters turning simultaneously after that very first ding.

BLVR: Would you say that’s the ideal scenario for someone to experience the Vladmaster? In a theater, like most films? Because I just watched those Vladmasters you sent me in my living room all day, and enjoyed the private storytelling feeling, almost like reading.

V: The great thing about the theater is that there is a sort of euphoria and excitement that comes from the experience of just being in a crowd of people who are all holding View-Masters and all experiencing this sort of simultaneous media for the first time. The crowd experience is really wonderful, but I think that the more personal, private experience that you had in your living room is probably more conducive to reflection and paying attention to the story. Perhaps you could call one a roller coaster and one a scenic drive?

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

Ross Simonini is the interviews editor for the Believer.

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