VIDEO TENSIONS: It's that time again, when the summer blockbusters bombard us with multi-million-dollar mediocrity, even as one of the best local showcases of independent video-making talent struggles to make its pointed views rise above the din.

Media Mix Brace yourself--the sixth-annual UA Media Arts-produced videoTENSIONS series opens next week, under the banner "Landscaping The Year 2000." This year's theme takes a broad view of landscape as "the slate upon which culture, habitation and labor is written and may be read." The artists and guest curators of the series, which continues Thursdays through July 17, refer to landscape as both literal and metaphorical (in terms of the body, mind, political arena, cyberspace, etc.).

"We are in the midst of a new landscape that draws on the past, theories on space, and technology to create a more dynamic future for diversity and new thought," says TENSIONS co-founder Vikki Dempsey.

The series, which aims to ferret out highly innovative and thought-provoking material from artists nationwide, likewise celebrates those creating and producing socio-political works constituting a call to action for the viewing public.

Mark your calendars now for the series opener next Thursday, June 5, with visiting video/performance artist Kristin Lucas. VideoHOST includes a performance art piece by Lucas, originally premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York last March. Her audio/video performance employs a helmet cam and Lucas' experience as a nightclub video jockey to contextualize the complexity of her position as a woman in an automated society. Through both live and pre-recorded images and sound, Lucas attempts to realize a new landscape for women, one which encourages and advocates technological intervention as an alternative to the familiar role of laborer to the machine.

The free program begins at 7:30 p.m., and includes related videos by other artists as well as a couple by Lucas herself.

The videoTENSIONS series screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through July 17 (with the exception of July 3), in the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Auditorium (AME 202), that cool steel-and-brick construct on the northeast corner of Speedway and Mountain Avenue. Note: This is a new location for the series. Free parking is available in the lot directly behind the building, with an entrance on Helen Street. For information, call 621-7352.

SHOCK TREATMENT: It's been 17 years since American television had the wit to broadcast The Shock of the New, Robert Hughes' exhilarating dissection of 100 years of modernism in art. Last Wednesday, May 28, it undertook the much larger subject of American Visions, Hughes' analysis of the whole of American art. Art critic for Time magazine since 1970, Hughes begins with the stone architecture built at New Mexico's Acoma Pueblo in the 12th century, and barely takes a breath until he gets to the dispirited deflation of the avant-garde in these pre-millennium years.

Naturally, there's a companion book to the PBS series, which runs from 9 to 11 p.m. Wednesday evenings through July 16. American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America (Alfred A. Knopf, $65) is a tome of some 180,000 words, generously illustrated in color. It's full of astute, typically Hughesian insights, delivered by an outsider who's never given up his Australian citizenship. In the first chapter alone, he connects America's relentless embrace of the new to the Puritans' messianic vision of a sanctified New Kingdom in the Americas, and he elevates the quilt, crafted by Amish women in Pennsylvania, to the status of "America's first major abstract art."

In the book's introduction, he notes, "It still seems barely credible to me that such a subject should have been lying around untouched by American television, but it was." We're not surprised at all, given the wretched state of American television. Lucky for us Hughes was around to roust up the slumbering subject of American art, get us thinking critically about the broad sweep of our nation's culture, and, as a bonus, give much-maligned public television a badly needed boost. Tune in.

REEL DEAL: La Cañada Care Center, which caters to ailing elderly residents, is looking for donations of "good quality movies" for their fledgling video library. They're looking for "humorous old movies such as I Love Lucy and the Marx Brothers, musicals like The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady, and cinematic classics like Lawrence of Arabia, Anne of Green Gables, and the like. Genres welcomed include mysteries, romances and westerns. For donations and information, call Terry Austin or Susan Guerrero at 797-1191. TW

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