February 27, 2010

Criticisms of video art: A forced march

Part two of two.

I got an e-mail update from The Art Blog this morning. They reviewed the 2010 Whitney Biennial. Of course, like in years passed, chock full of video art. Jeremy and I decided to write a little bit of our views on video art in response.

Hear ye hear ye! All hail video art, it’s the next big thing, it’s the wave of the future, it’s going to revolutionize the art world! Blah Blah Blah! If the revolution consists of me walking through white walled mazes of video projections, then no thank you. Museum goers can’t have missed the gradual takeover of art spaces by video, and it’s not new. It’s been happening for a while now.

About 13 years ago my brother Paul and I went on a series of college field trips to New York City. We were just taken on a bus and released in the city, with total freedom over where we went. Of course we went to The MOMA and The Guggenheim, but we also went into Chelsea and ventured into some small galleries. This was my intro to the hilarity that’s video art. One of the first galleries we went into had a room with a television, suspended screen facing down, at about chest height. It was a tube TV (remember this is pre flat screen) so we had to stoop and shift ourselves, to look up at the screen from underneath. What we were greeted with, after our contorting efforts, was the view, from the interior of a toilet bowl, of a man’s ass. He was shitting. So after we looked at each other like WTF?!? we continued watching. The man unloaded, turned around, faced the camera in the bowl, smiled and flushed. Ah sweet, sweet, video art. Besides “Shitfaced” (which is what the name of that work became to me and my brother) I’ve seen: vigorously hair brushing while shrieking woman, Barbie doll bad acid trips, silent scenes of headless people sitting and shifting, old home movies set to ominous music…etc etc etc.

So what do I do? I laugh, I audibly laugh, out loud while viewing the ridiculous ones. Other museum goers look at me like “omg silence please, this is serious business”. I sigh, I see a darkened room and hear the telltale projector heart clicking away in its recesses, and I walk on by. I feel guilty after passing by endless corridors of darkened rooms, so I go in, “give it a chance Heather.” I say to myself. I have no choice, the videos are becoming all there is to look at.

I think video artists are presumptuous. They really feel that my time is theirs. I will invest 5-10 minutes watching each video in a show of 30-50 artists. It’s expected of me because I can’t absorb the gist at a glance, like when viewing paintings or sculptures. I have to watch in totality if I care to know what they want me to know. I realize that all art requires extended perusal, but video art is a forced march, instead of a gradual unfolding at my own leisure.

I know not all video artists are jerks, I’ve seen a few examples of video art, that really made me happy. There was one in the lobby, at a previous Whitney Biennial, of penguins with weird lighting. It had a 2001 obelisk feel to it, and it was cool. I’ve seen numerous animated videos, and they too were really cool, and interesting to watch. I’ve seen video included in installations, as an artistic element, both interesting, and engaging. But come on. When do I get to stop hearing this wave of the future nonsense?

1 comment:

  1. Could I recommend Richard Ashrowan who makes wonderful films about landscape. two that I have seen are Fingal's Cave and Lament (Lament is really good). He has a website(try googling) and I'd put a link if I wasn't worried about your spam filters.

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