Video art was a suspicious, outsider’s medium not long ago. To be sure, it has paradigms, heroes, and conventions — which new generations are feeling confident enough to subvert — but from the ancient perspective of the art-historical canon, it’s an adolescent. Perhaps due to this aura of youthfulness, or maybe because video-based art is very like tiny, short movies, we can’t get enough of it. And at the center of all the fuss is Remote Viewing curator and Art Cinema author Paul Young, whose current LA exhibition culled from the LOOP Video Art Fair is the equivalent of an indie blockbuster.
As Young’s luscious, comprehensive, and efficient TASCHEN release illustrates, the border between cinema and video art has always been a fluid one. Claiming a family tree with branches as diverse as those of Jean Cocteau and Michel Gondry, Luis Buñuel and David Lynch, Jean-Luc Godard and Matthew Barney, perhaps it’s no wonder that scholars might be confounded — and the artists of a visually-oriented generation inspired — by its very heterogeneity. The book forms the perfect context for Young’s show and the dozens of others on view around town, offering a crash course in video’s past, just in time for LA’s month-long intensive on the present and future.
With more than 50 works in Part One alone, and another big batch set to open in Part Two, Remote Viewing: The Best of LOOP may seem daunting, but these short, single-channel works hit the pleasure points of humor, beauty, satire, and game-playing. Pascual Sisto’s Salamander conflates natural beauty and explosive destruction; Kiran Subbaiah’s Flight Patterns uses sophisticated tricks of scale and perspective to discover “the miraculous properties in things around me and in myself”; Oliver Michaels’ Train takes in-camera magic and idealized childhood very seriously; Reynold Reynolds’ Secret Life turns in some of the most affecting, technically dazzling filmmaking of the show; and Nira Pereg’s 67 Bows combines Jewish folklore with the tormenting of pink flamingos to shamefully hilarious humorous effect.
In fact, Pereg is in town for other reasons, as her work is currently the subject of a solo show at Shoshana Wayne Gallery, and in a Project Room at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The main event at SMMoA right now is the premiere of an ambitious new video-based project by Diana Thater, Between Science and Magic. Also new this week, Mark Tribe opens a recent performance/video piece at LACE; the art-house film aficionados at the Cinefamily present a program of Shana Moulton’s cutting-edge pieces; Roberts & Tilton Gallery offers the Aaron Rose-curated micro-festival Projections: Rare and Hard-to-See Films; Scion Installation Space welcomes an all-video exhibition; Paul Chan brings Waiting for Godot in New Orleans to REDCAT; and, in a unique collaboration between a fine-art gallery and the longest-operating experimental film organization in LA, Khastoo Gallery and FilmForum LA present a long-overdue retrospective of the mold-breaking filmmaker Hollis Frampton.
The Frampton series includes a number of related events, some of which take place back at the PDC in proximity to Remote Viewing, which is fortuitous, as Part Two is set to open there this week as well, promising work with a greater intensity of politically charged, darker themes by a mostly-new group of LOOP artists. By the time the show ends up back in Barcelona this May, Remote Viewing will also include Eve Sussman’s lavish and languid genre-bending semi-feature The Rape of the Sabine Women.
Of course, the whole point of video is that you can enjoy so much of it without leaving home. Beside its other less obvious charms, it’s worth noting that sites like YouTube have singlehandedly revived “music-video director” as a viable career. It hosts more professionally produced and visually innovative music content than MTV nowadays, which makes sense given the accessibility of foolproof editing software and the promise of free mass distribution without corporate overlords or commercial censorship getting in the way. Of particular interest on your laptop is painter Allison Schulnik’s new claymation masterpiece for Grizzly Bear’s “Ready, Able,” which you can also view on a high-def monitor at Mark Moore Gallery this month. As a fitting follow-up, the space’s next show is Josh Azzarella, a young talent best known for his meticulously depopulated version of Thriller.
As video art comes into its own, it takes its place as a battleground of styles, like all the rest in art history, where pitched skirmishes are waged between narration and abstraction, shape and movement, idea and form; where generational zeitgeists tussle and overlap and every choice has meaning; and where all the same issues are in play as ever: gender, race, religion, politics, identity, sexuality, the meaning of life, the appeal of playtime, and wryly-deconstructed communications, fashioned from whatever’s handy.
Shoja Azari: Room with a View
Eve Sussman: The Rape of the Sabine Women
Reynold Reynolds: Secret Life
Luis Buñuel: Un Chien Andalou (1929)
Ingibjorg Birgisdottir: Seven Sisters
Matthew Barney: Cremaster
David Lynch: Six Men Getting Sick Six Times
Oliver Michaels: Train