I have just been to the Lux screening at Experimentica in Chapter, I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with some of the contemporary video artists that I had already looked into in a small way, but in this context was able to engage a lot more thoroughly with their work.
The title of the film screening ‘What it is not’ suggested the theme of interrogation and critique that was prevalent through each of the films being shown. On the Experimentica website, the screening is described as being ‘against the new as a merely contemporary form of visibility’ and further expands that ‘the works in this programme consistently interrogate these terms, their own guises, structures and language.’
For me, it was a really helpful insight into the contemporary video art scene and helped me to consider the development and exploration of narrative through the language of video. I was particularly interested to see how these artists made use of found, appropriated footage – how this was edited and used in order to form narrative.
A selection that I felt most relevant to my own practice:
James Richards – Misty Suite, 2009
I do often find it difficult to decipher contemporary video art, predominately I think because of a familiarity and a safety in structure that it seems to deny. By this I mean perhaps when contrasted with the flow of the perhaps more structured narrative of popular songs, films or books, it becomes quite apparent to me that I have been trained to look for a coherent sense of what is happening within a story that I am consuming. I am glad that contemporary video artists frustrate this, and I think Richards’ work highlights the potential for the new language that appropriation and archived footage can open up. By denying the authoritative voice of the author, reducing his own role to that of the operator, maybe even a subtle poet, Richards allows organic narratives to unfold in the way that we experience and relate to the combination and flow of footage presented to us. He composes and contrasts, juxtaposes and highlights, but not in a way that denies our own impressions. In this particular piece of his, there is a strong sense of emptiness and space, with subtle hints of human presence offering interruption.
Mark Leckey – Concrete Vache, 2010
I really loved this piece, and it really felt relevant to some of the ideas that I have been thinking about around my dissertation. The work surrounds ideas of production and consumption, negating and challenging this in relation to information, and more broadly the notion of art. There is an onslaught of information narrated by a slow tempo text to speech voice synthesis, some of the information familiarly references digital or written text. At some points, the narrative flows quite directly, at other points you are confronted with multiple pieces of information that frustrate and recontextualise one another. Leckey’s use of archived footage, found information, and of third party narration, all frustrate the traditional modes of production, while the video humorously addresses the historical means of production and consumption within art. My favourite point in the video is the instruction to the viewer to take the headphones and smash their heads further into the wall in order to fully experience the artwork. This really highlights the freedom that now exists as we move away from this strange relationship with art whereby we are to consume or decode the intentions of the author.
The piece has really helped me to realise a number of things within my work, perhaps most significantly my use of songs as a way of structuring the fragments of search results. Popular songs I feel very much utilise the human experience as a means of expression to be produced and then consumed, there is a quite direct, intimate relationship between the objects of popular music, and the consumer of it. This producer-consumer relationship is one that is most frustrated by post-internet art that turns the artist into operator, ‘deejay’, orchestrator, rather than owner and author.