Monday, March 28, 2016

Canvas 3.28.16

Video art is in its infancy. Its audience is limited, the medium is held back by a reputation for pretension; the high symbolism often confuses and distracts from the expressive potential. Video art, however, is in its infancy. Where other forms of art have had generations to mature, video, in its short life has been seen primarily as an extension of its narrative manifestation. Only recently has the expressive capability of the moving image and sound been explored as a standalone form. That is to say, video art has only recently found its space in gallery culture, outside of the cinema. This new video, gallery video as it were, is still in the process of becoming itself. Video art has found itself a few heroes, however, whose work has been vital to the process of maturation. Warhol was a pioneer, with works that linger on subjects, like in the portrait of a man at rest in "Sleep". More recently their is Christian Marclay, whose 24 hour collage of time represented in cinema, "Clock" has drawn enormous crowds on its tour, a level of popularity unheard of in video art.

Steve McQueen, whose work directing “12 Years a Slave” earned him an Oscar, began his career as a standout in the medium. I was walking with my friend from his apartment back down to mine when he told me of Steve McQueen’s work. We’d just stopped for sandwiches, and were walking with our coffee. I’d told him I regretted buying the coffee when so close to my house, it’s free there and I like it better. My Grandma was living with me at the time, which means it was early fall most likely. I remember wearing a sweater. My Grandma, Mami Lola, takes a lot of pride in helping every member of the family in their morning routines, and I am normally the readiest to be pampered. She goes back to the Dominican Republic during the winter, but when she is home I often find myself sitting at the kitchen counter watching her whip up an omelette and fill the percolator with coffee and a dash of nutmeg. The movement of her hands is often hypnotizing. Sure movements that mask an elegant delicacy, played out to a steady rhythm that seems to so effortlessly invigorate, the gentle hiss of the brewing coffee adding melody. I was telling my friend about how I’d like to record Mami Lola’s hands because I didn’t feel that a description could do the experience justice.

He brought up Steve McQueen. He told me about an installation of his that he visited when living in London. Steve McQueen is British, of Grenadian and Trinidadian descent. The installation, if I remember the description correctly, involved a series of rooms whose 4 walls were being projected on. One of these installations, if memory serves, involved a camera being thrown in the air by the member of a family only to be caught by the generation following his own. In these rooms the projectors were positioned in such a way that one's own shadows interfered with the image regardless of where one chose to stand. Steve McQueen is famous for having left the film school at NYU for not being allowed to throw the camera in the air. Video art was for him, as  expressed in his interviews, a way to play around in the art of moving images without all the difficulties and boundaries of traditional film, although it was his goal to create cinematic content. He succeeded in pushing the form forward, as well as clearly becoming successful in traditional cinema with his many award winning films. I found his willingness to delve into video art out of a sheer need to express, and his evolution as a multi faceted artist, inspiring. Video art can be quite compelling. Steve McQueen is a compelling artist.


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