Impressions about a Video Art exhibition. My three favorite works


It is not that I don’t like video art, it is just that it is too intellectual and experimental for me. I find that it is difficult for me to connect with , because its meaning as a “novel” media to explore Art self-reference. I may say that I just have visited a very few exhibition of this kind, and almost all of them were always by chance. That is what happened when I went to visit the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne last November, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.

Indeed, I expected to visit its permanent collection to find out what they had, but I found that they weren’t exhibiting it currently, so they just made temporary exhibitions. The one they have now until 5th of January 2014 is: MAKING SPACE. 40 years of Video Art.

This exhibition suggests an unusual and novel way of looking at a medium that is most frequently associated with the recording of time and the staging of a story. It brings together works in which the common denominator is the recording or reconstructing of the space that can be seen, the space inhabited by the artist’s body, and lastly the space enlivened by the presence of onlookers.

Here I will talk about the three works that I liked most, but I also want to mention some others that I considered interesting.

Room 1. TV as experimentation space: from closed-circuit to broadcasting

Richard Serra, Television Delivers People, 1973:

We all know Richard Serra as a sculptor, but he was also one of the video-art pioneers in the 70s. With this audio-visual work the artist wants to distantiate from television, using its form and space in order to criticize it and not to explore its potentials as a mass media.

With a scrolling list of statements and with a typical commercial soundtrack, the muzak music, Serra describes the manipulative strategies and motivations that the corporate advertisers use in the commercials we see on television. Instead of delivering a product that we need, they need us to consume a product. We, the onlookers, are the product they want. The only way they would have a massive “people deliverers” is through television.

And it continues nowadays. I don’t need to explain how corporate advertising enchants us, making us believe that we will be as happy, beautiful, and better as the magnificent people we see on their TV commercials. So I liked this piece of video-art because of its sarcasm and paradoxical point of view in sharing an unfortunate contemporary truth.

Room 2. Spaces of creation (the street, the city)

Kim Sooja, A Needle Woman (Performed in Tokyo, Shangai, Dehli, New York, Mexico City, Cairo, Lagos and London), 1999-2001:

A big room with the biggest exhibit installation, composed by eight projections, show us the same woman in every image. That woman is the artist herself: Kim Sooja, who faces, motionless, the city crowd, So the performance is filmed from behind and in a still shot.

Far from being just a documentation of a performance made in eight different cities, the image, projected without sound in the installation’s space, put viewers into the same position that the artist occupies. As her, we confront the crowds, each of which reacts differently to the woman and the camera filming her.

Then right. What she sees is seen by onlookers from her back. The idea is that the artist’s eyes have turned into ours. So when people from the crowd look at the camera, looking at us, it is like the moment when the artist is identified. It is a complex out of body experience point of view. Moreover, she occupies a place in space. If you concentrate on the image, you realize that you are in the same position as she; occupying a place in the city just being there doing nothing more than “being”. No walking, no looking for something, just “ there” surrounded by the world, no matter in which city you “are”.

Room 9. Imaginary spaces, mental spaces

Salla Tykkä, Lasso, 2000:

This is a short story without words that evocates, with a delicate power, the tension between inside and outside, between what happen in reality space and in the desiring imaginary space. Lasso is the first part of a trilogy about the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The short film shows us the “non-meeting” between a girl and a young man in a very dreamy way. As spectators, we are in a position of exteriority, observing a scene where two different people share a moment but individually separate. However, this scene is showed from the girl’s viewpoint. This aspect may be what gives to the story such a melancholic and sweet taste.

But I also liked: Dan Graham‘s Helix/Spiral, 1973, that emphasis the perception of space by taking the body as a starting point. It can be related to the Renaissance idea of the human being as the only measure of things. Then Ana Mendieta‘s Silueta series, 1974-1980, because of her interest in the body poetic expression. In this video- recording she explores how a human body or a body-form leave their mark on natural or architectonic spaces through very simple interventions. Finally,I really liked Bill Viola‘s reflecting pool from 1979, because of its visual effectiveness.

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