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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Video installations outside the Getty

May 9th-10th at the Getty Los Angeles Freewaves curated 18 video art pieces in conjunction with The Getty's California Video exhibit. The videos were projected around the gardens of the Getty center.
The execution of the installations was done very well. Massive 10k projectors on truss sticks strapped down in creative ways, a program guide with maps of the Getty complex with locations of each installation, a theme of dualities, culture and nature.
I found myself walking the Getty gardens thinking to myself, "This is so square" (or at least 4:3 maybe 16:9) I was hoping to see a more conscious placement of the videos on the projected surface. Maybe taking the video outside of its rectangle box and projecting the pieces as temporary art pieces specifically designed for that surface.
Instead it was just the novelty of viewing video outside in the gardens. Mind you this is still more interesting than 80% of the video art pieces exhibited inside the Getty for the main exhibit.

Video art, as exhibited by some of the leading world museums today raises the question. "Is everyone who posts a video on user generated content sites a video artist? The quality of production, performance and narrative exhibited at these museums is not that different from what you see everyday on these sites. Granted, most of these pieces are a historical reference to the work produced two and three decades ago. But if the museums continue to focus on the historical video artist, viewers may well believe that there isn't much difference from what they see on youtube and what exists in the museum. The difference of video art vs painting is the level of technology involved. It's arguable to say that a strong video art piece is not about the technology, it can stand the tests of time. This is true, as a video artists myself I battle with the ideas that I could never produce the same level of production the movie studios are knocking out everyday. Yet this is what the viewers have come to expect.
Fortunately the current trend in design is not slick, well produced videos. It leans more on clever ideas and storytelling than technical production. Much like the strong video art pieces. This is great for video artists right now, but it is a trend and to the general viewer indistinguishable between what is online and what deserves to be placed in a museum.
For video art to continue evolving I believe the video pieces need to have a stronger focus on site specific installation. At "California Video" I was really moved by two pieces, Jennifer Steinkamp and Bill Viola's The Sleepers. Jennifer worked her installation into the architecture the museum and created an environment. (Or maybe it was the other way around). Either way her piece encompassed sculpture, architecture, painting and movement.
Video art today needs to stand out from all the viral videos, user generated content and random video captured in black and white with the shaky hand labeled, "Art". It needs intention with where it will be viewed and thinking outside of the 4:3 or 16:9 box.

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