Tonight was the press event at Mana Contemporary for their Photorealism gallery exhibit. All the works were amazing. I spent a majority of the time unkowingly talking with Richard Serra’s brother. Find out more about the exhibit at artmanafest.com
THE INTRODUCTION OF TIME AND MOTION IN 2-D SPACE
Walter Benjamin in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” pinpoints with prophetic clarity the implications that development of new reproductive technologies in visual media would have on the world. Although Benjamin spoke most specifically about Photography, his descriptions can fully be adhered to the video technology as well. The emergence of video as a new art form has had vast implications of the very nature of art. It has broken into the 4-dimension, adding time and movement to the continuum.
Digital fabrication opened up a new realm of possibility- it could instantaneously capture perishable moments and document them for timeless integration into the vaults of human history. It eliminated the need for words to describe events as-is and allowed for precise representation of them. Artists explored this like it redefined the roles of the physics of light and sound in visual art. It placed the human body into another dimension which to be explored. It had no history, no precedence; the very definition of video art was up for the taking. Video can now be reproduced, stolen, remixed, cut and changed an infinite amount of times by an infinite amount of people. It can freeze, speed up or slow down time. It challenges our notions of space, time and existence. The phenomenon, which is video, is profound in its implications for the arts and art making and it is a universe vast and still largely unexplored.
Time-based art allows for the artist to control the timing and duration in which the viewer receives visual images. In a 2-dimensional space, the viewer has infinite time to witness a work of art. She may stand there for seconds or hours, receiving the entirety of the work in one single instance. In video, the artist has pre-orchestrated the length of this experience, and can cut the viewer off from any particular image at anytime. She may allow the image to linger for minutes, or give in a quick flash, then take it away again. She may speed up or slow down the reception of the piece. Though it was not the first medium to exist on a time and space continuum, video was not film, nor what it television or theater. Its definition was up for serious debate.
The very notions of space and time are being redefined, and artists like Bruce Nauman engaged in many experimental practices that sought to understand these new perspectives. In his piece, ‘Live Taped Video Corridor’ (1969-70) [figure 2], Nauman uses illusion to engage the viewer in a perceptual bending that challenges their own notion about their existence in a physical space using closed-circuit video. In the installation, Nauman set up two video monitors inside of a corridor and places a live video feed outside of the corridor. Upon entering the space with the video monitors, the viewer is disrupted when they do not see themselves on the monitors as they had anticipated. The top monitor shows and empty corridor, but slowly an image of the viewer begins to appear on the bottom monitor, therefore displacing the viewer from their sense of time and space. The lapse pushes the viewer a few moments back or forward in time. (AEA Lovejoy, 97).
Other video installation artists like Dan Graham employed these experiments with time lapsing and optical distortion as well. The experiments challenge notions of human material existence and objectivity that coincides well with the Minimalists in the late 1960’s. Experimentation with light and sound reflected the experiments conducted by Robert Mangold and Ellsworth Kelley in the late 60’s as well. The spiritualism emitted by these light experiments reflects the work of Eva Hesse and her attempts to evoke deeper meaning from the use of materials and the ocular experience. When video was introduced to the art world, it was devoured due to it ‘newness’. Since it had no history, the notions surrounding its very existence were in a state of anarchy as artists fought to define the medium and where to implant it into a cultural sphere. (PMC Lovejoy 195).
VIDEO and ECONOMY
At its inception, film technology was an expensive medium that which was once available only to wealthy production companies. 8 and 16 mm film was expensive to buy and develop, and the cameras available were extremely large and expensive as well. Television show producers used large quad decks and recorded video on 2-inch wide videotape (Shapiro). Not only was the technology expensive, but also it required expert technicians trained in operating it. A major shift in the technology occurred in 1967 with the introduction of the Sony PortaPak. For the first time ever, portable film technology was available to consumers and its impact shook the very foundation of the art practice. After this, the medium of video, which was once monopolized by huge media corporations, was being hijacked by artists leading to “guerilla video” in which people could capture political and social events around them without the political filters imposed by media.
The technology came at the advent of Conceptual and Political art that was emerging in the late 60’s and into the 70’s and played a major role in the integration of politics n Art (employed by The Yes Men, other tactical media artists). While some reveled in the new technology (like the Futurists and the Dadaists), others rejected the new practice as a legitimate form of art. For some artists, the technology was something to be feared as the sign that art was being given over to the machine. Artists of this school of thought remained conservative and loyal to hand manipulation of the artist working with tangible materials (PMC Lovejoy, 16). In either case, video was now a major topic of analysis. The accessibility of video added to the shift in aesthetic as well as the definition of an artist due to the amateur nature of the videos being produced. In his article the History of Camcorders (March 24, 2010), Mark Shapiro states that renowned artist “Nam June Paik is often credited with purchasing the very first Portapak, from the very first Sony Shipment” (Shapiro).
Having been the first generation that grew up with the presence of television in their homes, the very object of the television screen itself as well as the visual content was being explored by artists like Nam June Paik and Wolf Vostell (Germany) (PMC, Lovejoy 191). By this time, the pervasive nature of television had infiltrated every aspect of consumerist culture and Mass Media, and artists and people where being affected by the power of this little box with a screen. Nam June Paik is a Korean-American artist who worked with the media as both a material collage through the exploration of sound and image in time and space as well as video as a new form of architecture and sculpture (such as in his piece ‘TV bra for Living Sculpture, with Charlotte Moorman’ 1969). Paik was highly concerned with the relationship between television as a media and video as a media and explored their fundamental overlaps and departures. Paik also underscored the relationship between video and sound when he met John Cage and together collaborated on transforming Cage’s sound compositions into a visual form (Fineberg 352). Paik’s work “TV Buddha” (1974) is an installation that depicts a Buddha sculpture seated before a small video screen that is projecting the image of the Buddha back at himself (fig. 1). The work captures the meditative trance that becomes a person when they are focused intently on the screen. It also discussed the relationship between the material figure and the digitally reproduced image of the figure and what it is for one to confront its counterpart. A live feed hooked up to a monitor gave it a reflexivity that allowed artists to further explore their own relationships with their body and their own material existence.
VIDEO and POST MODERNISM
The history of video almost directly parallels that of postmodernism. Video embodied the values of post-modernism because of its ability to transmit itself over long distances, its accessibility to the masses, its conceptual nature and its use as a means to document performance, it’s full departure from objectivity; all of which, as Margot Lovejoy points out in her book “Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age” contributed to its power and ability to force “an end to a modernist visual-arts culture based on suppression of the outside world” (AEA Lovejoy, 62). Video flooded the outside world in and images that exist in all corners of life were suddenly being displaced and transmitted all over. Actions that were once contained and restricted to the spaces in which they occurred could be captured and released in brand new contexts. Because it was a technology that had never been previously explored, it had no preexisting definitions or contexts. Artists rushed in to give it a place in culture.
In the 70’s, Art was taking a new ‘bottom-up’ approach that was exemplified in Ulrike Rosenbach’s video performance ‘Meine Macht st meined Ohnmacht (To have No Power is the Have Power)’ (1978). As a female artist, Rosenbach identified with video as a medium in that, like feminist artists who had been excluded from the dominant perspectives in art history, video had no history, no precedence. In this piece, she explores the way in which television (as a media separate from the nature of video) has targeted and trapped women with its mind-numbing flood of commercial images. In the piece, she is trapped in a net surrounded by TV monitors, unable to escape (AEA Lovejoy, 96).
Other performance artists like Marina Abromavich use video to capture the duration of her performances that are often critical to the piece itself. The relationship between performance and video is inherent but complex. A performance is temporal and expiring. The piece itself perishes with the completion of the act and through replicated, each performance is inherently unique, and can only truly be experienced once. This is because the composition of the audience in the environment on the date that the performance occurs and in the historical time frame in which it is experienced all has a profound impact on the work itself.
Performance art cannot exist outside of these influences in any vacuum. Video however, is persistent and does not perish at the end of the act. It can be rewound, sped up, slowed down, paused, or excerpted. It can choose to include or remove the audience in the room (if there is any). The documentation of the piece outlives the artist, and becomes an artifact all its own. Abromavich uses the power of displacement which video provides to enhance and affect her performances. In her piece, ‘Rhythm 10’ (1973), she records herself as she stabs knives in between her outstretched fingers creating a rhythm with the sound of the knives hitting the table. Afterwards she plays the video back while she performs the same action, thereby juxtaposing the electronic reproduction of her performance next to the live act (Fineberg 348). Though similar, these two things are not exactly the same. Thus, reflexivity is an important motif in her video imagery.
1999 performance of Marina Abromavich’s Rhythm 10
THE IMPLICATIONS OF MECHANICAL REPRODUCTION
The notion of the art object as something precious was quickly deteriorating in the face of mass reproduction and distribution. The reproducible nature of electronic art raises many questions about the authorship of art (2 PMC, Lovejoy). As Benjamin explores in his landmark essay, the fact that art artifact can now be reproduced so quickly and cheaply changes the very notion of authorship. If a video is taken and changed, who is the author? Is the artist the images of the people contained within or is it the one behind the lens? For example, in 1970 Willoughby Sharp began the ‘Videoviews’ series of videotaped dialogues with artists including Bruce Nauman, Joseph Beuys, Vito Acconci, Chris Burden, Lowell Darling, and Dennis Oppenheim (Wikipedia: video art). In this work, who is the author? Is it the artists who are speaking on the camera, or is it Willoughby Sharp who orchestrated the event? The definitions are unclear. Who owns a medium that can be dispersed so rapidly, and now at lightning speed over the Internet?
No longer is art confined behind the doors of prestigious museums or solely in the homes of wealthy benefactors, but now is universally accessible on YouTube and the Internet. Anyone can create a YouTube account and upload a video. The implications of such mass fabrication and accessibility are staggering. Video still maintains the classical elements of traditional art practices such as painting and sculpture, but now places them on a new continuum. Many liken video art to ‘digital painting’ in which the artist orchestrates images on a screen to create an ambiance that cannot be described with words. The injection of another element, sound, profoundly affects the viewer’s experience of the visual media. The power of video is still to be uncovered, and new artists are emerging from every corer of the globe to participate in this new global artistic dialogue. The developments shall continue into the 21rst century and will shape and evolve our very perceptions of bodies, the existence of time and matter, and the inner spirituality of the human condition as well a greater sense of universalism.
1.) Fineberg, Jonathan. Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.
2.) Lovejoy, Margot. Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age. London: Routledge, 2004.
3.) Lovejoy, Margot. Post Modern Currents: Art and Artists in the Age of Electronic Media. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1989.
4.) Shapiro, Mark. “History of Camcorders”. Internet Video
Magazine. April 28 http://www.internetvideomag.com/Articles-2006/112706_historyofcamcorders.htm
5.) “Video Art”. Wikipedia. April 29, 2010
6.) Zorn, John. Treasures IV [video recording]: American Avant Garde film, 1947-1986. Video. [San Francisco, Calif.] : National Film Preservation Foundation, 2009.
I had the opportunity to see Guillermo Gómez-Peña speak and perform at Kresge Hall on Carnegie Mellon University campus and The Mattress Factory (respectively), both located in Pittsburgh, PA. The lecture took place on Wednesday, Dec 1, 2010, with the performance occurring the following evening. Both events were co-sponsored by the Center for Arts in Society and ArtUp.
I remember waiting (and waiting) for the show to begin. The crowd outside was swelling, waiting to burst through the doors at Kresge. But he made us wait to enter. Something told me, that the gratuitous wait was simply part his style. Finally the doors flung open and we all pushed to get inside, and claim a seat in what was sure to be a packed event.
He entered oh-so-ceremoniously, emerging from the shadows to cast himself in the blood-red spot light that poured over a single stool and a microphone. When he began to speak, it became obvious that the lecture would be tangled with performance- a testament to the fact that his life and his art were more than often indistinguishable of each other.
Founder and director of the art collective, La Pocha Nostra, Gómez-Peña came to the US to study at CalArts from Mexico City in 1979.
La Pocha Nostra is growing, and has always had a strong membership. Click here to download a copy of the La Pocha Nostra manifesto for 2011
The term boder-crossing is a central motif to the work of Gómez-Peña. He strongly illuminates and pulls on the strings of cultural and societal borders that seek to place people into separate and distinct identities. The borders that separate us out based on sexual orientation, gender, class, race, ethnic background, nationality. All of these are constructs, just as the borders on a map are. If you go to the border of Mexico, there is no natural division between U.S. and Mexican territory. Of course, there is now the man0made construction of a border fence.
While at CalArts, Gómez-Peña explored his experience as a Mexican immigrant in the North American landscape. I assume the experience was sharp and fresh as he came to the U.S. for the first time to go to school. In this piece which he performed while at CalArts, Gómez-Peña focuses on the word “alien”. He wraps himself in this Batik and lie on the floor of an elevator to represent the alienation experienced by the nationless immigrant, or “alien”.
My first experience with Gómez-Peña’s work was with one of his more famous pieces, The Undiscovered Amerindians, 1992. I believe it was Andrew Johnson who first screened it for me in Concept I back in 2006. The documentation was insanely evocative- it was Guillermo Gómez-Peña and his now ex-wife Coco Fusco performing in a “travelling showcase” in which they performed as two human specimens taken from a newly discovered tribe (which they called the Guatinaui people) off some island in the South-Western hemisphere.
They travelled around in a 10′ x 12′ cage, being shown off like exotic animals in some 19th century traveling circus sideshow. What’s important to note is that they claimed that the satirical irony of their piece was intended to be clear, they never explicitly communicated that. Ultimately, in the minds of much of their audience, they presented themselves as a legitimate exhibit, and allowed for the audience to digest the spectacle in whichever way they chose. Thus, left to their own devices, a large portion of the audience thought it was totally real.
It was obviously meant to be ambiguous- for one thing, two museum guards were planted beside the cage to provide “facts” about the two human specimens and the world from which they came. At the same time, both performers were wearing cheap western artifacts like sunglasses, fake indian head-dresses, and the like. They even watched TV. There was clear satire in the outfits and the actions. The performers had lead the audience such a long way to point of irony, it was just up to audience member to make the final connection.
Guillermo and Coco were dressed intentionally as the nearly-nude tribal “other” that we all know lies deep within the erotic fantasies of the “civilized” westerner. It’s like, that indigenous spectacle that the civilized mind both rejects as barbaric, but secretly envies for its freedom, naiveté, primitivism and indulgence of its animalistic drives. The being that is closer to nature. Or so the fantasy goes.
Coco and Guillermo exposed this Western perversion by openly engaging in sexual acts (nothing hardcore) in full view of the gathering audience. Many of the spectators bashfully looked on, accepting this barbaric behavior as “probably the norm”. Again, it’s the notion that “uncivilized” tribesmen possess a unrestrained, animalistic sexuality that we “civilized” people simultaneously crave and claim to be above.
The “exhibit” consisted for Guillermo and Coco engaging in what was supposedly their everyday activities. The performed menial little tasks, they were occasionally fed (in the fashion that an animal would be, food such as bananas passing through the bars), and when they needed to go to the bathroom, they were led to facility by a leash. Some audience members were disgusted by the treatment, but surprisingly, many didn’t bat their fascinated eye.
In a interview with the artist by BOMB Magazine (taken from their website http://bombsite.com/issues/42/articles/1599) Gómez-Peña discusses the reactions that he encountered from the audience:
We performed the piece at Irvine, which is known for it’s incredible xenophobia towards Mexicans. We also performed the piece in Madrid in Columbus Plaza, the heart of the Quincentennial debate, and later on in London at Covent Gardens. People of color were exhibited at Covent Gardens and many other places in Europe, from the 17th century to the early 20th century.
In all of the cities we have performed, there have been a range of responses from absolute tenderness and solidarity—people giving us presents, offerings, quietly being with us, sending notes of sympathy—all the way to extremely violent responses. In London, a group of neo-nazi skinheads tried to shake the cage. In Madrid, mischievous teenagers tried to burn me with cigarettes while some handed me a beer bottle of urine. There were business men in Spain regressing to their childhood, treating us as if we were monkeys—making gorilla sounds or racist “Indian” hoots.
I think we have touched on a colonial wound in this piece.
- Guillermo Gómez-Peña
It’s all about orientalism, and the ethnographical endeavors of the past- bringing back to the West pieces of a savage world full of mystery and fantasy.
Language and speech is chiefly important to the life and work of Gómez-Peña, and most specifically is concerned with the lingual relationship between the English and Spanish languages. The performance that I watched was one in which he delivered verbal poetry, with a sense of lucidity despite reading from a pre-orchestrated document, his speech flowing in and out of Spanish and English and always with a thick Mexican accent.
Here is a clip of his vocal performances, poety:
Gómez-Peña deals heavily with colonialism, imperialism, globalism, border politics, the relationship between the North Western and South Western hemispheres.
Here is a performance piece in which Gómez-Peña highlights the power and danger of language (specifically the fear of the Spanish language held by many North Americans) by proposing to continue an on-tape monologue only if he is permitted to point a loaded gun at the camera man
Gómez-Peña’s employment of language is not limited to spoken word, he is the author of many books and recipient of the American Book award. His book authorship includes the following works:
- Warrior for Gringostroika (1993)
- The New World Border: Prophecies, Poems & Loqueras for the End of the world (1996)
- Dangerous Border Crossers (2000)
- Codex Espangliensis (2000)
- Ethno-techno (2004)
- El Mexterminator 2005) Spanish.
- Bitacora del Cruce (2006) Spanish and Spanglish.
Poem, reprinted in Dangerous Border Crossers:
Despite the fact Gómez-Peña plays heavily with gender-bending and cross-over, he still posseses a strong fragrance of male chauvenism in his aura. He is clearly a strongly sexual being, if not a deviant. And sometimes he reeks of arrogance as badly as he reeks of booze, but much like the adamantly feminist Suzie Silver used to say to me, there’s still something about him that keeps you from hating him for it. (Although we both agreed that his ex-wives would probably beg to differ.)
Modern art designates the period of art that existed between the 1860s to the 1970s. It deals with objectivity, and the deconstruction of the form. Modernism sprung from the invention of photography and the liberation that artists felt in terms of being tied to literal representation of the form. Because film could most accurately and easily represent the material world, artists could now take apart the form and enter a new phase of abstraction and expressionism that dominated the movement. Contemporary art encompasses works of more and most recent history, specifically from 1970’s onward. The two terms, modern and contemporary, are not synonymous. Modern works have a strong range of theoretical backgrounds. There was the absurdity and intensity of abstract realism as artists took formalism and delved to new depths with reshaping the outside world. The Abstract expressionists no longer looked outward, their work derives from a new internal source to expose an anti-objectivity of human perception and psychological distortion. Abstract expressionists were most concerned with the interaction between the object and the human eye, and the psychological filters that create a new image within (rather than external to) the viewer.
Then came a spiritual and psychological detachment of Pop, Dadaist, and Minimalist work that fully embraces the alienation and strangeness of consumerist culture, and pure objectivity. Works by the minimalists seek order and form, and create through process rather than human decision. These artists seek to eradicate entirely the illusionism of earlier movements, and expose form as purely and literally as it is and as it exists in nature. Systems of art making were created to become themselves the producer of the art and so that art springs from pure concept rather than human skill and craftsmanship.
Contemporary materials artist, Eva Hesse (1936-1970)
As we move into contemporary art, we see a rejection of this detachment and of the appropriation of art being defined by the object that is produced. Artists begin to move into conceptual art where the art itself is in the theory and concepts that belie it, as well as the experience, which cannot be materialized but only felt. Contemporary artists no longer look to themselves as the creator of their art, but rather look to nature to find naturally occurring relational aesthetics. Experimentation in the late 1960’s marks the crossover from Modernism into Contemporary art as artists such as Eva Hess use materials experimentation to allow art to occur naturally, but that does not alienate itself from the artist and rather illuminate the emotional spirit within.
Contemporary art is no longer about the artifact. Art is not necessarily confined to a tangible piece to be placed in a gallery; conversely, it extends into the realm of language, experience, thought, and intangibility. Contemporary art seeks to redefine itself in the legacy of the freedom experienced by modernists. How much further can we as artists emancipate our work from the constraints that continue to exist? Performative art, installation art, and new media are all new avenues. Social and political context becomes core, and the questioning of authority, and the unjust constructs imposed by ‘art history’ on art challenge these new artists. The interaction of human art and natural occurrence becomes the focus. The search for new media and new context becomes the desire as artists strive to explore the unexplainable truth, and the pure state of the human experience.
I would try to construct a paragraph to adequately introduce performance artist Annie Sprinkle, but why try when she already wrote her own introduction so well on her website (Annie Sprinkle.org(asm)):
I’m an artist, sexologist, ecosexual, author, lecturer, educator and thespian. I’ve also been a sex worker of all sorts, a pioneering adult film director/performer and a professional photographer. I’m the first porn star to have earned a Ph.D., my work is studied in major universities internationally, I’ve shown at the best museums and galleries– and I’m still going strong! -Annie Sprinkle
Sprinkle’s work centers around the exploration of pornographic video as a performance art form of the avant garde. She explores its story telling capabilities; its power of revelation of the hidden obsessions and perversions that exist amongst us, shooed and shunned by mainstream society; its sculptural quality highlighting the uniqueness and splendor of the human form; it’s comedic component, looking at basic human interaction a it truly is, an animalistically driven endeavor full of blundering awkwardness.
She explores porn as theater, sex being the ultimate communicator. And all of it is done with a blisteringly gaudy sense of humor.
On a quick side note- I was just now Googling images of Annie, and found this one anti-semitic website that uses Sprinkle to support it’s laughably ludicrous claims about Jewish sexuality. (http://www.anunews.net/blog/?cat=32) I took a screenshot:
It’s funny because the reason I even clicked on the photo of Sprinkle being “examined” by an audience member in the first place is because it’s an amazing image. Then, whoosh, I was whisked away to this cheap-looking right-wing extremist website. Take a look if you’re interested: http://www.anunews.net/, it seems to have a healthy dose of paranoia/insanity.
It turns out that the above image is taken from her performance piece, Public Cervix Announcement, 1990. Audience members are invited to take the position typically reserved by only a OB/GYN practitioner and look at her cervix with a speculum and flashlight.
I found a really interesting discussion about the piece in a thread on Mormon Discussions.com
Despite innumerable heterosexual interactions with costars in films, Sprinkle is currently married to Elizabeth (Beth) Stephens. Sprinkle often refers to Ecosexuality which is defined as human/earth-based sexual relations. Sprinkle and her wife exemplify such ecosexual relationships with their professed marriage to the Earth. In a ceremony ordained by fellow performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Sprinkle and Stephens consecrated their marriage to the Earth.
Since their ecosexual wedding where they vowed to honor and cherish the Earth and all of her natural realms, Stephens and Sprinkle have committed themselves to promoting ecosexuality through their collaborative art project Love Art Laboratory
. The project centers around the yearly calendar, designating each year to a color based on the 7-chakra color system. The aim is to celebrate love by creating performance-art weddings within the international community.
I think the diversity of the wedding ceremonies highlights Sprinkle’s notions of metamorphasexuality (see video clip below). All forms of love and devotion are celebrated and brought to life in an interactive, performative event. Love between humans, spiritual love between nature and humans, love between the spectrum of genders and sexes, races and creeds, the project celebrates love in its every manifestation.
I like the idea of using the wedding ritual as a forum for exploratory art, and I like that she does so with her wife. Some of her ceremonies have been presided over by figures like Reverend Billy of the Church of Life After Shopping.
Sprinkle and Stephens in “Ecosexy”
Born Ellen Steinberg, Annie Sprinkle talks about her parallel lines of existence as these two unique individuals. Ellen is boring and wants to lead a quiet, conservative life. Annie is a balls-to-the-wall kind of girl, full of brightness and color. Though she has lived out most of her career keeping her two identities a separate entities, she recently has come to the revelation that they are in fact one person. And she is them. Taken from her website:
After all these years, as hard as it is for me to believe, I’ve realized that Ellen Steinberg really must be Annie Sprinkle. And the truth is, Annie Sprinkle still is very much Ellen Steinberg.
An interview with Annie Sprinkle in 1996 in Montreal, Canada. Porn star, film maker, artist and educator Annie Sprinkle discusses the spiritual side of sex in an Interview by Jen MacIntyre. Camera operator Dannielle Dyson.
Sprinkle talks about how she employs sexual interaction to achieve heightened spiritual awareness. She talks about sex as a discipline, and very similar to traditional art form- a pension for it may be acquired at birth, but it must also be honed and nurtured through learning, research, and practice.
She talks about her sexual identity as a constantly evolving force within her makeup. She acknowledges herself as a controversial figure equally loathed as she is loved for all of the things that she represents. I think that sexual identity is as diverse as the spectrum of mankind, and Sprinkle seeks to absorb and embody, at some point in time, as many of these identities as she can acquire. I think that through this process, she is tapping into the human condition, and the full range of human form.
P.s. She heralds from my Philadelphia, Pa.
Please explore Urszula’s work at http://vimeo.com/20470980 – ‘ Suspended ‘ An experimental video made for a class project.
I think it’s cool have another young, female artist engage me in a discussion about my art practice. I was pretty honored to receive this email, and the questions that she sent really made sit back and reflect on my art in a way that I have not done recently, or often enough.
Here are her questions and my responses:
question1. Why did you choose to use the video camera as an art tool ?
I think my interest in the video camera emerged as I discovered the power it possesses to displace its audience into an alternative plane in the time and space continuum. I liked that I could now combine the elements of audio with visual stimuli, so as to paint more elaborate pictures. What I also realized about video is that I could manipulate time to pace my viewer- what I mean is that I had the power to choose how long he lingered upon a particular image. It is unlike the static image in a gallery where people could choose to experience an image for as long or as short as they wanted to. I also realized its power of documentation.
When I was first trying to understand what kind of an artist I am, and how it is that I make art, I found that much of my artistic practice occurs through my raw experiences. I consider my art to be the people I meet, the places I encounter, and the situations that we create on the spot. My art is the exploratory processes that I engage in out in the world, and that is something that cannot often easily be retroactively re communicated after it is experienced. So now, I place the camera apparatus before my eye, and use footage to give these intangible experiences tangible. My goal is to bring my audience with me to experience these unique moments as they occur.
However, I am not just a documentary maker. I do not leave my footage untouched. That is because I feel that so many more forces are at play than just straight actions. So I like to “paint” over my footage. I take it and manipulate it to illustrate the emotional components that have no tangible form. The view I present is from the mind’s eye, rather than the visual eye.
question2. Video Art as a language: What is the main concept (ideology) of your video art? Does it tells a story (narrative) or it is just a ‘nice video art’ made for visual pleasure, without any message?
Themes that seem to be consistent in my work are ones that deal with addiction, obsession, torment over the condition of the modern-day “civilized” human being. I am interested in the conflict that rages between the drives of the reptilian brain, and our civilized consciousness- the clashes between the Id, ego, and super-ego. I explore how people deal with being both functioning threads in the fabric of organized society, while still being natural beings with animalistic drives. How people combat the banality of civilized existence, and how these methods often lead them into underworlds ruled by extremism.
As for the question about narrative, I would say that yes, I always employ narrative, but it is often a highly abstract narrative, without a clear beginning-middle-and-end construct. I find that these typical story-telling constructs very rarely represent natural human experience. My art often includes very little dialogue, except for when I am using spontaneous footage in which my subject engages the camera in lucid, unscripted speech. For me, the most powerful moments in my human experience have been times of pure internal emotion that cannot often be articulated into verbal language. That’s why I use audio to guide the viewer along my video tapestry. I use my video to bring my viewer to a place that words could not do on their own.
question 3. What is and is not a Video Art for you?
To me, video art is something that transports its audience to a world they could not access otherwise. Whether that place be an abstract or metaphysical realm, or a real-world place that is rare and inaccessible to the masses. Or it can tap into a highly familiar place that highlights the universality of the human existence. What is most important is that video art expose the human condition, in all its forms. It is hard to say exactly what video art is not. I guess I would not call entertainment video a form of video art. I believe art needs to exist for reasons deeper than to simply entertain.
question 4. What do you think; What are the main qualities of successful Video Art?
I think the most successful qualities of Video Art is something that can truly transport a person from their current mental and physical location into another one completely.
question 5. If video art does not necessarily have to contain a traditional sense of narrative, how does it engage its viewers ?
Video is very similar to painting. It can use the dimension of time to lead its viewer along the painting, and if the artist chooses, can be orchestrated with audio.
question 6. Would you say “bad Video Art”? – What is the difference or boundary between good/bad Video Art for you?
Again, its really hard to say what exactly defines “good” or “bad” video art. I guess bad video art is something that does nothing to transport or communicate anything substantial to the viewer. If it is just silly or meant to entertain on a flat level, then I probably wouldn’t call it art.
Demo Reel of my latest work
Includes excerpts from the following pieces:
The above video is a compilation of excerpts made for my senior review.
Rich Pell is a professor at Carnegie Mellon and practicing artist and Media Tactician. As the co-founder of the Institute for Applied Autonomy (http://www.appliedautonomy.com/), he has been involved in many projects that are heavily entrenched in bottom-up politics. One example of this approach is his involvement in what he calls “Contestational Robotics”, in which clever devices historically only accessible by elite parties with hegemonic agendas are re-routed to address the messages and sentiments of political underdogs.
Conceived of by such concepts of bottom up tactical means with the employment of robots, are the GrafittiWriter and the StreetWriter SWX. The former device is a small sleek robot equipped with a programmed spray-painting apparatus consisting of several cans synchronized to execute sprays on a longitudinal axis while in motion to generate graffiti words and sentences. Therefore, by harnessing use of innovative technologies, people are able to take back control of message infusion into the greater society.
Interventionist media is another major aspect to Pell’s work. He has work in great detail with the notion and action of ‘hijacking’ media outlets traditionally dominated by “hegemonic” entities (societally speaking) and infiltrating them to disperse messages of the critical masses.
A screenshot taken from the Institute of Applied Autonomy’s website of the Graffiti Writer
Receiving his MFA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Pell has spent much time in art collectives in and around Troy, New York (somewhere that I actually had spent a significant amount of time one summer. Kind of a weird place). Pell received his undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon University.
I had the honor of studying under the direction of Pell in a course titled ‘Tactical Media’ (Spring 2010), who further nurtured my ability to tap into an underground in which non-affiliates were tapping into and hijacking avenues of technology for their own purposes. An anarchic movement of hackers who have been and will continue to usher in great innovation and liberation for the politically oppressed- offering a voice to voiceless.