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RealTime-Performance Space Forums

2001-2007


 Da Contents H2

August 21 2007
a meeting with steve dietz
RealTime, Performance Space, d/Lux/MediaArts & Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council Forum

July 31 2006
There's research and there's research
RealTime-Performance Space Forum: art practice as research (full transcript)

August 8 2005
Forum: Wanted: Creative Producers
RealTime-Performance Space Forum: August 8, 2005 (full transcript)

November 17 2003
Getting The Word Out: Writing for Performance and Dance
RealTime-Performance Space Forum, November 17

August 18 2003
Video + Art = ?
RealTime-Performance Space Forum, Monday 18 August 2003

November 5 2002
The secret life of touring
RealTime-Performance Space forum, November 5

April 8 2002
Size Matters
RealTime-Performance Space Forum, April 8 2002

September 3 2001
The Place of the Space
RealTime-Performance Space Forum, Sept 3, 2001

June 4 2001
Body regimes
RealTime-Performance Space Forum, June 4, 2001 (long version)

 

A forum in the series hosted by RealTime and Performance Space held at Performance Space on Monday 18 August 2003 chaired by Blair French (Performance Space) and Alexie Glass (Australian Centre for the Moving Image).

Blair French
Welcome everybody. Great to have such a big turnout. Our guest and co-chair for this forum is Alexie Glass from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne. As curators we're both working in the area of video at the moment but neither of us is by any means a specialist in this field.

Alexie is taking part in a larger curatorium between ACMI and the National Gallery of Victoria working on a show next year, a survey of Australian practices called 2004: New Visual Culture. She's working on the video section of that larger project. She's also co-curating a show which has the most fantastic title: I thought I knew but I was wrong: New Video Art in Australia. In collaboration with Asialink it's touring a number of venues across Asia soon.

So, in a sense, Alexie and I work in very different institutions but both find ourselves working with very similar practices. Of course, ACMI is working with video art in a broader film and screen culture context and in quite a large institutional situation doing very interesting things with the mapping of the histories and trajectories of video practices. Here at Performance Space we're looking to present video work within our core focus which is hybrid performance and experimental new media and time-based art–working on a much smaller scale, but no less ambitious, to think through what's happening in video art in Australia at the moment and offer certain opportunities to artists like those of you here tonight to talk about what they're up to.

Both of us have worked with other media. And that's one of the things that I find particularly interesting–knowing some of the limitations of my perspective, but being quite fascinated by what video has become in recent years in a visual arts context–is really where I come from. For a number of years I worked specifically with photography with a particular interest in the relationships, correlations and challenges to the visual arts offered by photography and media practice over the last 20 years. You can see similar things happening in video at the moment which is one of the reasons I find it so interesting.

Tonight we're looking for a colloquial discussion. Points of confluence, points of divergence in what we all think of and experience as video art at the moment. We've come up with 4 potential areas for discussion and we've invited some people to come along and offer some starting points.

First up are the issues of presentation and production and contextualisation of video art across creative spheres. And we've asked the following artists to comment. Merilyn Fairskye has worked across a range of media for a number of years but also using a range of video forms. Brent Grayburn whose work is currently exhibited here in Video Spell and who was co-curator of Future Perfect program for dLux Media Arts at the 2003 Sydney Film Festival. Sam James is an artist who works in video within collaborative situations often with performance makers.

Then we hope to move on to issues relating to the audience's experience of work and different modes of spectatorship that video practice suggests as it moves from screen to cinematic situation to installation and immersive situations–what audiences might bring out of those experiences, what languages might emerge to deal with that experience and the kind of implications this has for practice as makers and curators of work.

We'll ask Rachel Kent and Russell Storer from Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) to make a few comments and the video artist and sometime curator Emil Goh.

Hopefully at some time we'll get time to think about the formation of the critical languages around video and finally some specifics pertaining to what we might think of an Australian video art if there is such a thing.

We also invited Joyce Hinterding and David Haines, 2 of the most interesting and articulate artists working in the area, but they've unfortunately both come down with flu and can't be here.

Here are some questions Alexie and I have asked ourselves as curators faced with the type of work we see before us.

How is current video practice drawing from, sometimes referencing, sometimes negotiating multiple histories of video, even multiple identities? I'm thinking about its identity as a distinct medium and what you might trace through a history of experimental film for example–a sort of screen culture genealogy. Its identity as a representational form emerged in recent culture of commercial forms, in television, in advertising; its visual culture genealogy. Then there's its existence as one element in multi-media events, a kind of performance history. A mode of practice interlaced with so many others in what's become a sort of post-media notion of installation art or contemporary art and also digital culture. How does it draw from all those things? How do all those things come into the mix and how do we make sense of them? That's the first big frightening question. And then, what are the implications of our answers to these questions for ways of engaging with the work? How do we develop appropriate levels of spectatorship?

Merilyn Fairskye
There's no doubt that the work we see around us is very different from the early video experiments of the 80s which had much more direct relationship to television and its mechanisms. For the most part, what we're seeing now is something that if we were to think of visual traditions–apart from the obvious one of cinema in all its manifestations and, if you like, spectacle TV, there's also the history of conceptual art in contemporary video practice–this idea of an art that's not based on materiality but on ideas and an art that comes together because of the participation or the visitation if you like of people within the space. Also installation art–it's quite clear that's a really important tradition here. And performance. And also, certainly in my own case, the traditions of painting, the way an image is there in front of us, how it looks. They're considerations that are quite important to me.

So, all of these are part of my approach to my work, not necessarily in a conscious way but when I look at it these are the influences and traditions that I see. I describe myself as a cross-media artist, not a video or photo-media artist. I suppose I work with ideas that demand certain forms. I work with the form that I think is best for a particular set of ideas and sometimes that might involve 3 or 4 different media. But a lot of my work is time-based rather than video-based (although video is always a component) and it's certainly different but not unrelated to my still photographic work or my installations in public spaces or in other art gallery contexts.

The video works are either narrative and/or durational. Some have been created from the outset with this idea of both gallery and theatre-type presentations. So right from the beginning with some of this work I'm not necessarily thinking of one ideal mode of presentation but rather I think...some works are expandable, they're scalable and I can give them legs and find different audiences by having different versions. Margaret Morse has said that whenever an installation isn't installed, it ceases to exist. I think in the case of some works that's absolutely true–the original concept and understanding of how the work is to be presented is really crucial to the viewer actively completing the work and finding the meaning of it. But in other cases–and I think we've had lots of recent examples of this in Sydney recently at the MCA and at the AGNSW–and I'm thinking in particular of say, the work of the German artist Mariel Neudecker (Another Day) which was in the Liquid Sea exhibition. It's a 2-channel projection on both sides of a hanging screen suspended in the middle of the space of the sun rising on one side of the earth and setting on the other. Apart from my immediate response to it and the way it spatially engaged me, I was really fascinated to see in the catalogue, which was obviously put together before the exhibition took place, that this work which was made in 2000 had also been exhibited in another context and perhaps another gallery where the screens were side by side. Now, while my experience of the work was of walking around the screens to see it, there was this other version where you encountered it almost like paintings on a wall. So the first one could have been a composited single screen version of a 2-channel work viewed in a theatre setting, for instance.

There are lots of examples like that. A work that contradicts that is Doug Aitken's New Ocean where you go into a space and encounter 4 loops projected on, I think, 7 screens offering a 360-degree panoramic view. You couldn't possibly imagine that artwork crossing into another form. But there are numerous other examples where rather than sort of dying with that transition, a work just gets another sort of life. And in my own case, sometimes I do actually produce different versions of work whether it's going from a single screen to multi-screen, or the other way round to be included in a film festival or whatever if it's appropriate for the work, short versions, long versions. Initially, this comes out of a pragmatism or opportunism if you like because this work is expensive to produce and organisations like the AFC, for instance, like the work to end up at least theoretically in a film festival somewhere. But I don't see this as a limitation because in my other non-moving image work I often revisit the same material over and over, tease it out in different media, stick with an idea for years on end. It's just part of my modus operandi.

Brent Grayburn
I've come from a formal sculptural practice. I've basically had a strong dialogue across an undercurrent of practice over the past 6 or 7 years. I remember when the tools of my sculpture were removed from me and video suddenly became the new tool that I could use to express myself and my individual ideas and then still present in a way that was aesthetically defined by my conceptual principles. So I'm a video artist and recently I curated a festival.

As a video artist I'm not that prolific. I spend a lot of time working on small projects that take a lot of time to crystallise and articulate. For me, video is the most potent form of modern art practice at the moment because of its ability to transform real time situations.... I'm really trying to displace this notion of reality, how reality flows through a time code process and the ways that can be compressed and extended. I play around with distortions of temporality, of us and time and space.

I was raised in a new media environment. I had a video player at home when I was 8 and I guess that's probably the case for a lot of people here. I don't really have a problem with the tools and technologies that surround us. MTV style video is part of the culture I was raised in. I don't really see it as being specific to the way I address my work. I can see the potentiality of video much more than I can in other forms.

My understanding of video art has only really developed experientially–moving it into gallery spaces and seeing how work comes alive. I don't really work specifically for the spectator so much as I do for my own subjective needs and desires, I guess. Video for me is a highly dynamic tool.

Sam James
I have a multi-artform background. I trained as an architect really and started getting work in theatre just building sets. About 8 or 9 years ago, I realised that a lot of what was going on in physical spaces just seemed really limited. So I started using projections to try to expand that. I felt bored to be stuck in the theatre. Mainly what I was doing and still do to some extent is theatre design. I use it as a tool to get a release from the physical space. I do actually work quite a bit with dancers. Sometimes we're making dance films and sometimes my work is set up in a physical space.

Thinking about video art in the context of performance–it's so diverse, I can't imagine how you can categorise it. A few examples of what I've done in the last few months:

1. I accompanied the dancer Julie-Anne Long on a residency to the country town of Hill End (scene of Jeffrey Smart's iconic Australian painting The Nuns' Picnic). Julie-Anne was mostly dressing up as a nun and running around, trying to improvise in this old gold mining town. She invited the photographer Heidrun Löhr and myself to go there with her, almost with no preconceptions at all, just to work as artists. Here I felt most like a filmmaker, following a performer around to various locations. In a way it's documentation but partly setting up situations that might happen and recording them. That work will have 2 outcomes. One is transferring the video to 16mm film and projecting it in the community hall in Hill End for the locals to see. The other is the actual film that possibly gets screened in the Dance on Screen festival (Reeldance).

2. Just recently at Performance Space I did a video installation with Gail Priest called Sonic Salon. That was a completely different experience–a non-physical performance, more about performative presence. A lot of the video I was making for that was just purely abstract graphic imagery to relate to a 5.1 surround sound installation. I also built various screens which a one-person audience could sit within and have an immersive experience.

3. I went to Perth with Deborah Pollard a few weeks ago to develop a work. She wants to mount a really large production which is basically a realistic camping ground set up inside a theatre with performance happening in and outside it. The main projections there will be on Super 8 and a lot of it is sort of "surrealist" film projections in relation to the events that are happening in the camping ground.

4. Probably one of the most interesting projects happened here at Performance Space a month or 2 ago. In Head Space there were lots of different artists in residence–Paul Gazzola, Julie Vulcan, mik la vage and Layla Vardo and myself and Victoria Spence. We all set up different video/performance installations and it was really good to see how different economies of working with video and performance existed within those 4 contexts. Our work on Victoria's Communication/Failure turned into an interaction with suspended monitors. I didn't shoot any of the footage. My role was to operate and to create a sort of a sympathetic consciousness based on Victoria's autobiographical video material which she filmed herself.

Alexie Glass
Just to fill you in a bit, The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is next door to the National Gallery of Victoria and we come out of a tradition of collecting films, the State Film Centre of 1955. In the late 80s an idea was floated to get the state film centre to come to terms in some way with this collection of 49,000 films–international films, experimental cinema, archives of animation ... We interface with all aspects of new media and screen culture. And part of this evolution was the question of how to present screen culture when in Australia institutions often don't have the resources or technology to present the multifarious manifestations of screen culture.

We fused with Film Victoria in the late 1990s to form Cinemedia which was dissolved after Film Victoria and the State Film Centre decided that, in fact, we didn't do the same things. Film Victoria funds film development. We work with a whole range of screen cultures. We opened in Federation Square in November last year and have had 3 exhibitions so far. Deep Space curated by Victoria Lynn, our current director which most of you might have seen at the Art Gallery of NSW [as Space Odyssey] and Remembrance, Part 1 and 2 curated by former ACMI creative director Ross Gibson.

We have various ways of showing screen culture. Most of my colleagues at ACMI don't come from gallery or museum cultures. Most come from film, documentary, games or new media culture, or writing. It's very interesting to talk about video art in that context. People who come from experimental film primarily will say, "Put it in screenings in the cinema. Put it in film festivals, in screen lunches. Put it somewhere else. Not in the gallery. It's single channel." So you have to argue for it.

We have a gallery at ACMI which is 2 converted train platforms. It's 110 x 20 x 10 metres. 1000 square metres of floor space which makes it the world's largest dedicated exhibition space for moving image work. And we are heading towards our first national survey show of Australian works. So we're looking at video. We also have screen lounges where 2-5 people can sit and watch screens by themselves or with friends just for the price of a movie ticket. They can watch single channel works which are often short films curated into 1-hour programs. There's often a lot of discussion about whether video art should be placed in the screen lounges. Should it be moved out of the gallery? Should it be placed into these short film contexts? How do you sit down with, how do you read video art? How does time-based work actually work? And does it work differently if you play loops in screen lounges?

We have 2 state-of-the art cinemas which have digital projectors able to handle any film format. We do a lot of VJ-ing, a lot of performance in these spaces. So these are the issues I deal with on a daily basis and they mostly have to do with different contexts for the moving image and how we speak to audiences.

Russell Storer
The MCA covers the whole range of contemporary practice and obviously a lot of contemporary artists are working in video and it can be presented in any number of ways. Our audiences are also very broad because of where we are and range from specialists or people who have a strong interest in contemporary art to people who are just walking in off Circular Quay. We take that into account in terms of our public programming, our didactic panels, our exhibition catalogues. There are concentric circles of information provided to audiences about how to deal with video work. It's never really presented as something separate or with a discrete language. It's presented in the broader context of contemporary art.

The most recent multimedia exhibition I've worked on is the Ugo Rondinone exhibition. That's quite an interesting case in that Ugo is very specific about the way he presents his work. It's very carefully arranged and he does see it as a very specific medium. He wanted one space to be the video room. Then there was the sculpture room, the painting room, the photo room and they were all inter-related. There was the blue installation with very large screens and on each screen there were 2 film loops. He takes samples from film history and re-presents them, re-contextualises them, slows them down and then intersperses them with video. That video work has actually been presented in different contexts, reconfigured for the architecture of different spaces.

Then there's the clown videos–a series of 6 monitors placed on the floor. Very static, very modest compared with the larger more immersive installation of the large screen video. This demands much more of the viewer in a way. You're expected to walk around and interact with it in a more active way.

Video art practice is so broad, so diverse and there are so many ways of presenting it that galleries really do need to take it case by case and some artists are much more specific than others. Certainly with the Farrell and Parkin videos we showed in the Meridian exhibition, we took into account the architecture of the space. They'd never done video before and we saw it very much in relation to their photographic works with which people are more familiar. So we presented them in relation to a series of photographs and hung them in a space next to the stairs so they became almost architectural, hanging from the ceiling.

Alexie Glass
We have an architect as part of our installation team because of the technology that we're working with. You need an architect to work the space and to actually navigate the design of the installation and the sound. The conversations you have with artists in the development of this work are interesting. Do you find these are different from the discussions you have with artists working in more traditional media?

Russell Storer Video brings something into an exhibition that objects don't. It's a paradoxical thing. In some ways it's ephemeral because the screen is flat and doesn't have any materiality but it also requires a lot of space. It also introduces this temporal quality to the show because it refers to something outside the space, something that, I guess, is beyond the gallery. It also requires a certain time spent by the viewers. In a way it slows down the process of looking. This is an opportunity for curators, something you can use. The conversations change all the time.

Brent Grayburn
Do you have any figures on audiences for exhibitions involving primarily video art?

Russell Storer
Certainly the Ugo Rondinone exhibition has been popular and people have come back to it again and again. The Isaac Julien show was all screen-based. But the most popular shows tend to be photography. It's still the artform that people are most comfortable with. A lot of people are still not sure how to interact with video art.

Alexie Glass
The first show at ACMI was very body-interactive. People could understand that navigation. But the Remembrance Part 1 exhibition was much more screen-based. At first, when people came in they were treating it like television. They wanted to surf through the exhibitions. It's been fascinating watching that navigation so it's interesting to hear you talk about people visiting Ugo Rondinone. There are a lot of sculptures that break up the screen experience there a bit.

Video installation, because it isn't usually narrative driven, doesn't require a specific amount of time. You don't have to see it from beginning to end. It just keeps going over and over so you can dip into it at any point and you're still experiencing it as you should. I think that idea of spectatorship in relation to video art–when you enter it half way through and decide if you want to see it through as if you were watching film in a cinema–is still something people are getting used to. That installation sidelines the issue, or subverts it in some way, by just using the loop as a particular device.

I was in the Susan Norrie show at MCA today. It was interesting to watch audiences there walking in and going straight down the back, coming back into the side room. Then they came into the back room again and would mix with the 5 screens. I kept watching people move through it in circles. It became like this fluid, performative space. That often happens in ACMI now that we get repeat visitors. Rather than flicking through or surfing the space, they move around it in different ways and do re-visits. There's a different kind of movement that's required of video. Kate Murphy who's here tonight has a work in the current show, Remembrance. It involves 5 screens in a room and people have to go in there and sit down. People move into the room, then they go to something else. But they do come back. You get a lot of re-visitation with exhibitions.

Rachel Kent
Several decades ago now Nam-Jun Paik talked about video becoming just like a paintbrush, an extension or part of the artist's wider repertoire. One of the things that I like about, say, Susan Norrie's exhibition is that she incorporates it within a wider context of sound, sculptural elements, video. A lot of the work we show at the MCA that incorporates video is often very spatial. A lot of the time it's made in response to the architecture of the building which involves a lot of detailed and pretty protracted negotiations with the artist about how they want it presented.

I'm interested in the spatial elements of video work and the way it plays with time. In the exhibition, Liquid Sea, there were a number of works that were quite demanding on people's time. Tacita Dean's films, for instance, 16mm film loops, very experiential. You see the equipment on display in front of you on a base, you hear the whirring and clicking of the machine, see the fuzziness of the screen home movies. It's not digital or high tech. And the pieces are linear narratives of 6 minutes or 9 minutes. A lot of the time people watch the whole thing. Some found them completely mesmerising. Others loathed them. I remember one of the discussion points and, to my surprise, criticisms of the 2001 Venice Biennale was that it was–oh my god, it's top heavy on video! It requires so much TIME. All these hot-shot international curators were zooming through for the opening, saying "I've only got 2 days." People were literally going room to room, popping their noses in for a minute. It was crazy.

Blair French
There's also the issue of drawing meaning from this work. Liquid Sea I found interesting. I don't know whether this was deliberate or not but as you moved through the show, at the level of screen culture, you went from a set of very short snippet historical works on a monitor. You watched television. You moved into a slightly cinematic situation in the room with various quasi-documentary, poetical pieces where you were amongst a cinema audience. Then you had the single channel works upstairs with the jellyfish–immersive as much large spectacle scale projection pieces can be. Very non-narrative. Then you moved into the Neudecker piece that Merilyn was talking about that introduced a kind of sculptural element. Then you had the Tacita Dean work. Then you went into the Doug Aitken and had this complete immersive experience. And in between were other types of work. I actually found it perceptually, even optically, very difficult to move through that show in one go. I found that I was doing one of 2 things. I was kind of working with the screen stuff but couldn't look at all the objects and paintings in between. I was looking, but not looking. Something was going on about light. I couldn't adjust to then look at very subtle photo light boxes that looked like paintings.

How do I draw meaning from this? You set yourself up in a certain way to be looking, experiencing in one mode. And then suddenly, even in the realm of video, you go into the next room and you're in another mode. I think that convention of flitting, I wonder how much that is about subconsciously the difficulty of adjusting.

Audience Member
Why were you puzzled by these different modes of creation?

Blair French
I actually find it difficult to adjust to a particular way of looking, particularly when I'm dealing with something that's optically very absorbing, dominating in fact. So you move from the large screen projection which has a set of literally optical plays, then a very detailed sculptural piece in another room. I have quite good eyesight but that issue of focus, changing and registering vision...Anyone who's worked in abstract painting for example knows there are optical plays that can take time for the eye to adjust to. Video blows that up for spectators. It's not so much a problem. It's an interesting situation.

Merilyn Fairskye
I also saw Liquid Sea 5 or 6 times and it's precisely the thing you've identified as a problem that I found really exciting. I could've been in a giant museum anywhere looking at a range of artworks. It just so happened most of them made use of light and images that move. The forms were as different as moving from one room to another in a museum where different types of works are presented. Yet the threads were there for you to make connections between forms. I found it really interesting to see so many individual ways of working with that form and–apart from the thematic connection which at times was a bit stretched–there were unexpected connections. I found it really stimulating.

Mari Velonaki
It's an ideological question. What kind of approach do you develop with the screen–any screen be it film or installation, or video? Is it ethnological or more subconscious...psychoanalytic?. How do I change spaces? How do I build the world I see? And it's like everyone is divided, I guess.

Brent Grayburn
I think the psychology of spaces is one of the major issues when you're dealing with gallery environments, cinema and maybe even works where you can pick a tape and go home and watch. Take the remote control, pause it, get a beer and a cigarette. You can interact in a certain way within your own fully privatised viewing space. The cinema demands a particular attention span that's endemic to that space. In the recent screenings at the Sydney Film Festival, we demanded so much of people that they got up and left. One of the programs actually managed to clear the cinema out.

Keith Gallasch
This raises a problem I think with the d'Art screenings or future perfect or the Transmediale screenings recently. It reminds me of when we were kids in the 50s and looked forward to the Saturday afternoon matinee with the 20 cartoons as the pinnacle of the year only to discover that we were bored shitless half way through. There's that strange feeling when you're sitting through these showings, where you're watching–and as Blair suggested, to be sympathetic to the work, you're constantly changing–and you think, no I shouldn't be in a cinema watching this. I should be somewhere else. I should have the freedom to turn this off, to browse or leave and come back. I think this raises an interesting challenge for dLux. I think they should seriously re-think their engagement with Sydney Film Festival.

Brent Grayburn
As part of my curatorial process, I tried to open that viewing platform up to more interaction by the public and more private individuals by having screens running through the city. I would suggest that 4-5 minutes is about the maximum you can demand of a viewer in a gallery environment. But 1 and a half hours is demanding too much of an individual.

Keith Gallasch
And of the work.

Lucas Ihlein
I found the screenings difficult for those fatigue reasons but also sometimes because of the specific content of the works that were being shown…We're all sitting in this room and for 2 hours we passively receive title after title after title. Nobody stands up and says, "Okay now, I found this next film when we were travelling through Germany and discovered this really interesting artist working there..." All of a sudden we become a group of people in a room interested in watching a bunch of stuff rather than a room full of bodies gradually sinking down into vinyl chairs, peeling ourself off them at the end of the night, all stiff. It's an experience, an event, a performance. We become more interactive. We shout or we applaud if we love it or we boo if we hate it. Without those things, you go like so what did you think? And you say yeah, great, but you feel kind of distant.

Brent Grayburn
To defend or explain the dLux process a little...It's actually very rare to get a whole body of work put together whose platform is the screen, that does look at artists specific to a particular form or practice. And it's all there, reeled through. And you can make the choices between the works you like and don't like. Rather than it being specific to a gallery environment where you select a small number of works and place them selectively into an environment. d'Art is more about showing a lot of stuff and putting it together to see what comes out of it in the way of discussion. The future perfect screening, the last one, the killer that drove everybody out, simply extended into a long program because 2 works turned up and because of the political content we had to put them in. There was no politicisation with the whole process. The program was developed with more entertainment or conceptual processes in mind. When these 2 works turned up, they had to be included. And we had to argue with the festival to get them in.

One was made by a Palestinian refugee about his eviction from his homeland. The other, Stalker 3, was also on the topic of war. It's 55 minutes long. That alone was worth a screening on its own. So I was arguing more for politicisation of video practice which you don't see so much. There's an area of discussion in that.

Audience
There's a crossover happening between documentary and filmmaking practices and experimental and independent film-making practices and visual art.

Audience
But some of the other smaller pieces could have been in a gallery.

Rachel Kent
It so rare that you get to sit down and watch a whole lot of different people's work at one time. I appreciated the opportunity to put a certain block of time aside to see this line-up of works that I would otherwise not get to see.

Alexie Glass
I just went to SALA, the SA Living Artists festival and in that they have a totally democratic submission policy for their moving image content. You can just submit any kind of experimental video work (no longer than 10 minutes though) up until the day before the screenings. And people sit through 3 evenings consecutively of these fantastic 10 minute, 3 minute works over 3 hours. It's intense but...

Brent Grayburn
Think about the cinema of 15 years ago where you'd go along and there'd always be a short before the feature screening or (elsewhere) there'd be the option of hearing up-and-coming video makers having their work aired in a public forum. And you'd go along and get a 5 or 10 minute short and then the feature. I sometimes wish, in terms of the larger gallery spaces, that there was an opportunity for video artists to have a room like that, off to the side, that could be used by local projects, that could be incorporated into the general screening program that you would curate but which was always running.

Rachel Kent
We've been discussing this and an informal video lounge is something that we would ideally like to address at some point in the future if we were to look at reconfiguring the space in some way. Like the DIA in New York, they have a fantastic program going of whichever artist's videos they've selected for that week or month and you can drop in and watch in a relaxed environment.

Alexie Glass
ACMI has screen lounges. I think it's good, that separation. That passivity that Lucas was talking about before, watching that work in cinemas, is something that troubles me.

Edward Scheer
We've lost the other dimension which is the live dimension. And if we take another genealogy apart from the cinematic one to come to time-based art practice where it is now, you find that in fact people don't want to be sitting in the dark watching things. They want to have an interaction. The televisual model is a live model. It's predicated on interactivity. Cinema is not. In a sense, if we take a different genealogy we need a different place in which to experience it. We need that liveness recognised whether it's in the form of an MC as was suggested, I don't know how you address it. This is a question for the curatorium, but I think there's a challenge there to re-think the debate about physical presence in relation to the presentation of this work. I think it's key.

Danielle Coonan
At Phatspace we're collecting a library of works by video artists so people can watch them at their leisure. And every 6 weeks we're inviting video artists to curate an evening of their own work plus the work of moving image and other artists who inspire them. Initially I thought when we started these 2 projects that the video library would be interesting to people but I actually find the video nights fascinating. Shaun Gladwell did one a couple weeks ago and didn't show any of his own work. He showed purely the stuff that's inspired him. It's really nice to get inside an artist's head and see what makes him tick. People are responding to those really enthusiastically.

Russell Storer
One of the main reasons that artists like to show their video works in galleries rather than cinemas or theatres is that element of interactivity that requires movement in the space, coming in and out at their discretion, that aspect of spectatorship which is still unfolding...

Rachel Kent
And there is obviously a lot of work that is completely unsuitable for media viewing. Just looking at something like Susan Norrie's installation, Passenger, you'd just never go into a cinema and sit there and watch it. Impossible.

Louise Curham
That's her decision as an artist. But as a general concept, the cinema space doesn't need to be a dead space. I think it's a big ask for an audience to actually go into a gallery space and treat it as a pseudo-cinema space. It's uncomfortable. And you're asked to give the kind of concentration to a work that is being asked in a cinema. For me the future perfect screenings were a good example of how much better it is as an audience member to take on the material when you're in an environment where you can focus–if that's what you're being asked to do. That's not what Susan Norrie is about. But when it is what it's about, it's frustrating to compromise the content focus by attempting to place them in a pseudo-cinema space.

Blair French
Emil, you curated a show at Gallery 4A a while back using the video library model. You walked in and there was a set of videos with titles on the spines on a shelf and a sofa and a video machine and you were asked to make your own program. Also as an artist you have a particular interest in very specific modes of presentation for specific models of works.

Emil Goh
Let's tie some issues together. We've talked about the different works in Liquid Sea and how you couldn't look at some pieces and the short pieces and long pieces in the futurescreen screenings. It's all a question of pace. It ties in directly to the mother and father of video art–television and film, mainly television. And the question of pace relates to channel surfing. So you walking out on Tacita Dean's very slow videos and into Painlevé's octopus or you're seeing very fast work. You're changing channels and you choose one that suits your pace. You see what you're ready to see. One of the difficulties of programming video in a linear way is exactly that. People go into cinemas because they expect something short and snappy and kind of narrative-driven. They want to be entertained. So if you're going to show them a 50-minute piece you've got to be warned. We're not talking quality of work. We're talking about warning people to expect something before they go into it. Expecting to see short snappy pieces or entertaining pieces that remind me of the stuff I'm used to in film and TV is one thing and then to go in and see something like Baraka is another thing. Different sorts of works. Your expectations are not met. A lot of it has to do with education. Video is the hardest thing to educate the punters about. Every day they're watching TV, listening to radio and then they come upon this work that mostly has no narrative. So what's the point? There's no point! Then it's uncomfortable to watch videos sometimes. If you're going to present people with a difficult piece, especially a durational piece, I think you should try to make people as comfortable as possible. There's a reason that cinema seats are so comfortable. It's so you don't notice them and so you're totally immersed in what you're watching. So why not make those so-called "pseudo-cinematic" spaces more comfortable, so once you're in there you're totally focussed on the work?

Once you're inside the gallery, you shouldn't be looking at the architecture. You might think, ooh nice building. No, maybe not. Certainly when you're in the gallery you shouldn't be looking at anything but the work. Your walls should be clean. Video is a space hungry medium. You shouldn't notice the lights. Nothing but the video work. What annoys me sometimes is when you go to exhibitions, you're jostling with 6 other people to see the work and there's one bench behind you. I haven't been to many galleries that have solved this. The Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane had an interesting model–a video hut. One of the big problems for a certain generation of people is that for many reasons, they don't want to walk into a dark room. The great thing with the APT hut was that it was dark enough to watch the video. Also, video is so dependent on high quality equipment. This hut had a really good projector. It was spatially fantastic because it was large and light.

Video shouldn't be presented on equipment that resembles domestic equipment. It looks too much like television. Do whatever you have to do.

So the video hut was great because there were all these windows and doorways punctured into the wall. You could dip your head in and out to see the work. There was a great list of things telling you exactly how long each work was. That's another annoying thing. When you walk into a work that's 20 minutes long, 3 minutes along. When you walk into the middle of a work, that's really annoying. If it's a non-loop work, you think oh, shit! I missed the beautiful beginning. Tell you what, it's really hard to make work. It's like writing a song–or a book. You really think about the beginning and the end. And to have someone walk in on the middle, you think Ah! you've missed the best part or whatever! One thing I'd love to see is someone inventing, for God's sake, a video-specific label that tells you the countdown or showing the DVD showing "X minutes remaining of this work."

Alexie Glass
In Remembrance, the curator Ross Gibson made a decision not to include the duration of any work on any of the didactic panels or any of the labelling. There's no indication...There are works that are linear, there are loops, work by Sadie Benning, Mona Hartoum, Ivan Sen, Kate Murphy. Interactive works. Nothing has durations at all. You don't know. It could be Bill Seaman...

Emil Goh
Why?

Alexie Glass
Ross actually decided that because there was so much screen-based work in Remembrance and it was a show about montage and layering, he wanted people to make a decision to stay or not stay. I don't know what my decision is on that. But he made a conscious decision to do that.

Emil Goh
See, I would have a problem with that. I think it's a bit indulgent. You know, you go in and you want to spend a certain amount of time and you don't want to miss anything...it's about choice. I believe in giving people as much choice as possible. So to get back to the video hut, there was a nice big screen (fantastic!) and several modes of seating–quite large. So again, people had a choice of how they absorbed the work. You're not forcing them to stand up or sit down on the carpet, especially a certain generation, you know, older people don't want to stand up for 4 minutes. That's a long time. If you didn't want to see these works in linear form, you could watch them on large monitors with headphones next to the video hut. There were 10 videos in the video hut and 10 monitors outside.

Brent Grayburn
As an artist, Emil, do you design for the spectator?

Emil Goh
First, I go for content. Then I ask myself, how is it best shown? Some work has to be big because it has so much detail. You need to see it. Some have to be small because it's intimate or it's about scale or it has to be between films. I don't do it for the spectator or for me–just for the work itself.

One of the things about coming from screen culture, I think, is the fact that video can be shown in all the various screen cultures–whether it's film or TV or the web, whether it's mobile phones, PDA's–it's hard to make any generalisations. You have to look at each specific work and be fair to your audience. And work hard at education. I often hear people saying, I hate video art. I say, why? That's like saying, I hate cheese. Have you tried it with wine? That's like a journalist saying I hate art photography. It's about education and about trying to expose the very wide...all the greys of video between the black and white.

Mari Velonaki
You said you want video art to be presented in an environment that is as comfortable as a cinema...

Emil Goh
Some works. If that's the way you want it to be seen. If you want people to just look at the work. I'm not suggesting you should move in 6 rows of seats...

Mari Velonaki
It's probably over the last 10 years or so that we've been massively bombarded by Hollywood films. For me, as a spectator, some of the most painful artistic experiences of my life have been in cinema. Watching films of 8 and 1/2 hours duration…And that wasn't the 60s. This was the beginning of the 80s. When Brent talks about 2 hours being too long for an audience, that's okay. Maybe the audience is going to walk out after 1 hour...They still have a choice. And someone else talked about getting sore. Well, this is part of the experience!

Brent Grayburn
Punish the audience!

Mari Velonaki
I felt punished after 8 and 1/2 hours, of course, but there were some interesting moments in there. Ten years ago there were lots of screenings from around the world. There were late screening of 3 hours duration, 4 hours long or trilogies where you'd see part one in the morning, part 2 in the afternoon. You know Charlie's Angels and popcorn is fun and I don't mind that occasionally but cinema is not comfortable. We haven't found solutions for art cinema. We don't have solutions for video art either. Many things can happen. Many things cannot happen. It depends on the work and the audience and the mood of the audience. We can't control it. It doesn't matter what we try to do. And I think that applies to everything that employs projected imagery, regardless of whether it's interactive work or video projection or even film in a more traditional narrative sense if you wish.

Emil Goh
All I was saying is that with anything you produce, make sure it can be seen in the way you want it to be seen.

Mari Velonaki
Absolutely. Because if we make a work we don't make it for the audience, but we want them to see it because without them...well, it's a bit difficult.

Edward Scheer
You don't always need the audience.

Mari Velonaki
Oh? Oh, no!

Edward Scheer
The cinema doesn't need the audience. Guy Debord said the spectacle itself is blind. It doesn't see anything. The cinema is happy without people there.

Brent Grayburn
Does the gallery require an audience?

Edward Scheer
Clearly it does. It's very different space, different experience.

Brent Grayburn
Why?

Edward Scheer
Well, I think the cinema can keep churning itself out quite happily without having viewing positions taken into considerations, without having the subjective experience of the audience in any sense relevant to the production of the image.

Louise Curham
Are you talking about the industry or about the film event? Because I don't think the cinematic event can take place mindlessly without an audience. They're part of the contract in the cinematic event. That's what's interesting about what Sam James does. He's directly working with people from a performance position whereas so many film-makers are not directly in contact with that sense of the immediacy, of the performative. I think that's what Lucas (Ihlein) was referring to earlier, about trying to contextualise the whole process of the collage of the screening. There's a distinction there.

Audience
Someone mentioned education. And, in a sense we're so used to watching films of 90-100 minutes. That's at this point in the history of cinema but it hasn't always been that way...As the cinema evolved at the start of the 20th century films were of different lengths. But we've reached this point where 90 minutes seems to be a very marketable length of time to sit through a narrative sequence which reaches an end. It doesn't have to be that way. It's just something we've become accustomed to and we can change. It's just a shame, especially in this city. I went to Melbourne recently and visited ACMI and it seemed like lots of interesting screen culture stuff was going on. But in Sydney we now host Fox Studios which is Hollywood's newest sweatshop and our biggest event is Tropfest...A lot of us here are video makers and if you tell people, they say Tropfest! That's our paradigmatic video event and they get 800 entries. I don't know if there's anyone here involved in education but I'm wondering how is it that we have 800 people trying to enter Tropfest every year? Short films, conventional, narrative, snappy endings. How does that relate to what's going on in our tertiary education sector I wonder?

Audience
It used to be independent bands. I think it's independent films now.

Audience
I don't think it just has to do with tertiary education. It has a lot more to do with popular culture. A lot of what we're talking about here, like cinema not needing an audience per se, that just has to do with lumping popular culture into one big...That's over there and we're in a different spot. We don't have to be separate from it. We can bring them together. Having recently been through the tertiary education system in 2 different universities in Sydney dealing with cinematic culture, the whole Tropfest thing is frowned upon. They think, we're above that. In an institution that's a dangerous point of view as well. I don't think it's an institutionalised education we need. We need education across a broad range of culture.

Audience
I didn't mean that education necessarily had to be just about institutions but it's also about the amount of exposure you get to ... if you've watched 20 videos, you can say those 3 were interesting and those 17 were not. Whereas if you only get access to 3, it's a lot harder to educate yourself.

John Gillies
There's a problem with time in educational institutions and people being able to see a lot of work. University courses have less and less time. When I was a student we watched feature films for several hours each week. If you go to some of the great film schools of the world, the first year they watch hundred and hundreds of hours of cinema. That's a big question I think.

Louise Curham
I come from a filmmaking position but I just recently crossed over and made my first piece of video art. John and I have talked about Chantal Ackerman's films and how Sydney Film Festival won't show them any more because they're too hard for the audience. I'm sure everyone here could name a filmmaker they love who's persona non grata because their work is seen as too difficult. I think that rate of slowness, of that kind of imagery, without professing to have a great grasp on the history of video art, I think there are so many great examples of pieces of cinema that have had a really profound influence on video art practice. Some of these foundations of screen culture, some of these places of crossing over and conjoining, we're all losing track of it. And maybe that's what's happening in tertiary institutions. Because there's not the time, people are not able to build up this sense of inter-relationship. So when it comes to actually seeing the work, they don't have any kind of context at all. That leaves people feeling unsure and disconcerted. Then they're asked to treat spaces that should be spaces for duration and content-oriented viewing, where you forget where you are and you focus on the content, you're being asked to deal with that kind of information as sound byte. And they're also being asked to do the reverse–to treat material that's being shown to them as fast paced, about the materiality of the image and not the content. And they're being asked to watch that in an environment where they don't have the opportunity to get up and leave or to mediate that in any way. I think it's a lot about looking at and looking through and something about our failure to negotiate that that leaves some people alienated by video art.

Audience
One of the things I hear from a lot of people who view video art in galleries is that too often there's a fault with the equipment. Again and again. And to be frank, it pisses me off. There's a responsibility there that as an artist you make your work functional and it doesn't break down. People are so quick to judge and be critical. So often I've gone into a space and it's just fuzz–and not deliberate fuzz.

Audience
How do you know it's not! (Laughter)

Brent Grayburn
I work heavily with technology both in a real-time context and just with my practice put onto VHS tape or DVD. And ironically in the age we live in, technology is still really expensive and still quite fragile. The likelihood of galleries going out and buying $15,000 worth of technology when they might be able to get a video projector from here and a DVD from there, it doesn't necessarily mean there's always compatibility and video is problematic. It's high data rate and it demands a lot of the equipment sometimes. VHS tape is quite stable but it's crap and who wants to use it anyway? There's always gaps in any process. Video should have an in-built patience factor.

Emil Goh
It's no different from walking into a gallery and seeing a reflection you don't want to see in a framed photograph. Or looking at a sculpture in a park and the light's wrong. It's no different. One must look at the big picture. In a way, video art is no different from any other art form. It suffers its own brilliant moments and its own range of disadvantages.

Audience
When people are viewing video art as they might do cinema or television, it frustrates them...

Emil Goh
...which is understandable because you're relating to a situation in real life that is nearly always perfect but these video monitors are on 8 hours a day, day in day out and the bulbs blow and after 1000 hours the bulb goes darker, the colours go funny and your video has quite a different look to it.

Audience
And I quite like the way that influences the work.

Emil Goh
I'm glad you do!

Audience
Do you disguise it or do you include that technology in your work?

Brent Grayburn
You have to acknowledge it.

Audience
In some works it pays for these things to be acknowledged. In other works it's a distraction.

Rachel Kent
It's the responsibility of galleries and museums too. A lot of the time they take works on without investigating properly what the requirements are.

Audience
Just a question. What happens if there's a collaborative performance and one side of the technology goes down. I'm thinking of the Ross Gibson/Necks piece at the Studio this year. It had live music and 2 screens. One screen went dark and the producer came in and shut the whole performance down. The audience booed her and the musicians (The Necks) were furious. It was an improvised performance and they were at a peak.

Audience
That element of the-show-must-go-on applies to video artists just as much as it applies to other theatre.

Merilyn Fairskye
On the issue of equipment, in the last few years, I've noticed projectors seem to have done a quantum leap forward but nonetheless it's still possible to see one too many very grey and dull installations when you know it isn't what the artist intended. And I think too that things are projected too large a lot of the time. People want the video projector to be a 35 mm projector and it's not and sometimes filling the wall or going large as possible isn't the best thing for the work and yet there's this sense that somehow because the work's in a gallery, if it's not on a monitor or some independent screening structure, that you have to fill a whole wall or a whole room. Sometimes the work is visually stretched. I dread going into galleries with filmmaker friends when there's video on because I know in advance what they're going to say. But it's partly because the experience isn't rich enough visually because of things like equipment that could be fixed or the scale isn't right.

Rachel Kent
For galleries and museums, keeping pace with equipment is a nightmare. It's like constantly upgrading and then finding that nobody wants to work with video, they want DVD or domestic equipment...

Keith Gallasch
Despite the slightly depressive tone the conversation has taken, if you'd said to me a few years ago that video was going to have a boom I would have raised a question mark. The fact is that there are so many of you here and there have been some interesting sales of video work recently, that it's ubiquitous in many respects, that it's been taken up substantially by ACMI, and the new Queensland Art Gallery cinemathéque directed by Katherine Weir will be a major space for video. These are all very good signs and raise interesting questions about why it's happening. And also about the diversity of practice which we've discussed this evening. I just thought I'd inject a bit of happiness into the discussion.

Blair French
Absolutely. It's interesting that we're kind of at the end of a discussion of video and we're turning back to our horrors of technology.

END

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