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Video lite

Gail Priest

With the expansion of its exhibition aspect, including the curatorial pursuit of mobile media, the ‘traditional’ screening component of d>Art.05 was a little more modest than usual, consisting of one program drawn from an open call for works and d>Art RE:Mixed, a compilation from 1998-2004. Screened back to back, the 2 programs provided a compact reality check as to how both video has and has not developed over the last 8 years.

The 2005 selection featured works by emerging and established Australian artists exploring some of the territories we have come to expect from video art—recontextualising the personal/domestic, impressionist manipulations of landscape, fetishes for textural detail, and computer generated virtualities.

A Little Confession (Jeanette Purkis) is a simple work made more powerful by the juxtaposition of image and audio. A series of blurry childhood photos play as a verité voiceover admits to misdemeanours. None of them are earth shattering—wishing people dead, ignoring girlfriends, hating siblings—but it is the accumulation and the tone of delivery, almost apologetic yet still defiant, which builds a clear picture of the narrator and the frailty of her ego. The quaint Quiff (James Hancock) explores a more body-based domestic perspective as an unruly shock of hair takes on a life of its. It is a well executed whimsical piece of stop-motion animation reminiscent of Tehching Hsieh, One Year Performance: Time Piece (Taiwan, d>Art.03), without the hardcore conceptual restraints (Hsieh shaves his head and then has a photo taken on the hour, every hour for a year).

Removed (Hobart Hughes) also employs stop motion animation to depict a shadow which can affect solid objects, developing an increasingly malevolent personality. Technically strong, the obsession with the detail of dust and detritus of an abandoned plot of land allows the work to walk the fine line between abstraction and narrative, although narrative eventually wins. I Was Made For Loving You (Ian Haig) repurposes the creations from his Futurotica installation (2003-2005). Sex toy hybrid monsters pulsate and vibrate with animated motion lines and cartoon exclamations to the pumping cheesy dance track by Nat Bates. Cycling through the catalogue of novelties, the pace increases until the inevitable climax.

Fantasies are also explored in Oggymooton (Bradley Lovett)—a 3D tour of “a town just out of Dakota.” Oggymooton is into signage offering all the wonders of the modern city—Soda Bubble Sellers, The Jail for Evil Ponies, The Tunnel to Dog Heaven. Oggymooton almost makes a point, but doesn’t quite take it to the next level. No Man’s Land (Adam Costenoble) offers a more interesting use of 3D animation, using a game style panning background over which he has placed a figure—himself. Utilising the gestural language of gaming the fragmented figure jumps, leaps, lies down and squirms in jagged edits—a body not quite under its own control and eventually consumed as the pan across the landscape reverses and the screen is colonised by viral static. Though the reverse structure feels formulaic the recontextualising of the gaming style for existential exploration is bold and rewarding.
Somewhere In Between Version 2 (Tina Gonsalves; sound Takeko Akamutsu) develops subtly from recognisable landscape to impressionistic swathes of shifting texture. Eventually we see a hand on the edge of the screen caressing a piece of fabric overlaying the landscape implying an external manipulation of this dreamy territory. Also dealing with landscape was Who Falls...Was (Ryszard Dabek)—a slow pan shot from a train, a video art cliché difficult to transcend.

Retrocognition in Blue by Glen Stewart explores a classic painting viewed through a beaker of water, distorting and abstracting the image. There is an appealing simplicity about this very analogue way of creating filters and effects and the soundtrack, made from the ambient noise of a people in a gallery, also creates a lo-fi appeal. However the work doesn’t quite know where to go in its 6.40 minutes.

Ada Henskens’ Black Stream was the most intriguing work of this collection. Pulsing, writhing tendrils spew out from the centre of the screen with complete ambiguity. What is it? What is it made of? Is it real or computer generated? is there any pattern to the flux and flow? The texture is intense, and the extreme viscerality is utterly engaging—particularly considering there is no accompanying sound. Once again, however, the structural device of reversing the flow is shakey.

L.A. (Khaled Sabsabi) is predominantly sound. An obscure snippet of drawling and manipulated voiceover talks about conventionality—“it’s not their way, it’s our way...there is no in between”—accompanied by minimal video, a dull gloaming at the bottom of the screen. A cheeky way to enter a sound work in a video screening? Force of Horse (Video Diabolico) was equally brief—footage of a horse’s mouth and lolloping gallop are glitchily looped defying any attempt at meaning. A twisted exclamation mark to the end of the 2005 collection.
By its very nature, the ‘best of’ selection d>Art: Re-Mixed is going to have more hits than the 2005 selection: Rapt (Justine Cooper,1998), Cheap Blonde (Janet Merewether, 1998), Fall from Matavai (Denis Beaubois, 2004) and the breathtaking Belgian film Building (Anouk de Clerq, Joris Cool & Anton Aeki, 2003). This compilation confirmed my ambivalence about the d>Art.05 Screen collection—with few exceptions a lightness of content and structure prevailed, revelling in the quaint, whimsical and ironic. Just because linear narrative has been thrown out does not mean that conceptual underpinning, structural development and momentum should be expelled as well. dLux’s annual d>Art program is a good gauge of contemporary practice—hopefully d>Art 2006 will show us that some weight and seriousness has returned to the form.

D>art05 Screen and RE.mixed, Chauvel Cinema, Sydney, Aug 31

RealTime issue #69 Oct-Nov 2005 pg. 25

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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