Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Video Distribution and Meaning: Panel Discussion @ Momenta, this Sunday, April 1

This is not an April Fool's set-up, I promise.

Please join artists Janet Biggs, Amber Hawk Swanson, Leslie Thornton and me for a panel discussion that brings to a close the 2012 edition of Momenta Art's influential Annual Video Series. This Sunday, April 1, at Momenta Art's (relatively) new location, 56 Bogart Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn. (Quite literally, right outside the Morgan Avenue entrance on the L train.)

Momenta has exhibited over 80 artists who make video since 1991, many of whom were virtually unknown at the time but who have gone on to very prominent careers (including Janet Biggs, Omer Fast, Rico Gatson, Laurel Nakadate, and Michael Smith, just to name a few).

The topic of our discussion is one I've been quite obsessed with for the past few years: video distribution and its formal impact on meaning, the steady growth of video as a collectible item, and how the mode of distribution affects the perception of the work.

Few fine art media still enjoy as much passionate (i.e., heated and at times downright explosive) debate over "meaning" as does video. Partly, this is because the early history of video as an art form is still being written, and those with a stake in that understand what it will mean to be left out and are rightly refusing to do so quietly. Partly, though, it's because the landscape of video technology and distribution is shifting so rapidly, and The Early History will rely on agreed vocabularies and other components of "meaning" before it can be signed off on.

Moreover, and complicating the issues almost beyond any hope of quick resolution is the backdrop in which all artists (indeed all humans) continue to wrestle with whether to embrace or reject "technology" as a component of or barrier to a worthwhile (dare we say, spiritual) human experience.

Because it's so much more accessible and affordable, more and more contemporary artists (even those whose main practice is painting or sculpture or what-have-you) are creating moving-image-based works than ever before. It's not quite there yet, but it's quickly becoming simply another accepted mode of expression, and that may eventually neutralize some of the largest questions about "meaning" in my humble opinion. But the question of distribution is not likely to be simplified any time soon, so how distribution is connected to meaning remains a wide open topic.

For example, back when Nam June Paik was quite literally playing the TV (video mixing, live, on air at WGBH), part of the meaning of such works was found in their immediacy and improvisational nature. Watching it at home (something I missed) must have been amazing: anything might appear on your TV set, there was no editing before you received the sound and images, happy accidents were yours to enjoy as were any clumsy moments yours to cringe at.

What does it mean that today you can watch recordings of some of these experiments? I'm happy they've been preserved, but (like listening to an album of a live performance) while watching them you're always somehow reminded that you're not really "there." And other questions keep occurring to me, lessening my experience: Is this the whole piece, or has some of it been lost? What about the advances in video technology? I have an HD TV (something no one watched Paik's original performance on at home). Has that altered the work significantly, as I watch it?

And there are significant political questioned intertwined with distribution and its connection to meaning. Many of the earliest creators of art video were making a statement by using an infinitely reproducible medium that was chosen specifically because it was seen as more democratic than the rarefied art objects that had become so commodified. Some of these artists (or the keepers of their estates) later on editioned that same work in order to appeal to the market. This helped preserve the work, so it's not as if it were all bad, but it most definitely altered the artist's original intentions/meaning.

These are but a few of the topics we'll discuss this Sunday (others include the meaning of putting one's video art up on YouTube, etc., the meaning of distributing recordings of live performances as the "art" itself, and so on).

Please feel free to add questions you may wish to be added to the list, and please come to the discussion if you can.

Momenta Art
Video Distribution and its Connection to Meaning
Janet Biggs, Amber Hawk Swanson, and Leslie Thornton
Panel discussion moderated by Edward Winkleman
Sunday, April 1 at 5 pm.

56 Bogart Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn

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4 Comments:

Anonymous zipthwung said...

"How does meaning help sell art?"

"Does art change meaning with context or just lose/gain the audience?"

"What is the right audience?"


Maybe I'll drop by and dance a jig. Or not.

3/29/2012 01:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First and foremost The Art has to mesmerize, engulf, devour, kick fucking ass. Grab me by the throat. I will figure out the meaning on my own in due time. What the artist says it is and what I think it is could be two different things. anything goes.

3/30/2012 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Ju Blau said...

Hello Edward,

I wish I could come to the panel discussion. If, by any chance, is easy for you to record and upload it please (please!) do. I'm curious about video art, especially from the gallery point of view, a matter rarely discussed.

So, 2 questions. First, how would you iniciate painting/ sculptures/ more traditional midia collectors to collect video?

Second, what features do you look for in the video pieces. What calls your attention, as a gallerist?

Thank you,

Juliana

4/01/2012 01:37:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

Most video art is just watching TV standing up.

Put more chairs in and you go from gallery to theater in the blink of an eye.

I'm waiting for more fridges and snacks myself.

4/03/2012 07:26:00 AM  

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