Monday, 7 April 2014

The Alter Bahnhof Video Walk + special bonus thoughts.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, 2012

(more info on the work here)

Simply the best example of combining video with physicality that I have ever seen. 

The big problem with video as a medium is that people treat it as a linear, "from A to B" medium, as opposed to a single property or object (this is why people get bored watching video art: they always expect something to 'happen'). The idea of video having these limitations –its temporal nature– is something that I have previously experimented with as a concept when making work. My research and work then evolved into me making large, immersive installations–one of which concluded my 2011 honours year. 

I still found that I had limitations though, in that I still had to work with and inside the gallery space itself. It's not the size that was a problem though: an artwork who's fundamental proposition is immersivity is going to lose part of that very function within the context of the gallery, as the gallery is a safe, predictable, and a (literally) measured space. Due to this (and other political reasons pertaining to the commodification of galleries) I toyed with the idea of making artworks in public spaces. I instantly had imagined that they would be ephemeral in nature, for two reasons: firstly, I was never planning on de-installing the works, so they would be made in a way that would be easy for the council/scavangers/whomever to take away. It is an idea of pragmatism, and one that highlights the second reason: the idea that I wouldn't control the artworks life-span (as it is controlled by the aforementioned folk who would eventually take it away) is a romantic notion that I very much like for reasons I haven't quite figured out how to put into words yet. There's something about having less control that I like–it's an idea that supports my dislike for using gallery spaces, as there's too much pre-defined control in the physicality of the space, and in the set duration of an exhibition. 

An old teacher of mine, Amande In, also shared these thoughts in dismissing these frameworks of restriction, and presented an excellent piece in her flat in Paris (she turned her flat into a gallery): it was a sound-piece (of a beating heart) that was played from behind one of the walls in her house. One day, there was a power outage in Paris, and it killed the work. As she told me: that was the end of the work; the lifespan of it was not chosen by her, but rather it ended 'naturally' so to speak. Wonderful! It's an example of pushing the boundaries of art, and with what people expect. There is a level of uncertainty in the work without these parameters, which adds a level of excitement and intrigue to it. This brings me back the Alter Bahnhof Walk: it doesn't rely on the safety of the gallery space in its execution, AND it relies on the temporality of the video in its function! Bravo in overcoming these hurdles in using video. I suppose though, the concept of time will always be an additional element to any video work, and it's only when it's ignored does it become a problem. Anyway, Alter Bahnhof Walk is the logical next-step of what I was trying to achieve: adding physical properties to video to, in turn, give it objecthood. It's just that I was limited in these physical boundaries, as mentioned above, and this work make me think "Of course!". Public space is the ultimate physical tool, and is wildly unpredictable.