Video Art. It is difficult to define without resorting to high-minded example-mining, usually resulting in an excess of information with a defined lack of engagement with the material itself. I can't tell you how many 'documentaries' claim to expose a field of art by merely presenting clips they've mined from the bowels of YouTube or Vimeo. It's a tiresome methodology. When we are presented with an illustrative piece such as Robert Combinus' A Dad it brings an impressive sense of accomplishment to the work, and to the definitions being presented.
It is in this tradition that Andre Callot's It's Video Art was created, and within in, Callot himself has created three miniature works to give life to his points of definition. In doing so, he has forced the viewer, or at least this viewer, to hold two different views of the work - the first as a documentary, and the second as an individual work of art within it. As I've tackled the first part over on Klaus at Gunpoint, I will expose my thinking on the latter here.
The first thing that is obvious to me is the structure of the work. Callot's chosen to go the direction of Kevin B. Lee in Interface 2.0 and make an example piece instead of a straight documentary piece. Where Lee used editing interface examples to demonstrate the techniques involved in editing, Callot uses video art segments, created specifically for the piece, to provide the examples of video art. In this, he is forcing the viewer back in on themselves. We must be aware that we are seeing examples of video art, and that they are real, actual pieces of video art, not merely references to such. Through this, he has drawn us in deeper to these works. The first work is illustrative of performance video art, the kind of thing you might see from Marina Abromovic or Yoko Ono. It actually reminded me somewhat of Niki Murphy's Hourglass. The way he throws himself into what appears to be a painful process of powdering himself and then activating that powder, is a work that truly impresses, The work seems to be making a statement about the process of creating performance art itself - that to bring about a real change in the state of the work, and thus the viewer of the work, the artist must put themselves through a process that is active, leads to an identifiable degree of change, and most of all, is at least reacted to as if it is painful by the artist themselves.
The section on Abstract video art was less compelling as a work in and of itself, but at the same time, was not over-powering to the entirety of the piece, and it actually elevated the work by giving a few that was not outside the realm of a work that could be seen in a gallery. Perhaps it is the brevity of it that took me aback when I looked at it on its own. Again, pieces like Jemery Blake's Winchester or Century 21, are both of the flavor that steeps and then soaks, though perhaps both rather belong to the Appropriation side of things (and the blurring of lines between abstraction and appropriation is a significant point). The Appropriation segment is fascinating in that it is not exactly what I would have thought of. I am more used to the use of existing imagery to create either a new video-driven narrative, or to strip narrative meaning and recontextualize the imagery. The addition technique he used was actually at least vaguely similar, though in a much more figurative, direction than Blake's additions in Century 21, but at the same time, it is also partly a performance piece, and thus, that blurred line is again, blurred.
As an individual work, this is incredibly well-done, a post-modernist's view of both modernist and post-modernist material within the context of a medium that is both specifically defined, while at the same time, so broad as to make individual definitions almost meaningless. I liked this as a work in and of itself, and the individual works presented within as being worthy of consideration outside of the work, which is a difficult line to maintain.
Christopher J Garcia - Curator, Fan Writer, Podcaster, and a guy who just loves art.