« I was thinking about light and its relation to water and to life, and also its opposite – darkness or the night and death. I thought about how we have built entire cities of artificial light as refuge from the dark. »
Video treats light like water – it becomes a fluid on the video tube.
Water supports the fish like light supports man. Land is the death of the fish. Darkness is the death of man. »
Bill Viola, 1981
Hatsu-Yume (First Dream) is Bill Viola’s masterpiece, the greatest work by one of the most important video artists in the world. A spiritual allegory equating light and dark with life and death. Hatsu-Yume was produced in Japan in 1981 while Viola was artist-in-residence at the Sony Corporation. The title refers to Japanese folklore, wherein things done on the first day of a new year are significant. But the tape is not to be taken literally as a dream. For Viola, it’s more like the aboriginal concept of dreamtime, the creation of the world. That’s why, as a whole and in its parts, Hatsu-Yume progresses from darkness to light, stillness to motion, silence to sound, simplicity to complexity, nature to civilization. There are two interwoven themes: the dark water world of fish, and Buddhist rituals invoking the souls of dead ancestors. As in a dream, we frequently can’t tell if these wordless streams of image and sound are unfolding in real time, slow-motion or time-lapse. A work of extravagant pictorial beauty, Hatsu-Yume represents the most painterly use of light in the history of video. Form is content: the light that lures fish to their death protects human life. At once ominous, majestic, mystical and deeply spiritual, Hatsu-Yume is the work of a visionary poet of image and sound. Continue reading
Pictures at an Exhibition by Chris Marker. Its title, like Sans Soleil, is taken from a piece by Modest Mussorgsky. Continue reading
FILM; A Pioneering Dialogue Between Actress and Image
By J. HOBERMAN
ANDY WARHOL has so become his own trademark — and is so much a one-name synonym for the culture of celebrity — that it can be a shock to realize just how brilliantly original he was as a visual artist. A case in point: The double-screen video-based film installation ”Outer and Inner Space” at the Whitney Museum (through Nov. 30), which places his glamorous, doomed superstar Edie Sedgwick in a dialogue with her own video-taped image.
First shown in 1966 and largely forgotten for some 30 years thereafter, ”Outer and Inner Space” is a historical anomaly — a masterpiece of video art made before the term even existed. The piece meditates on the distinction between film and tape while introducing the issues of real-time recording and simultaneous feedback that would inform much video art from the 1970’s on. For the Whitney adjunct curator, Callie Angell, ” ‘Outer and Inner Space” ”creates this classic background for video art that it didn’t know it had.” Continue reading
Marcel Broodthaers (January 28, 1924 – January 28, 1976) was a Belgian poet, filmmaker and artist with a highly literate and often witty approach to creating art works.
He was born in Brussels, Belgium, where he was associated with the Groupe Surréaliste-revolutionaire from 1945 and dabbled in journalism, film, and poetry. After spending 20 years in poverty as a struggling poet, he performed the symbolic act of embedding fifty unsold copies of his book of poems Pense-Bête in plaster, creating his first art object. That same year, 1964, for his first exhibition, he wrote a famous preface for the exhibition catalogue; Continue reading
Between 1957 and his death in 1976, Marcel Broodthaers made approximately fifty films. The exact number is difficult to determine: Several no longer exist; some are multipart “programs” assembled from groups of short films (many appropriated from industrial or otherwise “authorless” sources); and others are subtle variations on previous works. A recent exhibition at pioneering curator and collector Thomas Solomon’s new gallery, Solo Projects, paired a 16-mm silent film, Un Voyage en Mer du Nord (A Voyage on the North Sea), 1973-74, with a thirty-eight-page, French-bound book that shares its title and ostensible subject matter: the pairing of a late-nineteenth-century amateur painting of an archetypal European ship and a twentieth-century photograph of a pleasure boat against a modern urban backdrop. The roughly four-minute film is projected on a retractable home-movie screen–a Broodthaers motif–and the book displayed on a simple wooden shelf, lit by a single spotlight. Continue reading
Habit is an autobiographical documentary that follows the current history of the AIDS epidemic along dual trajectories: the efforts of South Africa’s leading AIDS activist group, the Treatment Action Campaign, struggling to gain access to AIDS drugs and the daily routine of the videomaker, a veteran AIDS activist in the U.S. who has been living with AIDS for more than ten years. The videomaker moves through his day, attending to mundane errands, eating, taking pills, having conversations with friends (some of whom have diseases such as AIDS and Breast Cancer, and others of whom are healthy), as recurring memories of a recent trip to South Africa interrupt the routine. Habit presents a rigorous working-through of ideas concerning privilege, ethics, responsibility, futility, solidarity, hope, and struggle. Continue reading
Amsterdam-based photographer and video artist Fiona Tan (born 1966) has been a central figure on the contemporary art scene since the 1990s. In her video News from the Near Future (2003) a collage of historic film and audio material tells of man’s ambivalent relationship with water as a force of nature. Drawing on the archives of the Amsterdam Film Museum, Tan composed a narrative crescendo starting off with idyllic impressions of the watery world and building to increasingly menacing scenarios of an unleashed nature. Images of floods and churning seas, of wild winds and storms, parade before our eyes the destructive force of water. Tragedies at sea are reported in the style of old newsreels or radio shows, segueing into pictures of flooded cities that – as indicated in the work’s title – forebode future catastrophes. The cinematic repertoire of waves, tides and floods acts as an historical memory, presenting the sea as a metaphor for the flow of time. Continue reading