Fine Cut Critique

Music seems to be an integrated part of our lives. Whether we actively listen to music while playing or driving, or whether it is in the background at a party or used as a tool to help with studying, there is a song to fit our mood or desire. We resonate with specific lyrics and melodies, and we associate certain songs with objects or places. Why do we do this? My project intends to dissect the musical quality that these objects and spaces have obtained and let viewers assess the significance of songs and lyrics in relation to the objects and spaces in question.

Through my use of text in juxtaposition with silent visuals, I want my viewers to think about how music and lyrics affect a space. The plain, white text features fragments of song lyrics, intentionally vague so that the viewer will take time to contemplate the language instead of immediately recognizing the song. I also want the viewer to think about the significance of songs, why they influence us in the way that they do, and why certain phrases are relatable or relevant to ourselves. The length of each vignette varies like the different lengths of sentences in a well-written essay or poem, keeping the viewer visually interested. Each vignette shows an action with implied sound, leading the viewer to recall the sounds themselves and superimpose the sounds they think of over the visuals. There is no clear narrative, and the video runs on a loop, suggesting a cyclical timeline or the absence of time; these moments can occur at any time. Overall, I want to bring awareness to the ability of objects and spaces to possess musical qualities, and while these things and places may be personal to myself, I have abstracted them in a way that both the text and the visual can adapt to the viewer’s interpretation of the work.

Research Response #12

This week’s research response is also based on a classmate’s Artist Presentation, and I decided to look at Pilar’s blog. Pilar’s artist, Hannah Black, creates work that falls in line with our class’s focus on gender and the body. I viewed My Bodies (2014) and BODYBUILDING (2016).

In My Bodies, Black juxtaposes songs from black female artists, all singing the specific phrase “my body”, against textured close-up images of old white men. There is a clear allusion to the black females’ invisibility and lack of presence as they sing about their compliance to be sexualized by what is most likely white males. Partway through the video, the visual changes to scenes of caves with the artist’s writing placed over the images, which Pilar writes as being “reminiscent of a vagina or womb, and the walls resemble dark skin, subverting the emphasis on black female bodies by showing powerful geographical features, thus linking the black female body to femininity and spirituality, but in a way that the viewer cannot sexualize”. I viewed the work before reading Pilar’s response, and I was initially confused by this part in the video, but now it makes sense and I appreciate Black’s artistic choices that subtly overthrow traditional and unequal values.

In BODYBUILDING, Black explores the “objectification and commodification of human bodies”, juxtaposing buildings that emphasize the shapes they create with human bodies and the forms that they create as well. I didn’t realize at first that the figure at 1:37 was the back of a female figure, and I really enjoy how Black presented her in a way that does not focus on her gender. I think that Black is successful in bringing an awareness to individuals’ obsessions with having the “right type of body”, and by comparing this obsession to the rapid expansion of the construction massive buildings, Black alludes to a lost sense of a connection to what really matters. Following the latest trendy diet or workout routine in an attempt to achieve what society dictates to be an acceptable body shape is no different than urbanization, as humans are further distancing themselves from a more natural lifestyle.

Research Response #11

For this week’s research response, we were assigned to look at another classmate’s Artist Presentation. When I clicked on Kaylee’s presentation and saw references to Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas and the famous art historical scene, the Rape of the Sabine Women, I was immediately intrigued. I had recently studied both of these paintings in both of my art history classes, and I wanted to learn how Kaylee’s artist, Eve Sussman, dealt with the themes and concepts from these well-known paintings.

I watched both clips of Sussman’s 89 Seconds at Alcázar (2004) and The Rape of the Sabine Women (2007). With the first work, I found it fascinating to watch this imagined scene of what might have happened at the time Velázquez was creating Las Meninas. The narrative of the painting itself is complex, full of intersecting gazes and intricate compositional geometry. I think it’s interesting that Sussman chose to break down and reconstruct this narrative, adding new layers to the meaning of the painting.

While the clip for The Rape of the Sabine Women was only a trailer, I was able to glean a lot of information on what the video work is about. The video seems to be a 1960s-era remake of the famous Ancient Roman story. This story, which describes the beginning of the Roman empire, explains how the male founders of Rome captured and raped the women of a nearby territory in order to establish Roman successors. As Kaylee quotes, the work “pits mid-twentieth century ideals against the eternal themes of power, longing, and desire”. The video could be simultaneously commenting on social issues present in the 1960s as well as the time in which the video work was made, creating a unique criticism. The work harkens back to the Academic Style of painting in the 18th century, when Classical scenes of stories with morals and lessons were highly praised for challenging individuals’ intellect. While I am not sure how the video ends or what Sussman intended for viewers to understand from watching the video work, I feel that she is at least bringing awareness to relevant ethics and social issues.

Reading Response #6

In Christina Blümlinger’s article “The Art of the Possible: Notes About Some Installations by Harun Farocki, Blümlinger examines the concepts that separate video works created by “media artists” and those made by “film-makers”, particularly through the (then) recent works of video artist Harun Farocki (p. 273).

It is on the second page of the reading that Blümlinger makes her case, that “the difference between film and installation lies, in Farocki’s case, in the mode of representation defined by the spatial setting” (p. 275). She elaborates upon this idea by analyzing Farocki’s Eye/Machine (2001), a video work that was inspired by “images transmitted by unmanned American surveillance aircraft during the Gulf War” (p. 274). As Blümlinger notes, the two-channel work has been displayed in multiple different ways, and each installation setting offers a different experience and adds a new significance to the work. “The disposition of the images,” Blümlinger writes, “localizes the viewer in relation to the exhibition space as well, pulling him or her into a corner […] or holding him or her in place in front of a wall” (p. 276).

The argument that Blümlinger makes here is important for our class to keep in mind as we near the completion of our final projects. If the line between film and installation is grounded in how it is represented spatially, how are we dealing with that concept as we consider how our projects will be installed? What kinds of different installation methods are we considering, and how does that change the meaning of the work? How was Farocki’s Eye/Machine interpreted as a right-angle projection as opposed to a side-by-side projection?

Similarly, in “Video Installation Art: The Body, the Image, and the Space-in-Between”, author Margaret Morse asks questions such as, “What is a video installation? What are its means of expression? [and] How do these differ from the media per se and other arts?” (p. 153). Throughout the article, Morse scrutinizes and considers the fundamental elements of an installation. She explains what makes a video installation different from any other kind of artwork, and how that difference alters its interpretation. Morse writes:

“Thus, installation implies a kind of art that is ephemeral and never to be utterly severed from the subject, time, and place of its enunciation. […] While an installation can be diagrammed, photographed, videotaped, or described in language, its crucial element is ultimately missing from any such two-dimensional construction, that is, “the space-in-between,” or the actual construction of a passage for bodies or figures in space and time” (p. 154).

Morse’s argument is particularly interesting in relation to Blümlinger’s thoughts on Harun Farocki. Here, Morse is establishing that video art cannot be separated from its process, much like a painting can, and that the video installation must be observed in the space and time that it exists for the work to be understood in the same light as other artwork. How does this make sense in terms of Harun Farocki’s work? Do you think it’s more important to see a video installation in person, or can the same effects be simulated over the internet, or some place separate from an installation space? What is the significance that lies in Farocki’s installations of his works?

Research Response #10

This week, I decided to take a look at Andrea Wolf’s Self_Not (2011). I was immediately reminded of the first video exercise we did in class, and I also thought that such a personal subject would be helpful in my work as I continue with my own project.

In this self-titled “exercise”, Wolf engages with the concepts of the self and self portrayal. The video begins as a close up of the artist, who maintains a fairly constant gaze with the viewer. There is not a lot of action until about 1:17 into the piece, when the viewer’s comfort is disrupted by the realization that the screen is a projection on a wall, and the artist herself walks into the frame. She begins to paint with a thick brush over the large projection of her face in black paint, effectively blocking the image from view. The larger-than-life-size projection becomes a symbol of intimacy, the immense size of her portrait equal to the amount of effort and stress that comes with projecting oneself to the world – something Wolf has done literally here. Throughout the rest of the video, Wolf continues to paint black onto the surface upon which her image is projected, an attempt to hide herself or create anonymity, challenging the ideas of identity. Does it matter who she is? Her projected portrait is still partially visible on the black paint, possibly suggesting that there is still the remnants of a specific person whose identity is being obscured. Wolf’s shadow becomes an interesting aspect of the exercise as well; there is an interesting thought process to consider with the real artist’s shadow hovering over her projected self.

Overall, I really enjoyed this video. There are a lot of interesting layers to pick apart when analyzing its content, and I think Wolf presents a unique approach to conceptualizing the personal.

Artist Presentations: Diana Thater

Diana Thater is an American video artist born in 1962 in San Francisco, California and works in Los Angeles, California. In 1984, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Art History at New York University, and in 1990, she received her MFA at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Since then, she has produced many solo exhibitions, group exhibitions, screened and performed her works, and also curated exhibitions herself.

Thater’s Oo Fifi, Five Days in Claude Monet’s Garden (1992) chronicles her time in Giverny in the gardens that inspired the artwork of Claude Monet. As Thater says herself, she was not originally planning on making any artwork during her six-month stay that she was awarded from a grant application (1). However, she was asked to do a show at a gallery called 1301, and she decided to sample some footage from one day out of each month that she stayed in Giverny (2). The title came from a cat, Fifi, who would get in the way of Thater’s videos, and, according to Thater, there was no way of editing Fifi out of the work, so she kept the cat in the project (3). The video itself, which is projected onto the walls of the exhibition space, uses Lee Filters and separates the video into three-beam colored projectors: red, green, and blue (4). Thater describes the process of separating the video into the primary video colors in her second installation:

“I took my whole inventory of three projectors and put them on the floor of the gallery in a semicircle. On each projector, I turned on one lens, so each projected a single color – one red, one green, and one blue. In the first installation, I tried to take the image apart, so here I wanted to put that broken image back together”. (5)

Thater’s approach to the simple subject really interesting and innovative. Relating back to the beginning of our class, Thater is commenting on the early television and video styles, where the three colored channels, red, green, and blue, helped to create a composite, full-color image. The deconstruction and reconstruction of the image is an aspect only found in video art, and this changes how the viewer interprets and understands the piece. The gallery elaborates, writing that “the viewer is also made aware of their own presence and participation in the work, as their body interrupts the construction of the image”. (6)

In Broken Circle (1997), Thater takes advantage of the installation space, utilizing a 12th-century medieval tower to display six video projectors all over the interior. (7) In addition to the inside of the tower featuring the work, colored films were attached to the windows, providing an intriguing and enticing colorful arrangement. (8) The video itself features trained, performing horses on a ranch in California, and, as Peter Lunenfeld writes, “addresses both watching and being watched”. (9) Looking at the installation video and stills, it is impossible to see the work in its entirety. Broken Circle becomes another form of abstraction and deconstruction for Thater, and she calls her viewers to question what it means to observe a video. Author Poyin Auyoung elaborates that this work is Thater’s “attempt to demonstrate that the construction of meaning of visual images depends greatly on the physical relationship between the projected image and the site of its projection”, an interesting concept to consider. (10) In Broken Circle, as well as Oo Fifi, Thater is engaging with the notions of narratives. As viewers make their way up the tower, piecing together the story, they realize they need to assemble the timeline themselves. In Oo Fifi, Thater does not present a storyline at all, leaving the viewer to understand the work as they will, without clear instructions.

One of Thater’s more recent works, Between Science and Magic (2010), addresses the theme of “movie magic” and the interplay between the technical side of video art and the seemingly “magical” effects it produces. As seen in the installation views, the set-up is fairly simple. The room is devoid of any decoration, the plain walls providing a smooth canvas upon which the video is projected. The only other decoration in the room is an unorganized array of chairs for viewers to sit and watch the spectacle unfold before them. The two channel work features a pretty simple magic act – a man pulling a rabbit out of a hat. The video begins with the left channel showing a cameraman filming what is most likely the action being performed on the right channel; then, both channels show the action simultaneously. As the video progresses, the left side presents a slightly different point of view of the action as both channels continue to play synchronously. Then, elements such as the camera and the cameraman begin to reappear, adding to the disillusionment of the magician’s trick and confusion as to what is real, what is magical, and what is being constructed in the video. David Pagel of the LA Times explains that “Thater’s clinical dissection of movie magic speaks the language of analytic detachment to make a place for itself apart from the evils of commerce and risks of general accessibility. In the process, it pushes pleasure, surprise and insight out of the picture, never mind fun or comfort”. (11) The video ends in a mirrored reflection of the beginning, a different cameraman (most likely a woman, considering the haircut) on the right channel as the left channel features the magician at a different angle than when the video began. The surrounding frame of the stage, which is a part of the video, adds to the theatricality of the piece. Speaking to the dramatic elements of this work, Thater talks about what pulling a rabbit out of a hat actually means in the art world:

“The phrase ‘pulling a rabbit out of a hat’ is used when you need to do something that seems impossible […] but also, pulling a rabbit out of a hat seems to be the most apt metaphor for making a work of art, because it does the same thing an artwork does. You take an object like a top hat […] and you pull something entirely unrelated and surprising out of it”. (12)

Again, Thater works closely with the concepts of abstraction and narration. The narrative is very loose; it appears like a loop and is cyclical, with no real end. The physical separation of the act from itself through the two channels creates another layer of ambiguity, as well as the stage-like frame that adds distance from the viewer and can also be considered as another magical but unreal part of the video.

I found each one of Thater’s works to be really interesting. I believe that the way in which she works with abstraction and narration will be influential to my future artwork. I can already see my inspiration from her through the way in which I am planning to complete my final video project, with text physically separated from the visual part of my video. My work will also be very similar to Oo Fifi in which I will present a very non-linear narrative. I enjoyed having the opportunity to research an artist such as Diana Thater; her work is equally compelling and exciting.

 

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Diana Thater, Oo Fifi, Five Days in Claude Monet's Garden, at 13

Diana Thater, Oo Fifi, Five Days in Claude Monet's Garden, at 13

(above three) installation views of Oo Fifi, Five Days in Claude Monet’s Garden (1992 and 2012)

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B_Circle_Bottom_up

B_Circle_Top_down

(above three) installation views of Broken Circle (1997)

https://vimeo.com/68262391

(above) watch the installation video for Broken Circle

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(above) installation view of Between Science and Magic (2010)

https://vimeo.com/81963184#t=153s

(above) watch the installation video for Between Science and Magic

*once again, WordPress cannot show Chicago style footnotes. Here are the annotations:

(1) “Diana Thater,” in California Video: Artists and Histories, ed. Glenn Phillips (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2008), 231.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Ibid.

(6) “Diana Thater: Oo Fifi, Five Days in Claude Monet’s Garden, Part I and Part II, 1992,” 1301PE Gallery, accessed April 03, 2017, http://www.1301pe.com/exhibitions/detail.asp?EID=114.

(7) Poyin Auyoung, “Narration and Intervention,” Afterimage 25, no. 3 (1997): 16, accessed April 03, 2017, http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?sid=f3efba39-28e5-460a-bec7-bcd7d27bfdca%40sessionmgr4009&vid=0&hid=4101&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=9711162324&db=aph.

(8) Peter Lunenfeld, “Diana Thater: Constraint Decree,” in Snap to Grid: A User’s Guide to Digital Arts, Media, and Cultures (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2000), 138.

(9) Ibid.

(10) Poyin Auyoung, “Narration and Intervention,” Afterimage 25, no. 3 (1997): 16, accessed April 03, 2017, http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?sid=f3efba39-28e5-460a-bec7-bcd7d27bfdca%40sessionmgr4009&vid=0&hid=4101&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=9711162324&db=aph.

(11) David Pagel, “Art review: ‘Diana Thater: Between Science and Magic’ at the Santa Monica Museum of Art,” Los Angeles Times, last modified January 28, 2010, accessed April 03, 2017, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2010/01/art-review-diana-thater-between-science-and-magic-at-the-santa-monica-museum-of-art.html.

(12) “These Tricks Are Not Easy: A Conversation with Pernilla Holmes and Diana Thater,” in Diana Thater: Between Science and Magic, ed. Diana Thater (Santa Monica: Santa Monica Museum of Art, 2010), 14.

Rough Cut Critique

For my final video project, I’m engaging with the concepts that I plan to work with for my senior year, which includes the musicality of objects, people, and spaces. I have completed artwork in the past that deals with the curious poignancy of objects, and I really enjoyed that series, so I wanted to continue working in a similar mindset but with more specificity.

My final work will be a two-channel video, but the rough cut displays the two channels side-by-side in a single frame. The left channel features white text on a simple black background; the text comes from lyrics from songs that I think of in relation to the visual spaces and objects seen in the right channel. As of this critique, all of the lyrics come from male artists, which I think is really interesting. I think that could possibly be a commentary on how, as a female, I am influenced by male artists in music. There is no audio for this project. I want the viewers to take time analyzing the text alongside the visual, and I feel that any sound, especially the songs themselves, would be overwhelming or distracting. There are a lot of open-ended aspects to my work so far, but there isn’t any part of my project that hasn’t been considered. I will continue to refine my message as I maintain my concepts and ideas that I have developed so far.