I've been away for a while with part of the time spent overseas visiting the Venice biennale. I had a week to absorb as much art as I could fit into eight hour days of observing. Even with a whole week of solid viewing I didn't see everything there was on offer in Venice....can't complain though it was amazing....for an art lover at least.
I thought where else to begin a little wrap up of what I saw than with video art, in a sense the epitome of contemporary art now. Video art requires a commitment from the viewer, it generally cannot be surmised in a minute or two, rather it requires to be watched through. Without this commitment you could miss the whole point/ story/ connection of the work, as I did with my first passing view of the Greek pavilion (where "History Zero" by Stefanos Tsivopoulos is on show). Thankfully I returned and watched the three part series in full, realising the connecting human relationships within the three apparently random scenes. There were videos where I left thinking - well I'm never going to get that time back in my life again, fortunately these times were few, with the positives far outweighing the let downs.
My favourite video work was "Grosse Fatigue" 2013 by French artist Camille Henrot, at the arsenale. The multi layered, almost collaged imagery of multiple simultaneous computer screen visuals represented for me the multiple worlds we occupy today, with virtual and reality spheres interweaving. Here's a link to the artist talking about her work (in French) and clips of her video on youtube.
Stan Van Der Beek, an artist who lived in New York (1927 - 1984). He envisioned a project - the 'Movie - Drome' in 1965, which was not realised in his life time. This work is very much a collage of movie image and quite entrancing to watch as it filled my whole peripheral vision.
Kan Xuan created the work "Millet Mounds" 2012, a 171 channel video installation. Viewing this work felt like complete visual overload initially. The 171 videos flash through images simultaneously, documenting every known imperial tomb in China. Using a stop motion technique that involves stitching together hundreds of individual still photographs. I found it an exercise in focus and being still as each screen revealed a semi-travelogue effect of each site visited. The work was interesting and revealing in it's imagery, I could have easily spent hours working through the screens....but there's a lot to see!
ORLAN, titled "The freedom and two skinned-bodies" 2103 involved less of the flash through imagery of some works, rather is had a subtle metamorphose of imagery, x-ray like in some effect, where the visuals of head and face transformed through several partly layered phases. I liked the strong contrast and visual effects. This was part of a collateral event - 'The metamorphoses of the virtual - 100 years of art and freedom' curated by Roberta Semeraro.
Other video works that stand out in my mind/memory are those of Richard Mosse, representing the Pavilion of Ireland with his multi screen piece 'The Enclave'. It was difficult to watch at times, I had that question in my head - am I watching it because it's like a car crash? The work features civil war in Eastern Congo with in depth scenes of refugee camps, conflict and death; all recorded in the psychedelic colour of infrared film.
And a piece titled 'Da Vinci' 2012 by Yuri Ancarani, which is not related to the famous artist, rather it features shots inside a hospital room equipped with cutting-edge technology, with the brand name of the surgical robot being the title of the video. You need a strength of stomach to watch this - fascinating, for me at least - video which incorporates the footage from internal body cameras working with the robot surgery equipment during surgery. Don't read any more if you are squeamish. In other words you can see a void of internal organs inside the body and then watch as a scalpel blade punctures through the tissue/organ wall to enter the cavity....and so it continues...curiosity got the better of me and I was engrossed.
These two video works left me pondering when does film/documentary become art?
One of the things I now reflect on really enjoying at the biennale is that it combines work from earlier artists with that of contemporaries, creating wonderful relations and connections across time. This occurred in various media throughout the exhibitions.
I'll post a couple more selections from the biennale shortly.