the 10th Annual NOT STILL ART Festival
On the pulse of the planet, the 10th Annual NOT STILL ART Festival includes
video art from New Zealand, Germany, UK, Austria, Sweden, Canada, and in
the US from California, Colorado, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Tennessee and New York.
Life, death and war preoccupy the artists this year. These themes permeate
abstract and non-narrative work alike. In this review, I will first
address the representational work and then turn to the abstract.
In the first half of the program normalcy and routine convey stability and
sanity. The geometric shapes of urban architecture in Yuming Zhao's "City
Symbols" are familiar and yet not quite comforting. We are reminded
that even cement and steel can be fragile. Urban life is playfully dissected,
with both image and electronic music, in David Bates Jr.'s "Opus 3."
"Pendulum" by Jon Shumway displays the repetition of life in a video and
audio montage. Bob Mataranglo mixes film from his childhood with animated
clip art from the 1950s in "Home Movies." In all these pieces the mundane
affirms our existence and humanity. Audri Phillips' "The Theory of
Light, Chapter One," articulates and extends this theme. With the musical
collaboration of John and Peter Adamczyk, Chopin and Merek, plus others,
she weaves an intellectual and emotional tapestry, which delves into the
meaning of life and death with art seen as a source of life. Without
being didactic, and staying within a non-narrative form she presents us with
her father's mortality, the immortality of his spirit, and his gift to her
of aesthetic ecstasy.
Art in wartime is the self-selected theme of the second half of the screening.
Whether abstract or highly representational, an ominous tone prevails.
Brit Bunkley's 3D "Vignettes of War and Business" juxtaposes the culture
of greed with the possibility of extinction, while implying that paranoia
plays a role in both. In Andrew Greaves' 3D "WG (War Games)" we are positioned
in the midst of an abstract battle, falling slowly through terrainless space.
The insidious inevitability of the movement, along with Ian Willcock's sound,
reminds us that war extinguishes terra firma for us all. Angela Veomett
conjures the death of a friend in order to reconstitute the emotional impact
of 9/11. We are struck by the profanity of death when, in Veomett's
"I Went to Bed," we see the text 'a hole in my stomach, as big as a grave.'
Using archival images "Death in the Details," by Robert Waldeck, demonstrates
that the turmoil and injustice of war is not limited to one time and place,
whether it's North American Indians, the frontline of WWI or outer space.
Then a jolting, isolated act of violence, edited from appropriated TV news,
followed by clapping Congressional suits, shocks and rivets us in Larry Wang's
"He's Done: Execution in Falluja." Finally, the futility of war is
made real by the scratching, scraping, clutching, groping of a single hand
in "die Wand" by Brigitta Bodenauer, Didi Bruckmayr with Michael Strohmann's
music/sound design. The cleansing ritual of Kyra Garrigue's "Birthing,"
reverses our emotions with the silent movement of ink slowly receding into
a splayed book. Like the shifting of tectonic plates, history moves
forward then backward without distinction - an erasure.
The abstract work, in both sections of the screening, at times extends or
alleviates the tension of the life-death-war themes. In "After Brakhage"
Michael Theodore electronically 'paints' for us, as if in oils, and we see
the thick impasto of the pigment slide across the screen like a living organism.
Gerhard Mantz's 3D "Labyrinth No. 112" has us drift through a constantly
changing maze of self-renewing geometry. "nx_fx_tst100," Bill Etra's
wire frame self portrait, is made with technology that he co-invented decades
ago. However, the deconstruction and spasmodic gyrations of his head
(and that of his unrecognizable ferret) convey a distinctly contemporary
cyber-sensibility - we also share with him the thrill of first-time discovery
in analog video synthesis.
"Stains and Sparkles" is abstract, but not for those of us that remember
analog video noise and artifacts. Paula Cronon and Juliana Snapper
have created a nostalgic piece of video noise, which elevates the rolling
raster to operatic status by way of a humorous soundtrack, which Snapper
has constructed from serious vocal music. While "Stains and Sparkles" plays
with actual electronic analog particles, "Second Sight" conceptualizes particles,
blobs and splatters. Their rapid and arbitrary movement persuades us
of their autonomy, though we are only too aware of their computer-generated
origin, contrived by animators Stephanie Maxwell and Peter Byrne. Likewise,
Allan Schindler's music convinces us of its acoustic source, though in fact
it is electronically invented, not even sampled.
Dennis Miller's "Cross Contours" walks the thin line between almost representational
botanic images and the life of code. This symphonic piece delights
with its forms and music, which transmute, evolve and surprise. Zach
Poff and n. b. aldrich provide a palette cleanser with "Movement and Reflection".
The extreme minimalism of defocused light play is attributed to dancer, Brendan
Finally, the serendipitous juxtaposition of Sachiko Hayashi's "Boop-oop-a-doop"
and Ralph Hocking's "Pool" provide us with a glimpse into the objectification,
manipulation and vulnerability of the female image. But that isn't
all. In Hocking's work the technology itself objectifies the content.
Sound from camera movement reinforces the idea that the 'object' of the camera
is subject to manipulation, not just psychologically, but also physically.
Video art is now both mature and diverse. It has always been an eclectic
medium. Arriving as it did in the late 1960s, early 1970s, at the onset
of Postmodernism, it was inevitable that the abstract analog video art produced
during these gestational years would be overlooked by the art world in general.
It is with a thirty-year remove that we now have artists revisiting the sensibility
and aesthetic of this early period. In the intervening years the advent
of digital imaging has expanded the tools for video artists plus attracted
animators from film to electronic modes, thence to video. Additionally,
musicians and sound artists have increasingly migrated to digital tools and
found the creation of images as natural in that environment as the creation
With the maturity of the art form comes a blurring of genres. In fact,
the terms "abstract" and "non-narrative" are often hard to define and can
appear self contradictory. Can referential images make an abstract
point? Can abstract images tell a narrative story? Yes.
It is impossible to define these terms to everyone's satisfaction.
And so, ultimately, the goal of Not Still Art is to screen work that is created
with electronic tools, which is not script driven, and which lives up to
the individual artists' highest expectations.
Curating the Not Still Art Festival each year for ten years has given me
the extraordinary opportunity to see the range of work being made internationally
and to witness the evolution of the video art form.
The festival is supported in part by the Experimental Television Center's
Presentation Funds program, which is supported by the New York State Council
on the Arts.
Special thanks to the Micro Museum in Brooklyn, NY and to in kind support
from telenet.net and improvart.com.
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