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 McCall.  

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 of sound.

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.  

Carol Goss
Artistic Director

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 and

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