Video Art Fair:
Video art, in stark contrast to the busy bazaar atmosphere of your typical art fair, takes time. It's the art-world version of slow food. Famously gnomic in its early days (and frequently tedious today), video art often is recommended best by its seating.
But New York art dealer Ed Winkleman was having none of that for Moving Image, Mar. 3-6, 2011, the new art fair of contemporary video art he organized at the Tunnel space in Chelsea. Only single stools (and one set of earphones) were provided for each monitor in this show of works by 35 artists, who included Genesis P-Orridge, Miranda Lichtenstein, Miguel Angel Rios, Michal Rovner, Amparo Sard, Carolee Schneemann, Hannah Wilke and David Wojnarowicz, to name only the most celebrated.
No seating was needed for several video installations placed near the 11th Avenue entry to the vast, vaulted, brick-walled space. Trans Siberian Amazons (2005), by the Kyrgyz husband-and-wife team Gulmara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev, lured visitors into the fair with a three-channel video playing on monitors set within a heaping pile of about six-dozen, stuffed-full, red and blue plaid Chinese shopping bags. The central screen shows a woman truck driver with glittering, sad eyes and bright red hair, singing a mournful folk ballad. On the flanking monitors is an endless trip by train through the empty countryside, as if to suggest a mythic journey with no apparent beginning and no foreseeable end.
Nearby is Jim Campbell’s Exploded View, a technically baffling freehanging LED display that somehow reflects the “shadows” of passersby via its twinkling lights, a work that he debuted in different form in Madison Square Park last fall. †
Also on hand is Carolee Schneemann’s provocative War Mop (1983), a small kinetic TV-object that plays footage of Arab villages destroyed by Israeli attacks while a motorized apparatus -- curiously made from curvy, clear Plexiglas -- raises a kitchen mop and drops it every eight seconds onto the top of the monitor, sounding “like a rifle reloading.” Are the transparent and sensuous curves of the mop machine meant as a feminine foil to the violence pictured on the screen?
Among the individual videos, Shana Moulton’s The Galactic Pot Healer (2010) was especially alluring with its kaleidoscopic colors and impeccable sets furnished with an array of eccentric props. Moulton herself stars in a wacky narrative as a suburban housewife with TV-mystical leanings.
Dressed theatrically in glowing blue velvet with chartreuse eye shadow and pink lipstick, Moulton downs a variety of patent medicines -- milk of magnesium in its cobalt jar, CVS brand Pepto-Bismol -- and reads the airline magazine Sky Mall in her living room. Surrounded by a collection of porcelain pots and figurines, she accidentally knocks a sea-green bowl to the floor, shattering it into a hundred pieces.
Before we know it, Moulton has entered a world of infomercials, in which messages about “galacticpothealer.com” appear in a spilled pink puddle of antacid, highlighted by a stray squirt of toothpaste. The Galactic Pot Healer herself appears, a headless figure in a wide fuscia robe with elegant, gloved hands, and she magically sculpts a brand new, identical pot out of Moulton’s back. Needless to say, all live happily ever after.
On a screen across the room is Glen Fogel’s Quarry (2008), a single-channel vid that played at the Kitchen a few years ago. Using an eerie scene from the sensationalistic crime show Law and Order: Special Victims Unit -- it involves a pedophile sniffing the caps of his victims --Fogel slows down and re-enacts the already manipulative footage, both heightening the drama and making it even more awkward and ridiculous. †
In the end, Moving Image was less like an art fair -- where were the dealers? were the works for sale? -- and more like a video art show. Nothing the matter with that. For some people (my editor?), it just renews a long-held wish for “Video Art TV,” a public access show with a nice-looking host to introduce the more interesting vids to a home audience, comfortably set up in their very own living rooms.