Magazine article Artforum International

Joao Onofre: 1-20. (New York)

Magazine article Artforum International

Joao Onofre: 1-20. (New York)

Article excerpt

Now that video art has evolved (or degenerated) to the point that it simulates the slickness of television or film, it's sometimes difficult to remember that video started out as an "alternative" medium--a means of creating art that would employ mass-media technology while standing apart from its machinations. Many early video projects were performance based, featuring artists whose appearance and delivery were strictly unprofessional: deadpan, stiff, unactorly (think of Martha Rosler's feminist kitchen tutorials, Joan Jonas's body-centered videos, or Bruce Nauman's water stunts). Although early video art has often been criticized for being "boring," its strong links to other practices like performance often kept it grounded, focused on visual ideas that can't get lost on the cutting-room floor.

In many ways, the work of Portuguese artist Joao Onofre recalls the dawn of video. Like his precursors, Onofre isn't obsessed with the slickness of his product. His videos are in color, but they have a grainy roughness reminiscent of footage from an early-'70s Sony Portapak. They are also performance based. But rather than focus on the actions of an individual, as most early practitioners did (generally performing themselves), Onofre explores the subtleties and dynamics of group behavior.

In both works here, a number of people set about a singular task. For Casting, 2000, Onofre assembled a group of young Lisbon models and asked them to step before the camera one at a time and recite a line from the 1949 Roberto Rossellini film Stromboli ("Che io abbia la forza, la convinzione, e il coraggio" [that I would have the strength, the conviction, the courage]), spoken by Ingrid Bergman's character as she walks across a live volcano. …

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