Video Imagery Projects Restless Meditations; Hopper Inspires Film Two Exhibitions Make Vivid Contributions to the Fields of Film and Video Artistry

Article excerpt

Film and video are bursting out all over - not just on theater screens and TV sets, but in some of Manhattan's major museums, too.

Edward Hopper and the American Cinema, on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, examines the influences that crisscrossed between the great painter and motion pictures.

Video Spaces: Eight Installations fills a hefty portion of the Museum of Modern Art with room-sized works that explode ordinary notions of what video imagery can accomplish.

Not that video installations are new. Numerous artists, including some represented in the Museum of Modern Art show, have been probing the possibilities of physical space defined by video - in the way a sculpture defines the area around it - for years. What distinguishes this exhibition is the pungency, audacity, and high-impact originality of its best offerings, which reach out to the spectator with unusual directness.

The finest of these works are by Bill Viola and Chris Marker, two artists with long achievement records.

Viola (who is currently representing the United States at the Venice Biennale) has concocted an extravagant piece called "Slowly Turning Narrative." It fills a large room with a rotating screen that catches an ever-changing stream of video images on its two sides, one of which is mirrored. Standing to the side or walking around the room the viewer becomes part of the spectacle, reflected in the mirrored picture-wall during gaps in the video flow.

Viola describes the work as his impression of a mind absorbed with its own ruminations, but it strikes me as a new expression of his longtime interest in remembrance, which is the explicit subject of Viola classics like "The Theater of Memory" and "The Passing," two of his best accomplishments. Then again, what is human memory but a person's journey into the ruminative fragments of the past? The aptly titled "Slowly Turning Narrative" is at once a fragmentary story, a restless meditation, and a fascinating new direction.

Marker, a veteran French filmmaker and video artist, is more whimsical in "Silent Movie," which shows a blitz of silent-film images on a stack of video monitors, accompanied by a display of still photos and ersatz "movie posters" that are as hilarious as they are phony. Juxtaposing computer-controlled TV images with old-fashioned content, the work confounds all conventional ideas of art and entertainment. It's also fun to watch.

Other outstanding works include "Lovers," by Japanese artist Teiji Furuhashi, which leads the viewer into a room populated with ghostly projected figures; "HardCell," by Judith Barry and Brad Miskell, which invites the spectator to peer at high-tech debris in an overloaded packing crate; and "System for Dramatic Feedback," by Tony Oursler, which projects phantasmic faces and bodies onto inert surfaces, making a chilling comment on imagery's ability to objectify human suffering.

Many of the films on view in "Edward Hopper and the American Cinema," part of the Whitney's ongoing New American Film and Video Series, have little in common besides a shared rapport with Hopper's sensibility. …