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
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. …