Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The romanticism of craft

Recently I was discussing video art with a painter, and they commented on how painters get to really immerse themselves in the process of painting, adding that it seemed a shame that something similar didn't exist in the field of video art (although it was more of a question than a statement).

At the heart of this question is the romantic image of the painter in their studio experimenting with colours, textures and compositions. Is the painter immersing themselves more in the craft of their object of art, obsessing, nurturing, and coaxing it to it's final conclusion?

Video art does have it's processes. It does have it's techniques. The art work should/could develop along the way. So on the surface video art seems just as immersive in its process as any other art form. And yet in some ways the statement above still seems to ring true.

Is it to do with the amount of time we spend being conceptual or reflective? Painting does require concepts, but much time is spent standing back from the work, reflecting, and thinking about where next to take it. It has certainly been true thus far that the initial concept of my own video art has been paramount. Most reflection is spent judging how best to achieve this initial concept, and my initial instinct is that video art does not lend itself so readily to this reflective process of development.

Firstly, in painting you are concentrating on a single object (or single scene at least). This allows the artist to meditate more thoroughly on the subject. But this is not true of the Sistine Chapel, or similar large scale works. Secondly, in painting it is a more direct process to adjust what has been made. A brush stroke can be altered, a colour blended there and then. It does not require the re-shooting and re-editing of an entire scene. Having said this, painters have been known to scrap paintings, and start again from scratch.

This all seems to be going round in circles, but essentially I am coming to the conclusion (temporarily perhaps), that there is no reason why making video can't be just as reflective and immersive in its process as painting. Perhaps there is a lot of re-organisation involved. Re-setting and re-shooting scenes, re-editing. But the processes of framing, recording, reviewing, editing and compiling video are all potentially increadibly reflective activities. Particularly in this era of digital technology, it seems that the substance of video art, the video itself, is more and more manipulable, and at less and less expense. Maybe it comes down getting rid of the illusion of time-based art. It may be time-based but much like painting or sculpture, it is still a kind of object.

Perhaps the real question lies right back at the beginning, with the romantic notion of the artist in their studio, crafting and obsessing away. This romantic image may even lend value to the art object itself. Perhaps public awareness of the craft involved raises it's value and it's artistic status. If so would public awareness of the craft involved in video art do exactly the same?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Talking video art

Recently I've been looking around for a regular film/video screening in East London - something with artists showcasing their new works, and something with a critical discussion. Perhaps more importantly, I'm looking for something that doesn't make my head feel like it's been put through a meat grinder. It's not penance. This all probably sounds a bit pretentious, but really I suppose I'm looking for something a bit balanced.

Ranting aside, I'm looking to introduce a bit more perspective and opportunity into my own art practice, coupled with a good debate, and the possibility of showing my own work for a bit of feed back.

Last week I went to Rotoreliefs at Rich Mix in Shoreditch. A warm welcome from the organisers at the door, and a well programmed series of films, each introduced with a bit of background info; Nothing too heavy either: 'this is the film - this is who made it - this is roughly what it's about - let's see what you think'.

Three music videos, three dramas on this occasion. The Result, a 2/3 minute work by Anthony Wilcox built up a moody comical atmosphere that left me wanting to see more. Bring me sunshine, directed by Rachael Hastings, was the band Jive Aces first full tilted venture into the world of music video, and was infectuously uplifting. Random Strangers, a romance by Alex Dos Santos is a compelling exploration of the world of Chat Roulette and that blurry-line between social media and the 'real world', and this one really caught my attention. It is soon to be developed into a feature length film, and I really feel the ground work is already there as this short film unassumingly develops the characters, and I'm already looking forward to the end result, so long as they steer clear of cliches (or perhaps more specifically, caricatures). The whole thing is framed as if the audience is watching everything unfold on Chat Roulette, sometimes single screens, sometimes multiples, but the thing that really stuck in my mind was that they had to simulate the distance between the two main characters, one upstairs pretending to be in Berlin, the other downstairs pretending Buenos Aires (if I remember correctly).

The open discussion that followed was neither too bogged down in the world of practicalities, nor completely floating on a theoretical cloud. There was a bit of both in fact, and plenty of the stuff in between, which made it a useful and interesting discussion, even to the extent that film makers felt comfortable asking the audience's advice on creative decisions they had made.

Not much 'video art' though, and that is where my main interest lies. Still, their website says 'Networking spiral for independent film makers and video artists', and you can only play what you've been dealt, so I'll have to see what the next event brings...

I have this notion that screening events with lots of 'video art', tend to spend less time considering their audience - not enough space in between films, not enough open discussion. I understand the importance of platforms for works that are challenging, but it also seems important to nurture a varied audience - people who are new to video art, as well as the converted. Apart from anything else it's an opportunity for video artists to say 'I realise this may all seem a bit baffling - let me try and unpick it a little bit for you'. I'm not saying video artist's should offer everything on a plate, but Video Art is a relatively new language, and the more video artists engage with audiences about their work, and the more people discuss video art, the wider that audience will become.