Sunday, January 06, 2008

More Radically Still

"Art video still has a funny reputation, left over from the 1960s, of being a serious medium, made for function rather than pleasure, as opposed to film. Yet "I-Be Area" was pleasure all the way. It was non-stop visual razzle dazzle. It drew on every cheap-thrill trick in the digital graphics playbook.

More radically, it was the length of a feature film. More radically still, it told a story, one with dozens of characters and multiple subplots, which is what entertainment, not art, is supposed to do, if you assume there's a hard and fast difference between the two."

-Holland Cotter, "Video Art Thinks Big: That's Showbiz," New York Times.

I-Be-Area doesn't hit any of my 'pleasure' buttons (not from the excerpt available on the Times website anyway.) Stimulation, sure. Pleasure, no. Nothing wrong with that, but there is a difference.
Also not too sure about the idea of 'function' and 'pleasure' being mutually exclusive (Fischli & Weiss, Kevin Schmidt and Rodney Graham would definitely call foul.)
But the contention that there is something 'radical' in the making and showing of feature-length films with 'characters and sub-plots' is just plain loopy, and a sure sign that the art market is heading for a hyper-implosion of biblical proportions. The last time this brand of pseudo-naive, ahistorical thinking descended on the art world, things didn't end well.
Curators and artists have been screening films in art galleries for a long time without deluding themselves into thinking that the context of the screening had altered the medium itself. You don't have to be a confirmed 'Greenburgian' to grasp the common sense of this. I suspect the appeal of the current feature-length-film format lies in it's usefulness as an escape hatch from the discipline required to work in either 'art' or 'film.' If it doesn't work as art one can always claim film, and if doesn't work as film, well then, art. Either way the artist wins, the critique is deflected, and the work remains safely 'off-limits.' That's not radical, it's cowardly.

Roy Arden's Supernatural and Juggernaut are both included in his current retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I'd recommend them to anyone wondering about the difference between art and entertainment.

"I am not that interested in making narrative, or stories; I prefer short scenes or vignettes. I like to think of the videos as "appearances." I am very wary of video and film because I think art today is in danger of becoming entertainment. Art, under capitalism, is always being drawn toward the entertainment industry. I try to use video as a counter to entertainment, an anti-entertainment."

-Roy Arden