The space of intersection of the languages of art and cinema has for twenty years been the subject of analysis and discussion of the participants of the Media Forum at the Moscow Film Festival: artists, film makers, and art and film critics. This year the programme’s organizers have realized probably the most grandiose project in all Media Forum history, a project dedicated to the adjacent cinema and video art aesthetics.
The central part of this project is the Expanded Cinema exhibition opens on June 15th 2011 at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. The display that consists of videos by well-known artists is divided into several thematic sections which demonstrate the key idea of the project — the idea of Expanded Cinema. This exhibition is not retrospective in character, on the contrary, it tries to analyze and describe the current situation in the art of moving images, that’s why all works presented were created in the last few years, some of them — especially for this project.
«The language with which video art speaks is distinct from that of cinema. Now under the influence of video psychology cinema is mutating and media art defines new ways for its development: the opportunities to work with space, at the intersection of visual and audio images, using interactive communication with the viewer,» — says Olga Shishko, the project’s curator. «Planning the exposition of the Expanded Art/ Expanded Cinema exhibition we aimed to attract the audience attention specifically to the visual characteristics of video art (composition, rhythm, texture, and proportions), and also to the conceptual aspects of its language, to video’s intervention into the viewer’s own personal space».
Most of the works on display will be housed by the MMoMA, where the attempt has been made to codify the interrelations of these two spheres of screen culture. Each of the museum’s floors is given to one of the aspects to the mutual fluctuation of themes, ideas and images.
1. Spaces of Memory / Distorted Subjectivity
Video art can afford much of what is simply not done in traditional cinema: to break the narrative into several screens, to combine temporal currents moving with different speed in one image, to allow various styles to clash and interrupt each other, to combine materials of completely different nature seamlessly within a work.
In her double-channel installation Rise and Fall Fiona Tan (Netherlands/Indonesia) tells a story of an old woman: the woman and her memories projected on one screen, the scenes of her youth — on the other. The narrative winds between past and present, alternated by images of flowing water — a metaphor of human life.
The author of a book of interviews with 26 artists pushing the limits of linear narrative, Doug Aitken (USA) in many of his works emphasizes to the viewer the passage of time which is unlike the everyday one. His House depicts the artist’s parents facing one another, their gaze locked, seemingly without noticing that the house crumbles and disappears around them in front of the audience.
In the Four Seasons video by Karen Cytter (Israel/Germany) various cinema styles clash, quotations from famous films are overlaid. Here is late Hitchcock, Hollywood glamour, 1980s-kitsch and an echo of Tennessee Williams’s «A Streetcar Named Desire» creating together a witty and complicatedly structured narrative.
Leslie Thornton (USA) has been one of the first of artists to notice the adjacence of cinema and art spaces as early as the 1980s and put it into action in her work, mixing not only cinema and video art, but also archive footage, science fiction elements, ethnographical materials, influenceing greatly the works of future interpreters of screen culture. She will present her most recent work Binocular at the Media Forum.
Blizzard video installation of the Bluesoup group (Russia) presents a mystical Russian winter landscape with a dark forest, hills and a gloomy sky. People are running somewhere driven by a snow storm. No question asked by the viewer while wathcing this hi-tech work is to be answered.
2. Language / Tex t/ Sound and Moving Image / Poetics of Language and Space
Some artists see moving images as a special communication system and start analyzing it from the point of contemporary linguistics and the very categories of language in which the image speaks to us.
The classic of American art Gary Hill (USA) has made two videos, Loop Through and Is a Bell Ringing in the Empty Sky as a tribute to the legendary Isabelle Huppert. A moving portrait of the film actress consists of two projections, on each of them Huppert is presented in a different state of mind. In discomfort, agitated, shy, playful or bored she looks at an invisible point between the two cameras
In conventional cinema it is usual to film the images first and then invite a composer to add a sound track to the pre-made visual stream. Silent Horizon is an attempt to radically reconsider this process, making the sound central in a composition, while the image seen as a light projection is projected onto a sound sculpture, a «resonant screen». First the sculptor Yuri Kalendarev (Russia /Italy) created a 30-minute sound track, than passed it to the Saint-Petersburg filmmaker Evgeni Ufit who made a 30-minite black-and-white video. The result will be premiered at the Media Forum.
Answer me is a dialogue concocted by Michelangelo Antonioni and realized and conceptualized by the artist Anri Sala (Albania/France) outside of its cinematic context. Answer me is a conversation held by a voice and a drum, where the viewer through an inadequacy of his communicative skills understands only the verbal part.
Imagines installation by Yuri Albert (Russia) reminds us of a small cinema hall with several rows of chairs, but with scrolling text instead of a screen. On it the text of a book by Philostratus the Elder (c. 170-247), Imagines, is displayed the main source of information on ancient Greek paintings we have today.
A polyscreen version of the Four Columns of Vigilance video performance by the TOTART duo (Russia) was created specially for the Expanded Art/ Expanded Cinema project. The pioneers of Russian video art and one of the few that work earnestly with video language, made a video on the subject of visualization of a word, realized with literary examples for the 11 irregular verbs of the Russian language.
In Translations by Ilya Permyakov (Russia) a projectionist, reflected in the projection window’s glass is busy rewinding film from one bobbin to another. Beyond the window in the auditorium the film is shown. Vague shapes reflect the scenes of the film upon the glass. An indistinct hum is muffled by the chirping of the projector. The only distinct sound is the voice of an interpreter who is translating the film synchronically.
3.Video Art as an Impression of Reality / «The Third Cinema»
There is a division of cinema into feature film and documentary. And there also is video art exploring technology, formal catgories of its own existence and aestetitization of the signal. However, another objective by which video art defines its role in the world is the chronicle of art as a social movement against anything, documentation of social realities by artistic means, by radical performances with viewer participation.
The central themes of works by the Kazakh video artist Almagul Menlibaeva (Kazakhstan) are linked to the heritage of a nomadic and shamanistic culture in which she has ben born and raised. Milk for Lambs (2010) is an artistic exploration of one of the Tengriist (the sky religion’s) myths.
The Rehyen video (meaning flock in Avar) by Taus Makhacheva (Russia) stages the dychotomy of friend-or-foe in her national culture. To get into a flock of sheep, a stranger ahs to put on a Dagestan shepherd’s fur coat and stand on all fours. What is his goal in doing all this and what is he ready to do to be included into a community?
A man treads a needle — another moment and he will succeed; upon this painting its video double is projected. The digital image gradually transforms the original, viewers’ silhouettes and historical scenes are glimpsed, and the lighting is changed, as is the style and the audience’s perception of a moving picture. He was a Good Man by Ranbir Kaleka (India) is a classic painting which doesn’t want to stay as it is in the era of moving images, but will not get a cinematic form either.
Harun Faroki’s (Germany) Feasting or Flying is a video installation illustrating the creative method of the artist and filmmaker, author of more than 90 films, whose works retrospectives have been presented at world’s major film festivals. Faroki combines cinema material on suicide with the aim of analyzing the very process of a cinema work’s birth. «Some dissect a bird in order to eat it,» — says he. «Others in order to discover how to fly».
Johanna Billing (Sweden), I’m Lost Without Your Rhythm. Much of Billing’s work is based on two equal principals: contemporary dance and video performance. In this case the video presents the process of training for a dance performance, recorded in several days. The audience was invited to watch these rehearsals and could interfere with the context as it saw fit.
Elena Kovylina (Russia) is one of the most well-known performance artists not only in Russia, but also abroad, winner of the Innovation All-Russian Contemporary Art Competition award. In her works she develops the traditions of Western feminist art, exploring the body and gender problematics. At the opening of the MMoMA exposition she will show a new performance, Sons of a Bitch.
4. Simulated Reality... New Heroes
It may seem that video artists are sure: social reality is a closed interactive installation, and there is nothing beyond the screen. As fits the artistic avant-garde they strive to break out through into the real life, breaking the cinema stylistics of the 1950’s by contemporary special effects, creating a storm with rotating blades of a helicopter. Video art today is inventing a new hero for itself, one who would be not a viewer, who will tell new stories at the intersection of image and sound.
Nuit Blanche. In all the playing with the categories of «artistic», «cinematic» and «technological» Arev Manoukian (Canada) aims to challenge the imagination. The Nuit Blanch video is stylized to look like the black-and-white films of the 1950’s, but the story of a sudden infatuation of the two strangers is told using the state-of-art digital technology.
Boris Eldagsen (Germany), NO CURE. The work’s structure is based on karaoke-singing the lyrics of songs by The Cure. The composer wrote music using leitmotifs of Richard Wagner’s opera Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods) to accompany the lyrics, and the artist Boris Eldagsen made 80-year-old Germans sing these. The word-play of the title is a comment on life and extinction, grandeur and memory.
Snowdrop is a new work by PROVMYZA duo (Russia), which looks into the way that man sees and perceives the world around him. It speaks about defamiliarization and distancing as methods that allow man to see the world as something bigger than him. As in their other works, Galina Myznikova and Sergey Provorov turn to the aesthetics suitable for cinema theatres but discuss questions characteristic of visual art. That’s probably why these artists are met with equal enthusiasm by both professional communities.
Viktor Alimpiev (Russia), Vot. A group of French actors performs a vocalise — a musical composition made only of vowels. At some point a viewer reads clearly a vocalise analogue to the word «vot», emphasized by the musical and compositional logic — the voices synchronize and sound in accord.
For the Media Forum opening a research-catalogue will be published, wiht a selection of key articles on the interaction of the two spheres of screen culture and representation of the works by Media Forum participants in all their variety of perception and analysis of the «expanded cinema» theme.