Video is an exceedingly difficult medium to wrangle into a gallery space: Do you serve it up movie theater-style, with chairs and set screening times? Do you play it on a loop and allow people to walk in and out? Headphones or no headphones?
Video demands long looking, but it rarely gets it. How many times have you watched mere seconds of a work of video art before turning to something else? Actually maybe a better question, how many times have you actually watched a work of video art from beginning to end?
Los Angeles gallery ASHES/ASHES is making you look. Their current exhibition BODY PARTS I – V showcases five early video works from Knut Åsdam, Nayland Blake, Patty Chang, Cheryl Donegan, and Bob Flanagan, Sheree Rose and Mike Kelley. But rather than showing all these works at once, they’re doling them out one at a time. One week, one video. The works range from under 60 seconds to one hour long, each focusing on parts of the body: mouth, buttocks, penis, vagina.
On now is 100 Reasons by legendary Bob Flanagan, Sheree Rose, and Mike Kelley, which shows 100 paddlings of a man’s buttocks delivered by an off-screen mistress. Next week you can watch a man piss himself. You’ll watch these videos in a dark wooden box constructed inside the gallery. It’s very hard to turn away. You’re almost forced to consume the entirety of the work, subject to a mild kind of restraint and forced consumption, echoed in the subject matter of the videos.
The final week of the exhibition, July 7-11, you can see all the videos at once, for those of you who want to binge watch the series.
(Image at top: Patty Chang / Shaved (At A Loss) / 1998 / color / sound / 5:18 min © Patty Chang, courtesy the artist)