Review: Screenings 1 and Monitor Programme 1
Artsadmin Summer Season
5-7 June 2007
Monitors Programme 1
The Artsadmin summer season launched on the 5th June with Screenings 1 and Monitors Programme 1. The two programmes were presented in different areas of Toynbee Studios with Screenings 1 in the Steve Whitson Studio and Monitors Programme 1 in studio 3. The fact that the two programmes are separate begs the question - Why? One answer is that the distinction between Monitors and Screenings could be a curatorial decision, reflecting the once prominent cultural and social difference between the different mediums of film and video. However, it could also be a presentation method borne purely out of logistical necessity. Whichever it is, locating a divide between film and video across these two programmes is difficult. Curatorially, it is much more productive to see Monitors Programme 1 and Screenings 1 as distinct programmes representing screen works that deal overtly with the specifics of their physical and live modes of presentation.
Within the Monitors 1 programme, Lucille Power’s Table Dance, 2002 openly utilises the physical confines of the TV Monitor in which the work is housed. On screen a woman is depicted writhing on a table whilst pressing against the edges of the monitor as a constrictive boundary. The small size of the TV and its awkward position on the floor stress the monitor as physical object from which the woman cannot escape. The monitor lends the work an abject quality that a large film screen could not. In addition, the format of Dan Saul’s video Landscape with Flowers, 2005 utilises the specific TV format of a frank ‘fly on the wall’ documentary in order to profile the work of artist Jyll Bradley. The seemingly casual filming style and intimacy of the ‘overheard’ conversations adopt a reality TV format that contemporary audiences are best placed to translate. However it is Katherine Hymers that best depicts the monitor screen as site, as well as location for video work. In Untitled (Frame), 2006 a woman stands in an overgrown garden staring unflinchingly through a window in the direction of the video camera. The camera lens in turn steadily reflects the woman’s gaze back through the frame of the window-pane. Framing both the woman’s unsettling stare and the direction of the camera’s eye in this way highlights the dual role of the TV monitor as video camera lens. It is this duality with which Hymers situates us as viewers, our bodies, not only in the act of looking but of actively participating and recording. In this way Hymers transforms the video and surrounding lumpen TV monitor into an experience of live exchange. It is a deceptively simple idea for a piece of video and a highly effective one-to-one performance it is hard to break away from.
As part of the Screenings 1 programme David Blandy’s The White and Black Minstrel Show, 2006 is presented to good effect on the large screen in the Steve Whitson studio. The life-sized scale of the screen, lighting and auditorium style seating of the studio mimes the cinema context of Blandy’s on-screen minstrel performance. In this way the mode of presentation of the film creates the re-enactment of an early 20th Century minstrel show, one with us as the live audience. Blandy’s minstrelsy is potentially dubious and so too is our involvement in it as audience. However, it is important that Blandy’s contemporary blackface is painted both black and white, representing a racially inverted ‘Black and White Minstrel’. Blandy, it seems can be neither black nor white enough.
Also part of Screenings 1, Bernd Behr’s Hotel Palindrome (before R.Smithson), 2006 revisits Robert Smithson’s 1972 slide lecture on the Mexican ‘Hotel Palindrome’. By focussing acutely on the original scene of Smithson’s lecture; the stairs Smithson once climbed, the podium he once stood at, the soundproofed walls that may contain trace of the artist’s voice, Behr’s series of stills examine the site of Smithson’s lecture as if performing a memorial tribute to the dead artist. Behr uses the site of Smithson’s landmark lecture as vehicle in which to explore the performativity of both architectural space and absence. Meanwhile, the specific performance of Behr's video, with its large scale, lingering and glossy scenes of the empty tomb-like auditorium enacts the same macabre sense of desire as when glimpsing crash sites marked with floral tributes or chalked outlined scenes of death. As viewers we gawp and willingly succumb to the potency of Behrs visuals and the erotics of the big screen. It is these erotics that ensures the on-screen performance will far outlast the tentative audio commentary that accompanies it.
Written by Rachel Lois Clapham
Artists in Monitors Programme 1 were Jyll Bradley, Katherine Hymers, Charlie Murphy, Edith Marie Pasquier, Lucille Power, Aura Satz and Grace Surman
Artists in Screenings 1 were Bernd Behr, David Blandy, Katherine Araniello and Hayley Newman
The next programme in the series, Screenings 2 and Monitor Programme 2 starts on 13 June 2007. For more details see http://www.artsadmin.co.uk/summerseason