Narratives, performances, personalities, and politics are fine for screenings, but who likes catching a sequence of events at a random point and watching from middle to middle, while standing up? The best videos to show in a gallery are impersonal (i.e. abstract), on short loops, and rooted in the equipment on which they are shown, to minimize the difference between following the movement of images over time and contemplating an object in space. Most of the works in “Moving Shapes and Colors” meet most of these criteria; if they all met all of them it would be dull.
A discussion of abstraction in contemporary video needs a vocabulary beyond Plato and Aristotle, Malevich and Tatlin, invisibility and objectivity. This work involves code and electron guns, things that trouble stale dichotomies of abstract and concrete, and are troubled in turn by fallacies about the immateriality of digital information. It sounds dry and wonky to talk about an animation as a manifestation of data. But the outcome, with bold lines and CMYK palettes, triggers associations with pyramids, pentacles, and glow sticks. It’s the legacy of nu rave, rest its soul. The selection of works in “Moving Shapes and Colors” is designed to aggravate these issues, not resolve them.
Duncan Malashock, Temple: The artist draws and plots an electronic signal in Max/MSP to produce a dynamic stack of fluted lines. Their movement throbs with a cutting drone, the audio component of the same signal.
Sabine Gruffat, Video Synth #1:Gruffat also works with digital pulses, but unlike Malashock she forgoes external references. The image on screen is offered directly as an electronic signal, and her colored monitors focus attention to the hardware. By putting a synthesizer in the gallery, Gruffat allows viewers to take part in the manipulation of the image’s parameters.
Damon Zucconi, From Black to Blue: A few lines of code increase a color’s opacity to the maximum, reduce it to nothing, and repeat the process in a loop. At each end of the function the totally black and totally blue screens look like two kinds of a monitor’s blankness, on and off, but the movement between them realizes the entire range from zero to one.
Elna Frederick, Asymptote: An evocation rather than a textbook illustration of the mathematic function named in the title, Frederick’s .png file sends a field of yellowish pixels bouncing against a pink counterpart, reaching variable heights in unresolved, perpetual motion.
Ilia Ovechkin, FX 1: Slideshow software and Photoshop’s gradient tool are two devices for creating illusions of depth on a two-dimensional screen. Ovechkin’s study in flatness and space combines those two tools, so that each one exposes and augments the other. The monitor is laid horizontally, and the eggs arranged across its top are a foil to the simulated volumes on the screen’s other side.
Kelli Miller, The True Believer: The only work here with words and people. Miller’s subject is the cottage industry of magic crystals, whose consumers have faith in shape and color as agents for the delivery of abstractions-
happiness, health, prosperity-into real life.
Brian Droitcour is a staff writer for Rhizome at the New Museum and a contributor to Artforum.
Posters by Tim Lokiec, Maxwell Pitegoff, Travess Smalley and Stewart Uoo.
Closing Performance by BFFA3AE // January 17, 2010 – 6pm