Monday, February 13, 2012

Video vintage at the Centre Pompidou

The Centre Pompidou is currently showing some of its own collection video masterpieces around an exhibition entitled Video Vintage. A selection reveals fifty years of creation from famous works of pionner Nam June Paik to more contemporary artists such as Dennis Oppenheim, Lawrence Weiner, Marina Abramovic, Daniel Buren or General Idea (>see the article here<)

In itself the exhibition is interesting in a sense that normaly to see these works we have to go to the Pompidou videotheque and it's not organized and selected as it is in Video Vintage. The layout is set up around three main periods: performance and self-filming in the sixties and seventies, then television as a research and experimental tool to criticize society and finally the more conceptual approach of video questioning forms and concepts along with the medium in the eighties.
The only reproach I could formulate would be about the scenography. A video vintage exhibition with real seventies designed sofas and Tv's and psychedelic wall papers, isn't it too much ? I don't need to feel like I am in my grand parents living room to enjoy art videos that were not even, at this time, broadcasted on Tv (maybe sofas of the design collection must also avoid dust from Pompidou cave of wonders but at least it was very comfortable).Anyway, I will highlight some of the artists you have to know by now ! And they are all women, the seventies & eighties being the rise time of the feminism, art video has been taken over by those warriors in high heels. I always find interesting the subversion by which artists appeal to social changes.
Sanja Ivekovic
Instruction #1

Through her work of video, film and installation, she puts her body as the mirror image of society. By doing this, she engages a reflexion between sexual genres and power. I have not found the most interesting video Instructions #1 but I can describe it. The video shows a close-uphead of the artist herself. With a brush, she draws black arrows as a preparation for esthetic surgery. Then, she ground her face following the arrows to erase them gently. Correct the face, remove wrinkles and small to format the body ? Like many of her works, Ivekovic evokes the influences of media in the formation of female stereotype. She grew up in ex Yugoslavia and we can clearly see how she links personal identity construction to territory construction and the necessary deconstruction of one identity to build the following.

Personal cuts

In Personal Cuts, the artist head is veiled by a black tight and with scissors she gradually cuts the tissue and forms circles until it reveals the full face. Each cut is followed by short sequences of Yugoslavia documentaries representing the ideal society that is going toward a glorious future.


All I coud find for this video is that stupid footage but this video is amazing. She filmed close-up a shirtless man frozen like a statue and kept turning around head to foot. The entire body is never visible and all you can see are abstract fragments of "the monument" and this woman, offscreen walking around in cycle spirals, invisible and always one step below. A moment of sweet violence.

Valie Export
Remote Remote

Valie Export is often considered as a viennese actionist but her art is nothing but feminist. "Always and everywhere" were her words and her opinion is revealed along her works with a shocking radicalism. 
The short film Remote, Remote opens up with a photograph of two infants with their mouths open. Then appears several shots between the eyes of a woman who is sitting on a chair and the eyes of one of the child in the photo. The woman holds a knife and a bowl of milk between her knees. She starts to mutilate her hand digging with the knife into her fingers. The last shot shows her dipping her bloody hands into the bowl of milke. Female pain, one of the thing Export wanted to show to a male dominated society ( a bite like Annette Messager ). A woman hand is synonymous of sweetness and polished nails but here, hands are disturbing and produce a cold violence. She uncovers the socially hidden suffering and pain women experience in life.

"That is because I look at life as an endlessly moving sculture, an extension of the body's cavity into the galactic labyrinth. It is a genetic sculpture, bllions of years old and is unfinished. The trope of this sculture is caught in the realm between reality and potentiality"

Marina Abramovic
Expanding in space
Born in ex-Yugoslavia like Sanka Ivekovic, Marina Abramovic is an artist performer. At first, her performances were an act of rebellion against her strict education (and her parents that were on the repressive side of the polity). As Ivekovic, her body was one of her main tool but in a more agressive way than her. She put her body to the test through performances using drugs, or dangerous objects (one of her most famous video is a performance with a razor blade >see here<) and sometimes her performances are so dangerous that it ends when someone in the audience intervenes or when she looses consciousness.
In 1975 she met the love of her life Ulay and I <3 their story. They started working together and created a situation in which they can take care of their love and passion through their social circumstances. "We were looking for a key, a way to penetrate the body, to open something, one truth that comes from the side of the truth and the reality" They made together sixty-eight performances (most of them very violent) and Expanding Space is one of them. Both artists are naked back to back between two pillars themselves moving between two fixed pillars. They have to start from a same point and run by moving the mobile pillars to the fixed pillars. Ulay leaves Marina who is making so much efforts to move the pillars even further. The extension in space is done by gradually changing the proportions of the pillars in relation to each other. 
Finally after thirteen years of love, they both decided to end their professional and love lives. In june 1988, after having traveled nearly 2000 km across each half of the Great Wall of China (ninety days of walking), and finding themselves in the middle of the Dragon, they mutally said goodbye forever.

Three rules to become an artist according to Marina Abramovic :
  1. art should be disturbing
  2. art should ask questions
  3. art should predict the future (she also seemed to allude that it might also/instead transform or change the future/present)
> See also An artist life Manifesto by Marina Abramovic <

Video Vintage from february 8th to may 7th - Centre Pompidou, Paris

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