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New Haven’s New York Art Party: Video By Yours Truly March 17, 2010

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My good friend Madison Moore has organized an art party in New haven, a kind of hipster-y, New York-cool party in stodgy ol’ Connecticut.

The party, Artspace Underground, is held at Artspace New Haven, a non-profit contemporary art gallery. It has been pretty successful, marketing itself online and getting crowds by hosting popular local and regional bands.

Madison asked me to film a party and put together a short video for publicity and promotion. This is really my first solo film effort — shot and edited in less than 24 hours, so be kind!

Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Slate of Spring 2010 Programs (Curated By Me)! December 17, 2009

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The brochure for the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Spring 2010 Adult Public Programs is coming out! This spring I’ll be co-teaching a film survey course with Dr. Rebecca Sheehan (PhD from Penn, now at Haverford). I’ll also continue to run the Film@Perelman series, and I’ve selected some interesting offerings for the season!


Atom Egoyan: “Artists Don’t Always Do What Their Communities Want Them to Do” October 30, 2009

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Filmmaker Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter, Adoration) has, over the course of three decades of movie-making, probed such disparate characters as strippers and comedians in provocative and artful ways. Egoyan further demonstrated his artistic curiosity at The Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sunday during a public conversation with curator Michael Taylor commemorating the recently opened retrospective on modernist painter Arshile Gorky.

The Armenian-Canadian director shared his thoughts on Gorky, also Armenian, after whom Egoyan named his son. Gorky plays a major role in one of Egoyan’s most known films, Ararat, which dramatizes the Armenian genocide, and in Portrait of Arshile, a short film with footage of his son the director made in the nineties. But the painter has been with the director his entire life, from his childhood in Egypt and Canada with his parents, both painters, to his experiences in young adulthood trying to articulate his identity as both English and Armenian.

“We saw these paintings and they had such a profound effect on us,” Egoyan said of he and his wife’s relationship to Gorky’s work. A Gorky admirer, he commented at length about the museum’s retrospective, which runs through January, saying it properly contextualizes Gorky both culturally and art historically. “It’s a defining show.”


Arshile Gorky's The Artist and His Mother

Egoyan also premiered a new short video commissioned by the National Gallery of Art, an edited rumination on Gorky’s painting The Artist and His Mother assembled from footage from Ararat. (more…)

ART: Philadelphia Museum of Art Short Film Program September 12, 2009

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Here’s the schedule for the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s short film program Film@Perelman. I’m excited to introduce and hold Q&A’s at screening of these films, which I’ve selected, during the fall! For the HTML list of programs on the museum’s website, click here. I’ve also given talks at the museum, including one introducing a screening of Brian De Palma’s Blow Out.PMAfall2009film

ART/VIDEO: Kalup Linzy, Ryan Trecartin Important to Saltz April 22, 2009

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Circulating the blogosphere is a list art-critic Jerry Saltz composed (on Facebook) of notable artists emerging after 1999 (last ten years). Lists are always problematic, and many of these I don’t know because I haven’t been living in New York, but I was happy to see Kalup Linzy and Ryan Trecartin, two video artists who use YouTube to distribute their art and about whom I’m eager to write an article! There are a lot of meaningful connections between the two. (I saw Linzy’s Studio Museum show this past weekend and I’ll post thoughts soon).

Saltz’s List (Art Fag City’s commentary here; thanks for the link):

Jessica Jackson Hutchins
Klara Liden
Tamy Ben-Tor
Dana Schutz
Laurel Nakadate
Huma Bhaba
Juliette Aranda
Kerstin Brätsch
Liz Glynn
Orly Genger
Xylor Jane
Valerie Garlick
Lisa Sanditz
Karin Oliver
Kate Gilmore
Aki Sasamoto
Sara VanDerBeek
Leslie Hewitt
Fia Backstrom (last two in 2008 Whit. Bi.)

Sterling Ruby
Jeffrey Wells
Ohad Meromi
Brain Belott
Robert Melee
Leidy Churchman
Peter Coffin
Alexandre Singh
Garth Weiser
Kalup Linzy
Andrzej Zielinski
Ryan Trecartin (in 2006 Whit. Bi.)

FIRST ENCOUNTER: “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism” May 22, 2008

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Ryan Trecartin - I-Be Area, 2007

Today, a reading of a classic essay by art history titan Rosalind Krauss: “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism.” Full of sharp insights still relevant to video art today, I found it especially relevant — though ultimately insufficient — for understanding the phenomenon of YouTube and mumblecore (a paper I’m working on).

The central idea is simple: the medium of video is narcissism, or, in less Freudian terms, an obsession with the self.

“In that image of self-regard is configured a narcissism so endemic to works of video that I find myself wanting to generalize it as the condition of the entire genre.” She asks: is “the medium of video is narcissism”?

Krauss gets to her point when she brings in Lacan. She uses Lacan’s theorizing of the mirror stage to suggest that video is like the silence in a therapy session. A person realizes he is a construction or object of himself. He, in my words, becomes a stranger unto himself. The difference between a mirror (Lacan’s metaphoric image) and video is that video collapses time, subject and object. The performer is able to see himself as an object. Subject becomes object. This phenomenon is pretty erotic (Krauss cites Benglis’ Now) and leads to obsession: hence, narcissism.

This self-obsession doesn’t say much, Krauss implies. It’s self-satisfying and provides no criticism or evaluation of subjectivity or objecthood.

I agreed with most of her point, and I relished finding an essay from 1976 that talks about the camera as a tool for self-broadcasting. It’s hard to find predecessors to YouTube beyond the 90s-00s webcam movement. Most of video/films prior to that were cinema and homemade videos, neither of which completely suffice.

New media has, however, transformed the camera. It has allowed users — or performers — to work through issues of self-alienation and despair. The most recent example being the 16 year-old girl who cried in despair at the loss of her legal prosecution of her alleged rapist. These “working through” moments, in my opinion, is less about disassociation — being alienated from oneself — than narrativization — writing one’s own story. Through narrative, people feel whole. It’s a stunning process to watch and it’s productive not only for the performers themselves, but for the viewers as well, who watch in occasional cynicism but more often in wonder.

Krauss says video cuts the self (object) away from external objects. It’s more than lonely, it’s solipsistic, she implies. But in new media, the self is networked with others as well. This makes it possible to have a open, human, intimate spaces, as opposed to a myopic, objectified spaces (the spaces of Foucault, Lacan and Barthes if you’ll allow me to get carried away). It suggests the postmodernist, psychoanalytic framework might not be enough to describe how video operates in the 21st century.

It’s telling that the videos Krauss describes are not overtly emotional — some video art was — or when it was emotional, it was “put on.” I think YouTube, as a potential space for emotional honesty, is a foil to this. Some vloggers — most? — are denser and deeper than objects and different kinds of subjects.