Film & Contemporary Video Art

It seems fitting that with Bill Viola’s Ocean Without a Shore recently engaged at PAFA that I should have a conversation with my friend Charlette about working on an installation together.  Then, after a long discussion on our approach and the issues we wish to address, I realized a certain tendency in the filmmakers of my generation.  It is a tendency to neglect the fine arts in preference of the commercial filmmaking styles and tactics of Hollywood.  That very few filmmakers I know have ever attempted a mixed media exhibition of any sort.  I wonder why not?

Chances are that if you’re an “underground” filmmaker in Philadelphia your greatest struggle is to gain exposure.  And I would argue that branching out into a new medium (it seems strange to consider video installation a separate medium from film doesn’t it?) can only help to widen one’s exposure and one’s audience simultaneously while also challenging one’s skills.  The principles of image construction in video installation are the same as film; it’s the consideration of space and context within space (and it’s relativity to sound) that must seem daunting.  I think it does.  But it’s a healthy challenge, and can push preconceived notions about the roles of film into new places that will inform the narrative work in traditional film.  I think Bill Viola is a good example of this “theory” at work.  Imagine for a second how much more heavily textured the filmic experience of Brakhage’s Scenes From Under Childhood would seem if exhibited in a contemporary space for installation.  Maybe it’s a stretch, but my conviction remains the same.

That isn’t to say anyone has to do traditional filmmaking and video installation to be an interesting filmmaker (I just happen to think it would be beneficial for aesthetic reasons more than anything).  So, below I have made a list of some “classic” video installations if you are so obliged to seek them out or material on them.

Hors-champs by Stan Douglas (1992)

Nantes Triptych by Bill Viola (1992)

Tall Ships by Gary Hill (1992)

Solo Scenes by Dieter Roth (1998)

Zocalo by Francis Alys (1999)

Consolation Service by Eija-Liisa Ahtila (1999)

Cinquante Fifty by Pipilotti Rist (2000)

Turbulent by Shirin Neshat (1999)

Traction by Darren Almond (1999)

Intervista by Anri Sala (1998)

-Robert Curry

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