I’m real impressed when Michaelis Gallery gets their act together and gets a nice international name into the gallery. The video, by Paul D Miller, aka DJ Spooky, aka That Subliminal Kid, has gotten an impressive resume, coming all the way from the Trienal du Luanda and the Venice Biennale last year. It is a tribute to my continuing disillusionment with large scale shows that not a single write up of this piece exists on the web.
Anyway, I traipsed down to Michaelis, sticking to the shadows just in case, but got to the gallery safely only to fall off the bloody pilates balls scattered around. I don’t know who thought those things were comfortable to watch video art on, but that person has core muscles of steel, hangs out at Wellness Centres and I don’t want to know them anyway. One of the projectors had been stolen that morning, so my experience was halved, although it seems it wasn’t a double channel video but just a doubling up of the same video, on a different wall. My frustration with the day was complete when 10mins into my stay the video ended, and no one could find the remote control to begin it again. So I only saw too parts of the whole thing. I thought that looping was an essential music skill, and was wishing that it could be applied to this show.
I’ve always thought Paul D Miller had his aim right when he premiered this show in Luanda. Putting your money where your mouth is, when talking about a decentred world, is a laudable notion. However, when I read in the M&G that the video is a reappropriation of Africa, from dadaists and surrealists, I start to get worried. I don’t see how anyone from New York reappropriating some odd skewed concept of Africa makes any critical steps towards understanding that appropriation. And then, after seeing my fifth of the video, I failed to see how Africa even played a role. There was a bit with the gorilla from King Kong, if that maybe was Africa, which could be a rich field, but it seemed to be more of a formal analyses of the imagery of that film. What I saw was a rather cryptic celebration of New York culture. (for an awesome exploration of King Kong, one must see one of my favourite works, Pieter Friedl’s King Kong in Triomf). Maybe the interesting bits were in the beginning of the film. It seems that mentioning Africa is just one way of branding yourself as a global person.
I’m not sure that Video art, as a medium, has the ability to say much. We are too familiar with the language of motion pictures, that I find myself looking for narrative, like on TV. I need to see something impressive to break down my perceptual walls. This is of course a fault of my own, but I suspect it is more common than admitted to. The other bit of the video that I saw, made an attempt to a narrative structure, by pulling down silent movie style title cards. I liked this, except that the title cards used a language so lofty and contrived as to be illegible. The music however, was fantastic