Video art finds virtual home

In the coming weeks, the School of Art will begin constructing a new gallery space to exhibit student work. But this construction site will not require hard hats.

The school is working to launch a virtual gallery, called “Video Wall,” through its website to feature students’ video projects in an effort to make video projects accessible to the public, said Samuel Messer, the associate dean of the School of Art. The site will show artists’ works for up to two to three weeks at a time in organized exhibitions, just as a physical gallery space would. The school is also in talks with lawyers about copyright issues that may arise, but the artists have already been picked out for the site’s first exhibition.

While object-based art, such as a painting or sculpture, is easily displayed in a gallery, intangible art — such as performance pieces or student films — requires viewers to attend scheduled showings in galleries, Messer said. The idea for the website first arose as an answer to the difficulties curators face when trying to show the public ephemeral art produced in the school. By putting the videos online, audiences will be able to access the content anytime, anywhere.

The website reflects the
Stephanie Victor
The website reflects the "ephemeral" nature of contemporary art, according to Samuel Messer, associate Dean of the School of Art.

“People have to be aware that things that are happening now are ephemeral and don’t necessarily exist as objects,” Messer said.

Messer added that he will meet with the school’s legal department Tuesday to discuss the logistics of publishing video art online before proceeding with the gallery’s construction. Since many artists sample other artists’ video content in their own work, Messer said one of his main concerns is protecting students and the school from copyright issues. However, he noted that he does not anticipate that copyright laws would prevent or delay the project.

Johannes DeYoung, a professor at the School of Art and the project’s chief web designer, said that while it is possible to show video work in a gallery, viewing clips online is a different experience. Without the context of a formal installation in a exhibition space, he said, there will be less emphasis on the gallery experience.

“Installation-based videos are usually site-specific and can have multiple channels,” DeYoung said. “They involve the viewer experiencing [the video] in a physical space and navigating that space.”

As of now, there are only a few art institutions — such as commercial galleries — that show video clips online, he added, and even fewer show video installations in their entirety.

Hanako Williams, an archivist at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, said that while the gallery posts teasers of artists’ videos online via its website, YouTube channel and Facebook page, the gallery would not post the whole work so as to preserve the artistic integrity of the video installations. Williams noted that artists sometimes present their videos in ways that cannot be emulated online; for example, by projecting their films on all four walls of a room. As a result, Williams said the Gagosian primarily uses clips from video artists’ installations to advertise for the show itself, but not as a substitute for a gallery visit.

“It’s not just visual art, it’s an experience,” she said. “You can’t have that experience online.”

But she added that the Gagosian does post “installation videos” of their exhibits, which give virtual tours of a show for off-site audiences.

“A video takes you inside the gallery much more than a still shot,” she said. “They’re useful for people who couldn’t make it to the exhibition, especially now that we’re global. For someone in L.A. who wants to see the Picasso exhibit in London, this is the next best thing.”

DeYoung, who is curating the gallery’s first show, said that the exhibition will feature performance-based video work from five recent alumni. Tamar Ettun ART ’10, who studied in the school’s sculpture department, will show a dance piece she choreographed. In the video, titled “Oh David: Post Traumatic Trance Dance,” six dancers stand at the corners of a Star of David, bound together by pieces of fabric. Another video by Stephanie Victor ART ’09 features a pair of hands folding and refolding fabric.

“Video bridges different disciplines,” DeYoung said. “A sculptor might have different concerns that they bring to a video than a painter might take. A sculptor might think about time and space, and a painter might be concerned with surface and the form or aesthetic of the video.”

Students can currently exhibit their work in the Sculpture Building at 36 Edgewood Ave., Green Hall at 1156 Chapel St., and Room 114 of Green Hall, which is Messer’s office.

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