Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Saturday's destination was the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art for the "Cinema Remixed and Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970." The exhibit includes over 40 artists ranging from the emerging to those who were working with video more than 25 years ago. The exhibit is broken down into two parts, the current/first part "focuses on themes that engage the complex historical and contemporary perceptions surrounding the black female body and the spaces of empowerment where women have defined themselves."

Lauren Woods had an interesting installation of video documenting the crowds watching break dancers perform in public spaces. The actual break dancers rarely appear in the video, and there is no audio, instead you interpret the moment through facial expressions of the crowd. A majority of the crowds were white while the break dancers were black (although this has to be based partially on assumption). For me the video was documenting the space/distance between the viewing crowd and the dancers and whether this distance was being upheld or broken down during these performances.

Wood's interest seem to be split between the social study of the subject (the watching crowds) and experimenting with the formal qualities and possibilities in film. Almost as if she got a little bored with the subject matter and started manipulating the images to make the videos more engaging. Many of the frames change saturation or begin duplicating/reflecting one another.

I found it was impossible to see the entire exhibition in one visit. The thing about video art is that it last for a specific amount of time and unlike most visual art where a quick glance can surmise whether or not to stop and gander, video art cannot be rushed. The museum laid out the show beautifully, giving almost every video its own small dark room. Isolating each video kept them from detracting from one another and it was easy to sit on the cushioned benches and lose yourself in one projection after another.

Kara Walker turned her trademark paper cut silhouettes into an old timey puppet show. The video did not resonate with me like her large wall murals. I kept wishing I had the ability to stop the video at certain moments to better digest the detail of the caricatures and the scene. Walker allowed her hands to be seen into the show, incorporating the identity of the creator into the work and adding a level of personal involvement.

Paula Wilson had an enormous mixed media piece incorporating video onto the canvas surface of her mixed-media, multi-paneled painting. The work seemed to be attempting to coral multiple styles, materials, and planes into one very busy installation. The work resides somewhere between experimental blending of media and something from "Crafts Gone Wild."

Wilson is juggling some interesting concepts but for me this piece was unable to pull it together cohesively. The video section almost goes unnoticed amidst everything else. It would be interesting what this works evolves into.

Debra Edgerton has a work, presented as a personal narrative, exploring her impressions and influences of growing up with interracial parents (a Japanese mother and a black father).

There was also a great "Five Channel video installation" by Jessica Ann Peavy called "Note to Self: there's a hot sauce stain on my Gucci Bag". Each of the five screen played simultaneously, each referencing one another and showing the artist in different costumes/locations ranting or playing a humorous character to highlight a larger social issue. The simultaneous screening was a bit chaotic but worked well together. Unfortunately my camera battery died before I could get a picture of it.

My favorite video from the exhibition was "Cut" by Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry. I had seen another one of their videos, "Topsy,Turvy" at Kiang Gallery last month and that had motivated me to spend a Saturday afternoon at Spelman in search of more. Out of the half of the exhibit I managed to take in, this was the most emotionally impacting video for me. In the exhibition video was being used in every way, from documenting strangers to artist's monologues, "Cut" stood out as a fictional narrative layered in symbolism, the two artists portrayed disturbing characters in an exercise with unsettling implications.

McCallum and Tarry are an interracial couple and collaborate to create works that "challenge audiences to confront issues of race and social injustice in their own communities and the historical precedents that continue to impede the progress of equality in our contemporary society."

"In Cut, the simple act of cutting hair is transformed into a sexually charged, racially fraught and emotionally complex performance. Here the cutting of hair represents an act of collaboration, dominance and submission, intimacy, punishment, and control."

Part I of the exhibit is up until Dec. 8th 2007. Go see it! Or better yet, plan on seeing it in two trips.

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