Friday, June 20, 2008

Top of Their Game

Went over to Solomon Projects to hear NYC video artist Janet Biggs give a talk about her current solo show, "Tracking Up." (Previous post here)

I was interested to hear her perspective as I found the subject matter of the work somewhat obvious while the pieces themselves obscure in meaning. Each of the 6 single channel video pieces seemed to offer a simple enough answer on the surface while holding their secrets tight.

Biggs did answer a few lingering questions. Notes from the talk:

-Biggs does not label herself a video artist, she considers herself someone who simply "makes images" regardless of what medium is required to do so. Biggs joked that she "had never a medium that [she] did not like." This made me laugh, one look at my studio and it's clear I have a similar problem.

-Biggs sees single channel video art as being "passive aggressive with the viewer"; there is no climactic moment or structure like those found in Hollywood films. These video pieces make a different demand on the viewer and Biggs was interested in whether or not these works hold the attention of the viewer.

-In her work, and these pieces in particular, Biggs is interested in "how people make decisions, the huge amount of effort required to make something look effortless." Biggs is fascinated by athletes and people seek perfection in a very specific field, such as military cadets, synchronized swimmers, etc. Biggs is interested in the "willingness to strip away in the process to get [to perfection]. " She seeks to understand the "individuals willingness to give themselves over to very confining roles" in a way she herself would not be able.

-On the question of gender roles in her work, Biggs says she looks at the uniformed subjects more as drag than stereotypical roles of gender; Judith Butler's idea of gender as masquerade."

-In regard to the piece "Solipsism Syndrome" (a psychological condition common to people in the arctic), Biggs said people suffering from this begin to "question everything, to wonder if anything else exist."

-Speaking of "Enemy of Good," Biggs filmed a world famous Spanish pianist walking through, and playing for an empty audience, at Calatrava's "City of Arts and Sciences" in Valencia, Spain. Biggs was interested in Calatrava's city because she saw it as a "failed utopia" of brilliant, sci-fi design which is always empty, void of people. Biggs wanted to place this pianist in the space because, like Calatrava, he quests for perfection. The empty auditorium alludes to the pianist actually imaging this performance, it is a mental practice, illustrating his drive, his struggle.

Show extended at Solomon until July 26th 2008.

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