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‘The Program’: Video Art at Conduit Gallery


by Manuel Mendoza 15 Aug 2008

Still from Battleship Potemkin Dance Edit (2007) by Michael Bell-Smith (with the assistance of Jeff Sission), courtesy of the artist Video Association of Dallas‘ ambitious video-art series “The Program” is heading toward the home stretch with its fourth of five weeks of programming and installations at Conduit Gallery in the Design District. New pieces and […]

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Still from Battleship Potemkin Dance Edit (2007) by Michael Bell-Smith (with the assistance of Jeff Sission), courtesy of the artist

Video Association of Dallas‘ ambitious video-art series “The Program” is heading toward the home stretch with its fourth of five weeks of programming and installations at Conduit Gallery in the Design District. New pieces and several carryovers from previous weeks can be seen at an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday. The gallery, 1626C Hi Line Drive, is also open from 10 to 5 Tuesdays through Saturdays.

“I feel honored that we’re getting to do this because these are artists you can’t see here,” says Conduit owner Nancy Whitenack. “Part of our mission is to expose people to what’s new and to break some barriers. It’s art.”

Video art has been around since the 1960s but most of the work in The Program is recent. Some of it transcends the film and videotape medium that first defined video art to include virtual, Internet-based pieces. Two of the installations at Conduit exist in Second Life, the online game/community that acts as an alternate world for its users.

RMB City — A SecondLife City Planning by China Tracy (2007) is an “experimental art community” created by the Beijing-based artist Cao Fei that contains a virtual landscape taken from both the real and imagined. Fei includes her version of Olympic buildings and offers others the opportunity to buy and develop “land” in RMB City. Conduit is showing a six-minute demo trailer of the project.

Meanwhile, Second Life Dumpster (2008) by eteam allows Second Life users to get rid of their virtual junk and watch it decay. At Conduit, the online imagery is accompanied by the kind of real-world goods that are typically discarded — a turntable, beach and bowling balls — which the artists are in turn photographing so they can be represented at the dump.

Two of the most interesting works in the show are good, old-fashioned video art — and not. Ryan Trecartin’s A Family Finds Entertainment (2004) is a 41-minute quasi-narrative goof, with the artist playing several troubled characters given to cryptic pronouncements and overdone makeup, clothing and acting.

“I’m not 16 anymore, but I feel like I’m 5 with sunglasses on,” says Skippy, who goes on to cut himself and bleed what appears to be paint. “I believe somewhere there is something worth dying for, and I think it’s amazing.”

This family makes the Osbournes look like the Bradys.

In Battleship Potemkin Dance Edit (2007), Michael Bell-Smith turns the silent Russian classic into a 12-minute MTV-style music video by separating every shot of the film and then making each of them the same length. Synced to a one-second dance beat on a loop, it has the effect of tracing a line from Eisenstein’s pioneering use of montage to today’s prevailing quick-cut editing in film and television.

In the program for The Program, co-curator Carolyn Sortor says artists like Trecartin and Bell-Smith “are addressing many of the same issues they’ve always been concerned with,” including “personal identity, social governance and control, and how the histories we’re told shape our future. Arguably, both our readiness and our need for more insightful, complex and nuanced understandings of these same issues are greater than ever, because of recent technological developments…”

Here’s a detailed look at the work in The Program.

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