18 February — 02 April 2005
"How many times have we read or heard that the use of the video or the photograph only replaces ‘real’ creativeness with a false, pre-determined creativeness, which is contained in the mechanisms of the instrument used? Too many times not to be tempted to ignore an argument that is dated and superficial, without too many explanations. But this exhibition makes us want to try, once again, to answer this prejudice, which is invalidated every day by the example of a variety of new artistic experiences which, instead of expressing the latest linguistic possibilities of the video or the cinema, choose to use the expressive possibilities of these instruments as little as possible and which, while reproducing the scarcity of the means of the past, eliminate the technological pre-determination by the intensity and the complexity of the works produced, giving new proof of the inexhaustible conceptual richness of their historical precedents. At a time when most artistic videos seem to descend directly from the cinema culture and narrative tradition, the works presented at “Camera fissa”, with a purely environmental sound, and a scenic action that is stripped to a minimum, or non-existent, are evidence, first and foremost, of how the video can be used within the boundaries of visual art and, secondly, of the presence of a conceptual matrix that is very alive in the present, and linked directly to the results of some of the most significant experiences of the second avant-garde movement. But we must make it clear that if it was incorrect to talk about technological determinism in the case of the earlier works, it would be equally unjustified to accuse today’s works of epigonism. I believe that this argument is easily verified in the many and complex approaches that apparently restrictive linguistic rules made possible for so many artists in such different periods.
“Pas d’Action”, the title of the work by Onofre, is already a poetical declaration. The thousands of narrative processes of the contemporary video stop on the threshold of a dancing class performing a balancing exercise in their ballet shoes. It is the dancers’ ability to resist movement, to remain immobile on their points, that determines the length of the video. When the last dancer gives in, the picture fades. Onofre succeeds in his intent of transforming the linear plane of the shot in real time in an arc of tension which reflects the attention of the observer who is waiting for the expected conclusion, like that of a falling object. Onofre really depicts what in the world of fixed images is the minimal unit of action: the passage from an instable equilibrium to a stable one. The duration of the video corresponds to the duration of the tension that links the dancers’ gaze fixed by the camera with the spectator’s, an exchange of viewpoints that to some extent reminds us of “Centers”, a work by Vito Acconci, in which the tension between the recorded image and the audience goes through the centre, the stable place by Gestaltic definition, and a meeting point of the straight lines that make up the two-dimensional artistic universe, which here becomes the extroflexed, and therefore plural, as the title reminds us, point of contact between a single image and multiple observers.
Acconci points his finger, and his gaze, at the centre of the lens, establishing a direct contact with the audience, which could/should respond by stretching its hands towards the centre of the picture, a contact to which many theories had attributed a particular weight in the use of television to transform the pictorial window into a sculptural and psychological encounter of perspective cones.
In “Ultralow”, Jim Lambie exploits the photographic appeal of the video, drowning the reality of the scene he has shot, in the dark, and leaving space for an essential movement of lights. The fixed camera picks up the small dance of cigarettes that are lit, inhaled and moved, in silence. The real time shot is transformed into the visionary space of a cosmic time in which instable constellations of red stars are born, light up and consumed, disappearing into the blackness.
Many years earlier, Richard Serra had expressed movement as a much drier, less visionary encounter of movements regulated by chance. In his video of 1970, the fixed camera underlines an impossibility of movement similar to that created by Onofre, a stretched arm crosses the picture horizontally, blocked in tension like Acconci’s, while time is marked by the irregular movement of a number of falling sheets which cut the picture vertically, and the regular movement of the hand which, remaining in the same position, opens and closes trying blindly to catch the falling sheets. This way, using a fixed camera, Serra creates another time, full of tension that peaks and dissolves, corresponding to the occasions when it does not clutch in vain. The time and the tension are different again in the video by Henrik Håkansson, in which it is the camera itself that grasps a rapidly passing object, in a slow motion view that is beyond human perception, beyond the threshold of awareness. “Living After midnight” is the night time of hyper-reality, the place where scientific observation of nature encounters the poetry of dreams: space is illuminated by a light that reveals one’s hidden rhythm of frequency, the luminosity increases and decreases, revealing movement and instability where we only see stability, and in the ebbing and flowing breath of the light, for once we are allowed to see a movement that we would not be able to see: the very rapid flight of a small bat.
Paolini performed a similar operation, but with the opposite effect, in his video “Unisono”, which responds to the “forced” choice of real time with a process similar to the single frame, surprisingly contrasting the image with the dimension of time, and the video with the dimension of the picture. If a narrative is an intrinsic part of the nature of the video, it is the result of the possibility of accelerating movement. The accelerated documentary observation of natural phenomena like plants growing, is a good demonstration that a video can reveal a story that is “lost” in a few months and make a few passages surprisingly legible and touching, because of a cause and effect hidden by the dilution in time. As we watch 99 works go by, we inevitably think of a micro-animation which seems to hint at more complex considerations on the creative evolution of an artist, on our habit of interpreting art chronologically, and on the close comparison between works that are only two-dimensional. As if it were possible to verify the real existence of a “natural history”, a hidden story, an individual creativeness or an “organic development”, as if by lining up all the works produced by a certain artist in front of a telecamera."