Filmer, c’est comme manger.
On le fait tous les jours mais c’est différent à chaque fois.
C’est avant tout une nécessité.
Une stratégie politique de visibilité et une stratégie de survie.
Video is a complete art form.
Enrique Ramirez, an often quoted Chilean videographer, also shares his thoughts about video: “I discovered something with video that doesn’t exist anywhere else—I can work with sound, writing, images and editing all at the same time by combining fiction with documentary”
Video is a whole. It’s an environment as well. A space where we enter and become immersed whether it’s on the screen or as part of an exhibit. This environment, this art form which is both all-encompassing yet insignificant is also a new means of philosophical expression and a new language. In Qui je suis (1980, The Pasolini Estate, Italian first edition; Arléa 2015), Pier Paolo Pasolini explains : “Why did I switch from literature to the cinema ? … because the cinema is not just a linguistic experience, but it is, appropriately, as a kind of lingustic research, a philosophical inquiry”. The same thing applies to video which has become the perfect medium of expression when it focuses on exposing political questions, unique identities, forgotten realities and ignored pasts. Some artists like Krista Geneviève even suggest that video can be used as a strategic instrument for resisting hegemonies. Because it produces its own discourse, it can tackle, and incorporate into the field of art, subjects which previously had been excluded from dominant artistic practices.
In 2018 the French writer, poet and videographer Frank Smith took another look at the Cinétracts project conceived in 1968 by Chris Marker, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais and others and reused it to produce “videotracts” that bear witness to the political, ecological, sociological and poetic realities of the 2010s. The opportunity to produce independently its own discourse, without a large film crew, by maintaing a considerable control on the shape and content, has also been part of the unique appeal of video ever since the 1960s. Today video is often, like in Frank Smith’s cinétracts, a way of “correcting” the unequivocal vision of reality offered to us by what we call “the media”. It is an organic and successful misappropriation. Frank Smith resists. Poetry resists. Poetry is movement and, in Frank Smith’s video, simultaneously creates and falls within the movement and counteracts the uninterrupted flow of corrupted thinking. Poetry resists by its contrary rhythm and the art video by its significant images that even incorporate non-sense.
Video is a plural art form
Whether presented on a tablet, on a monitor, projected, inside or as “video street art” (as Analix Forever in Geneva has done for years), on a screen or multi-screen installation, or even in virtual reality, video art is plural in its form, it is a space capable of adapting to multiple enviroments in which it is likely to be invited. Video art can also be an autodidactic D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself) art as well as an art that is painstakingly elaborated, worked and codified but always unique: Ali Kazma’s videos for example (Turkey, 2013Venice Biennale) are fundamentally different in their production and their “construction” from those by Janet Biggs(USA, Guggenheim Award 2018) or Shaun Gladwell (Australia, 2009 Venice Biennale ). Shaun Gladwell directs himself or dancers, surfers and performers and now works almost exclusively in virtual reality; Janet Biggs films in the world’s most extreme regions, from the Arctic to the sulphur mines of Indonesia; Ali Kazma works alone on a “filmic encyclopedia” of human activities. Borrowing, sampling, superimposing and repeating are techniques which are constantly used especially by Mounir Fatmi, who screens everything, our ambiguities, our fears and our desires, our lonelieness and our dreams, our worlds and our words.
“All the words in the world cannot describe loneliness
I want words that welcome the stranger in his country of refuge
I want words that look like hands that shake
All the pieces in the world will not form a single word
If only dreams were subtitled …”
Mounir Fatimi’s videos, in some respect, are like “subtitling”, like a revelation of dreams that the artist summons from his desires. Video is also a dreamlike art.
Moving images : engulfment and emergence
Images from art videos fall within the flow of images that submerge us from all around. Video art, in its many forms, has the unique feature of resisting the flow, of arresting our gaze, of demanding our time. The time to see, to allow us to become immersed rather than be submerged, to live with the moving image. Video art guides us towards the future, to virtual reality, to architectural movements that we have yet to imagine and to unexplored spaces. And although the moving picture of of communication and publicity tends to submerge us, video art emerges. It emerges from the counter-current flow. It stops the flow where it emerges, letting the rest sink. It is the reflux, the creative counter-flow of the moving image. It constantly flirts with virtual reality—creator Tabita Rezaire, by providing a constant critique of digital postcolonialism, also resists.
Andreas Angeldakis, an architect whose main creations are virtual and also a finalist in the 2018 Nam June Paik Awards (a kind of Nobel prize for video art), made worlds where the buildings themselves resist destructive architecture—and move, return in the countryside, or become cities themselves.
Video art consistently and sharply questions the value of the image and the contribution of the “quality” of the video. The images may be “poor” and yet still of great value when they complicate the world rather than try to simplify it, when they “imply”; they can be hyper-sophisticated and technical terms but don’t bring anything else to the world other than images that they already contain. Video art avoids “universal reporting”. Janet Biggs, who could be described as a “great reporter” in light of her trips to the ends of the earth, never does any “reporting”, but intersects images in a humanist—and feminist—perspective, attempting to make us see humanity in all its complexity, singularity and universality. And, as she says herself, “because I’m a white upper-middle class American woman, and given where I’ve travelled in the world, each time I point my camera and start filming, it’s a political act”.
Barbara Polla is a doctor, gallery owner, curator and writer. She has been interested in moving images since the 1990s, and shows video installations of Mat Collishaw and the first videos of Pipilotti Rist, Vanessa Beecroft and Annika Larsson. In the 2000s she created the “Nights of 1,001 videos” in Geneva, then in 2011 VIDEO FOREVER, in collaboration with Paul Ardenne.