At Oakland's Krowswork gallery, photography and video are always at the fore. But this summer, like last, owner and director Jasmine Moorhead has chosen to feature video exclusively, filling the four rooms of the gallery with eleven different works by twelve artists. In this group show of narrative, abstract, sculptural, and interactive video, a love for the medium binds the diverse works together. Whether shaky, glitchy, or high definition, video is manipulated by the artists in Summer of Video Art 2012 to best suit their needs, demonstrating the medium's adaptability and continued relevance.
While a number of pieces in Summer of Video Art resemble gestures more than fully realized works, Farley Gwazda's Model Earth (Part One), an abstracted digital animation, is notably accomplished. Layers of colors, line, and movement interact seamlessly with one another, all backed by a warm mixture of real life and digitally-produced sounds. With the video's title as a starting point, the animation connotes planet formation, cell growth, shifting tectonic plates, and ocean currents. Tucked in the far corner of the back gallery, this video should not be missed.
Farley Gwazda, Model Earth (Part One).
Torsten Zenas Burns, Familiars.
Similarly engaging, Torsten Zenas Burns' 10-minute Familiars documents a group of people absorbed in a series of bizarre daily activities. According to Burns' narrative, these dreamy weirdos are 'artists in residence' in an historical Massachusetts home. The awkward analog elements of the video are strange and charming -- a 'nostalgia' filter is created by videoing everything through some kind of glass orb, rendering strange undulations in the image. All the scenes are swept up into a melodramatic orchestral score, the entire video could be the introduction to a truly watchable art reality show.
Liz Walsh, Manipulatives.
Moving beyond passive viewing, two pieces incorporate interactive elements to different ends. Liz Walsh's Manipulatives spans two rooms. In one, colored acrylic shapes resembling the Transamerica Pyramid sit on an old slide light box. A small video camera monitors the scene. In the other room, this captured image is projected against the opposite side of the same wall, overlaying footage of San Francisco streets, landmarks, and landscapes. The shapes are meant to be shifted, and the process of discovery -- seeing familiar faces in the remixed video around the corner -- is part of the fun.
Videorgans, while playful, translates viewers' bodies into geodesic renderings of organ-like 3-D shapes. Artist Julia Litman-Cleper arranged the entire apparatus to resemble a fleshy jumble of flat screens, milky plastic, tape, and colored tubes. The piece calls to mind a future in which electronics and machinery will be commonplace and permanent fixtures in human bodies, bringing half the subtitle of the show ("Pasting the Future") to life.
A meditative and simultaneously unsettling piece is Evie Leder's Object Number One. A nude male torso hovers horizontally at eye level, suspended at an uncanny angle, twitching slightly. The life-sized presence, along with the very accurate tones of his (projected) skin, is a perfect companion to Litman-Cleper's piece. Tiny movements become magnified and unfamiliar at this angle.
The quietness of Object Number One is in direct contrast to the more frenetic elements of the show, and here the difficulty of presenting a group of video works becomes most apparent. Conflicting sound is always a problem, as pieces compete for your aural attention. Despite this, Summer of Video Art 2012 fills a void by showcasing art that engages the viewer on multiple sensory levels, stimulating more than silent and solitary contemplation of an object. All too often, video work is relegated to the back room of a gallery or placed as an afterthought to fulfill well-rounded media requirements. Here it is front and center, from a broad range of practitioners, and well worth your time.
Summer of Video Art 2012: Futuring the Past, Pasting the Future is on view through August 24, 2012 at Krowswork. For more information, visit krowswork.com.