Article by Stephanie Hough

Basement Project Space presented The EYE-KEA Project International Video Art Event from 16th – 25th April 2010.

The EYE-KEA project was proposed as a research event based around the premise, that video art practices need re-evaluation in light of changes being brought about by technological advancements altering the way we interact. Gauging how the merger of audiovisual entertainment with the Internet, through the development of web-2.0 has impacted on video art practices. Focusing on how video art has evolved and how video artists have responded to these rapid changes. The thesis behind this project was to articulate past and present trends of video art practices, set within a broader cultural context of the Internet and media culture. Presenting a cross-section of established and emerging artists whose work exposed and developed upon the re-occurring themes within the genre of video art.

The title for this event references the Swedish furniture chain ‘Ikea’, using it as a symbolic device to frame this event. Considering videos, which echo a consumerist driven society, a society that treats its culture as throwaway products. Online video is the by-product of this postmodernist paradigm, where the insatiability for culture as entertainment is overwhelming. Ikea’s recent ad campaign on Irish TV utilizing the slogan: ‘change kitchens, change lives’ captures the essence of this quick fix culture. It’s not very surprising that many people often refer to shopping as ‘retail therapy’. Consumerism as a therapy has taken hold in contemporary lifestyle, purporting endless offers on the promise of empowerment and control. The Ikea brand embodies this kind of consumerism, selling products, at throwaway prices and throwaway quality. This type of post-industrialized production is echoed in the entertainment we simultaneously produce and consume on the Internet. Online video has become a phenomenological form of expression since the advent of Youtube circa 2005. Youtube enabled video to become the dominant cultural voice of this century. Establishing video as a powerful facet of our communicative and cultural language, engendering hybrid forms of expression. ‘User Generated Content’ claims to be content created by the people who use this technology, but ironically the majority of videos uploaded to Youtube contain content appropriated from other pre-existing sources, such as television programs, movies and music videos. Techniques, methods and content are borrowed from popular cultural genres, and are then re-mixed, re-purposed and re-cycled. It begs the question whether we are being liberated from the media hegemony (by re-purposing material to say something different?) or does Youtube represent a remixed lexicon reinforcing past sentiments? New-media tools that are designed to alter the way we communicate often incite a sense of hysteria, critics advocating either positive or negative effects. Contemporary video artists wanting to stay relevant need to channel the idiom of the 21st century media-culture in a polyvalent way, working within and without Institutions simultaneously.

‘Art at its most significant acts as a distant early warning system, which can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it’ (Marshall McLuhan, 1962 Understanding Media: Extensions of Man)

During the relatively short history of video art from the late 1960s until the present, we have witnessed many video artists deconstruct the mediated world around them through a self-reflexive process, creating a commentary on the technologies they were utilizing. Many video artists appropriated filmic and televisual footage, and re-purposed them into video art pieces. This type of practice is not dissimilar to the deconstructive processes now occurring within the mainstream cultural arena of YouTube.

The EYE-KEA Project screened work by 35 artists from 14 different countries. Invited and selected artists represented a diverse cross-section of methods and methodologies of contemporary Video Art from around the world.

Premiering work by prominent artists such as Guy Ben-Ner with his brilliant video piece ‘Stealing Beauty’. An intriguing piece where he and his family enact a sit-com in several different Ikea stores, he explicitly asks us to challenge accepted notions of consumerism and ownership in a subtle and humorous way. Oliver Laric’s Irish premier of his video piece ‘5050’, utilizes footage from Youtube to create a montage of 50 people lip-synching to 50 cents popular rap song ‘In Da Club’. Kevin Atherton’s piece ‘In Two Minds’, deals with the very notions associated with video art. In the piece Atherton is performing in front of a projection of himself from 1978 in which he is asking himself questions. This piece in relation to the exhibition became a very intriguing account of changing video art practices between timelines.  Also included in the show was Bjørn Melhus’s video piece ‘The Oral Thing’, also an Irish premier by a prolific artist, whose work is constantly displacing information and messages from television programs into fragmented and sometimes disturbing video art pieces. In this piece, we can hear sound-bites from ‘Jerry Springer’, ‘The weakest link’ and other day-time talk shows, which are layered over footage of the artist in this futuristic TV show setting, where he lip-synchs to the sound-bites, and interrogates his guests, who are reduced to talking heads. Melhus uses looping and repetition to disorientate the viewer, what at once seemed humorous has now become unnerving.

Jonathan Velardi’s piece ‘Fortune Teller’, a video composed of close-up segments of footage from pop music videos. Cork based artist Marie O’Mahony explored in her physical staged performances on camera, the artist struggling with the notion of being an entertainer. Scottish artist Catherine Weir’s video piece shocked a lot of people when it questioned the authenticity of footage extracted from Youtube of people seemingly committing suicide. American artist Clint Enns’s video piece ‘Putting yourself out there’ was footage he took from video chat web sites streamed unknowingly from the people he was talking to, taking intimate situations to highlight the ironic breakdown of physical communication. In Katie Waugh’s ‘Failure to communicate’ we see technological glitches, resembling abstract paintings captured from an American political television station. Jeremy Newman’s ‘Domestic Rhythms’ creates a video collage from outsourced footage from cartoons to newsreels, creating an “avant-garde” style piece, which deals with social and technological communication through the ages.

As part of the event we also hosted a film screening of a documentary about remix culture, ‘Rip: A remix manifesto’ by Brett Gaylor. We also hosted a day of presentations and discussion surrounding associated themes. Speakers were Kevin Flanagan who spoke about the democratization of media, Brian Flanagan who presented a paper titled ‘So Bad its Brilliant’, James Hayes spoke about his video piece and its relationship to the associated themes and Maire O’Mahony spoke about her piece which dealt with the artist as entertainer. Afterwards we hosted an informal public discussion on related topics, which touched on notions of the place of art in a mediated landscape, the role of the gallery in facilitating new media practices, the significance of online video and its relationship to art practices. Overall The EYE-KEA project was curated to enthrall, disorientate and overwhelm anyone who dared brave this exhibition, but it also sought to inform, update and challenge perceptions associated with video art.

List of all participating artists:

Celeste Fichter (USA), Oliver Laric (SLOVENIA), Kelly Oliver & Keary Ronsen (USA), Hugh Cooney (IRELAND), Guy Ben-Ner (ISRAEL), Chen Hangfeng (CHINA), Cecile Wesolowski (FRANCE), James Hayes (IRELAND), Katie Waugh (USA), Elisabeth Smolarz (USA), Keren Zaltz (ISRAEL), Aaron Oldenburg (USA), Antti Savela (SWEDEN), Laura O’Connor (IRELAND), Lynne Heller (CANADA), Jonathan Velardi (ENGLAND), Bjørn Melhus (GERMANY/NORWAY), Selina Shah (ENGLAND), Jeremy Newman (USA), Kevin Atherton (UK/IRELAND), Michael Szpakowski (ENGLAND), Carolyn Collier (IRELAND), Mice Hell (IRELAND), Karen Y Chan (USA), Máire O’Mahony (IRELAND), Lemeh42 (ITALY), Louise Shine (IRELAND), Catherine Weir (SCOTLAND), Gareth Hudson (UK), Wim Janssen (BELGIUM), Richard O’Sullivan (UK), Paul Wierbinski (GERMANY), Clint Enns (CANADA), James Snazell (ENGLAND), Michael Fortune (IRELAND).

As our communication technology advances it aspires to unite us closer. With terms like “community”, “participation”, “social” and “network” the embedded phraseology exposes our natural desire to communicate with one another. The age-old irony exists within the human condition, our primitive instincts remain intact, we struggle to unite the equilibrium of necessity to communicate with fellow man.

Art has always been about communication, saying something through an objectified distance. This distance is what allows art to function to breathe.

Video art creates the distance needed to decipher signs and symbols put forth by mediated images and ideas. Heightening the ambiguous spaces within media culture, similar to what Roland Barthes described as ‘the third meaning’ in his 1971 essay when talking about isolated still frames from films.

Through understanding changing video art practices we can begin to understand messages and meanings mediated through our culture. Enabling us to see the wood for the trees, or the meaning from the message.

                  • Stephanie Hough

Basement Project Space is located on Camden Place, Camden Quay, Cork city. BPS is currently an independently funded, voluntarily run, artist-led venture. The space is located in the heart of Cork city and compromises of project/exhibition space, Artists Studios and Media-lab. There are currently six members: Claire Murphy, Colm Madden, Lorraine Mc Donnell, Paul Maguire, Rachel Mc Donnell and Stephanie Hough. The six members of the BPS jointly instigate and co-ordinate events. To-date BPS has hosted 12 events within 6 months and catered for 59 Irish and International Artists. BPS members have established the space as a contemporary cultural unit, hosting projects, exhibitions and alternative events. Providing a space to creative practitioners within a dynamic and friendly environment.

For further information on Basement Project Space go to: www.basementprojectspace.wordpress.com

E-mail: basementprojectspace@gmail.com

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