The Blue Raccoon

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Day Late and A Dollar Short IV:
"People will flock to an idea that is 75 to 95 percent true..."

  • From Jeremy Blake's Sodium Fox: Virginia-born musician/poet David Berman intones at this point: "We called ourselves the Rivergate 8. Most parents thought we were a cinemaplex." I've tried identifying the figures here, with that kind of cross-word puzzle need for clues. Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov is far right, next to Geronimo, and to the left of the dog is a youthful photo of reclusive writer Thomas Pynchon. The expression and attitude of the woman at far left resembles Theresa Duncan, but is writer Joan Didion. Right of her is the young Ed Ruscha and next to him, writer Barry Hannah. The identity of the dog, or the Mod vest and striped coat guy--a rocker, designer? What's six across?
A few weeks ago the Partner-in-Art and I went with a group to meander in Washington D.C. art museums. Big shows of Edward Hopper and J.M.W. Turner are up at the National Gallery and at the Corcoran, a massive Annie Leibovitz exhibition.

Amie's been working more with video and new media due to her endeavors with the Praxis Studios "Dreams and Possibilities" project. So Blake's work is of some interest to her.

New media/video work is an acquired taste for me. Sorry. I'm a 19th century plastic arts kind of guy, I guess. I mean. Look. How can you sit and enjoy a video work -- as art -- that isn't more than five minutes in duration? Seems to me it's something a wealthy so-and-so in some vast New York or Chicago loft or Hollywood Hills cliff house turns on for party guests who glance at the ever-moving screen when conversation flags or, in some form of altered state, start seeing or hearing profundities within the imagery and sound which may or may not be imbedded there. The visual experience must either be unceasing with compelling eye candy or interactive in some fashion.

At the same time that Blake's work is up at the Corocoran, in a atrium is a video/sound installation Loop of 2000 by Jennifer Steinkamp and musician Jimmy Johnson. The piece puts visitors of Thomas Hope's copy of Canova's sculpture of Venus in the middle of a stringy, whirling abstract painting. Silhouettes of the goddess hover at all cardinal directions and you can stand alongside her, spirits together. Amie enjoyed this, and I liked Johnson's music, too. Kids loved jumping around in the vibrating colors and observing their shadows alongside the Goddess of Love. We are transported into this divinity's realm.

Venus draped in colors, from Agrinberg on Flickr.

The room, now luminous, feels almost weightless; the walls seem, somehow, to have dissolved. In their place loops of light in vibrant electronic hues sway and bob in an imperceptible breeze, dappling the bodies of delighted visitors who sit, walk around, lean back, look up, and cast their shadows on the moving veil of illumination. What lies beyond this glowing threshold? Infinity? A galaxy where things float unmoored?...Jimmy Johnson’s ambient score enhances this impression. It’s synthesized harmonies, so mesmerizing and euphoric, are a perfect complement to Steinkamp’s animations. Gene Youngblood might call this complementarity one of “synaesthetic synergy”: an elegant correspondence between differing or opposing elements." -- Melinda Barlow

Then, you take a look at this example of Blake's work, and maybe you can see better where I'm hung up:

Via Kinz,Tillou + Feigen.

So, imagine some film producer or stock broker inviting a few score of his/her closest friends, wafting about in baring designer cocktail dresses and summer whites, or, urban black, carrying their drinks, and on occasion, looking toward this projection and stopping and starting their conversations perhaps as a result of an image they've seen.

And I wonder about purpose here, too, in a philosophic art sense. Is this creative distraction? Is anything we call art just something that may give us pause, send our minds adrift for a few moments? A painting requires one to linger and by virtue of the placement of display, the light, the mood of the viewer, the meaning and interpretation changes. So could the argument be made that a new media piece, by its constant flux and flow, is a different work each few moments.

I've seen a variety of video/new media art in the past few years. Little of what I've experienced has remained in my memory, or moved me.

Bill Viola's groundbreaking work retains a connection to narrative painting, for example. And Jeremy Blake didn't consider himself a video artist, as he manipulated his pieces pixel by pixel, painted and drew elements that were later animated.
I am reminded, too, when considering the undulating colors of Blake's pieces--and his interest, too, in social/pop culture figures of the 1960s to 1980s--of the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Midway through is a long, acid-trippy descent through Jupiter's atmosphere in a space pod piloted by Mission Commander Frank Bowman (Keir Dullea) as the soundtrack plays the ominous, spiritual music of Gyorgy Ligeti's Requiem and Lux Aeterna.

"In a thrilling light-show ride activated by the monolith through both inner and outer space, the pod is sucked into and sent racing down a vortex, corridor, or tunnel of speckles of light (a time warp termed the Star Gate), moving faster and faster (than the speed of light). During his transcendental journey and space odyssey into the galactic round-about, images of the highlights of his views reflect off his space helmet as he shakes and watches in wonder at the cosmic whirlpool racing and rerouting him toward other dimensions at breakneck speed."--Tim Dirks


"Bowman first falls through a web of geometry's and colors. The universe is passing by at light-speed. Everything has become porous and blended together. Seven octahedrons - all changing color and form - appear over the sliding universe. The core of a distant galaxy explodes. A sperm cell-like creature searches for something. An ovary? A cloud-like embryo is forming into a child . Now alien worlds fly by, all of their colors and hues gone wild. Bowman is experiencing overload and looks like he might not be able to handle the amount of information that is being given.

This is humanity's initiation. Bowman is our representative in this process. He is the first man through. In this experience of passing through the monolith, or the single stone, Bowman is shamanically transformed by a completely psychedelic experience. Real information is being passed to Bowman by the monolith. This information is experiential and shamanic."-- Jay Weidner

The image below isn't from 2001, but Blake's interstitial art from Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love (1999). Given this is cinema, not video art, but, the direction or influence seems clear.

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