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Gallery View: Videosphere

Peter Sarkisian's "Extruded Video Engine #5"

Who needs to truck in a blockbuster when you can produce a spectacular media art show from within your own collection? That’s what the curators at the Albright-Knox must have thought when they dreamed up Videosphere.

A Buffalo native headlines the impressive survey—which will sprawl across the 1905 portion of the museum—but even if Cory Arcangel was not involved, there are many affinities between this exhibition and its local audience. Thanks to a strong tradition of fostering independent and experimental media carried on by, among others, UB’s Department of Media Study, Squeaky Wheel, Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, and the long defunct Media Study Buffalo, WNY has been a receptive audience for time-based art forms for decades.

The museum did not need to pull out every single time-based work it owns for this show, not even Bill Viola’s spectacular The Messenger, acquired in 1997. Instead, the exhibition focuses almost exclusively on twenty-first century work, some of it mesmerizing projected video in the Viola tradition (like the enchanting trees of Jennifer Steinkamp’s Dervish 1), some of it more immediately referential, like Phil Collins’s dünya dinlemiyor (The World Won’t Listen), which features young people in Turkey, Columbia, and Indonesia singing Smiths karaoke against pastoral backdrops. You can watch the Collins videos (as recorded by others) on YouTube. In their own way, they are as beautiful and poignant as the accelerated aging of Steinkamp’s trees.

Cory Arcangel first became famous for his reworkings of obsolete but iconic video games like Nintendo’s Super Mario. The work now owned by the Albright-Knox, MIG 29 Soviet Fighter Plane and Clouds (2005), also uses hacked video games. The use of this outmoded technology is interesting on a few levels—it draws attention to the visual aesthetics in a way less possible when it was state-of-the-art, and it’s a nerdy-fun way to make serious references. Here, everything is vintage—the game, the Cold War reference, and the imagery—but the underlying threat of inevitable catastrophe is all too relevant.

Arcangel’s website/blog (loaded with multiple exclamation points and smiley emoticons) is well worth a visit, especially for a crash course in the deeply ironic work of this fascinating artist.

Other artists whose names will strike a chord of recognition are veteran conceptual artist Bruce Nauman, whose projected video work appeared in the museum’s 1997 Being in Time exhibition, and relative youngster Kelly Richardson, whose work was first introduced to Buffalo by Hallwalls in 2008. Nauman made neon-based artwork in the 60s and started making videos at about the same time, so the 1988 work in this show, Green Horses, could not be said to represent new technology for this artist. It does speak of his deep connection to horses and how his life as an artist is interconnected to his personal exploration of the bond between man and horse.

Richardson’s videos were a highlight of the Hallwalls season in 2008 and they are sure to be equally engrossing in this show. The artist used digitally-altered video for her vaguely apocalyptic, fantastic landscapes. The falling fireballs in Exiles of the Shattered Star should be ominous, but they barely evade such easy connotations, evoking awe and fascination instead. It’s a thin line, but one which the artists in this exhibition are adept at negotiating.

Videosphere runs from July 1 through October 9. Visit albrightknox.org for more info and associated events.


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