The critics (i.e., other artists) take aim. Referencing the interview Paddy Johnson did with Michael Bell-Smith and me, Joe McKay recently posted a comment that applies to the discussion about LCDs, CRTs, projections, and the like. (He didn't actually taking potshots in it--the remarks were some of the most supportive writing I've gotten.) I've tacked it on to my post-interview follow-up to Mike's last comment in the interview, as if it were a real conversation and not some cobbled-together thing.
MBS: [...] The work in the [Foxy Production] show was created with a gallery in mind and I wanted it to feel that way. Rather than playing off the tensions of bringing new media into the gallery - as I feel Tom has with his show – I wanted it to feel like a natural fit, again, like maybe this is just how we make art these days.
The photo at the top of Marcin Ramocki, artist, vertexList gallery proprietor, and sharpshooter, is courtesy artMovingProjects. Below is my installation shot showing the TVs in my just-closed exhibition.
I don’t think flat screens in a gallery feel especially high tech. For me they’re less loaded than traditional TVs/monitors (which feel consciously lo-tech), high end CRT NTSC monitors (which tie into a history of video art in the gallery) or large projections (which feel cinematic or as Tom pointed out, aggressive).
For me, the containment of wall-mounted flat screen monitors is about putting the work on a physical and spatial par with painting, drawing or photography. I think creating that kind of familiar physical relationship between the viewer and the work may serve to combat the tech gap: at the very least the viewer knows how to deal with the piece on a physical level. [...]
TM: These are good points. I want to add that, although I recently did a blog post called "Showing new media work in a gallery: what's at stake," that isn't the main content of my show, any more than Mike's content was his delivery system. The gear I used is to deliver the strongest statement--which is to say, to get the most out of the pulsing abstractions, repurposing of a Star Trek sensor as a "simulacratracker" (as one commenter described it), and the embarassing acting out (or faux acting out) of Guitar Solo (which actually is on a tiny flat screen). I've argued with a couple of people about my use of tube TVs instead of LCDs for three of the pieces. I chose the tubes because they deliver a punchy image, punchier to me than what I'm seeing on flats these days. Tubes aren't that "retro"--J&R Music and Video still has a wall of CRTs for sale as an alternative to the wall of LCDs. I know, it won't last, but we're talking about the present. Translating animated GIFs from a computer to a single dedicated image on a TV adds an element of the unexpected, and a gritty texture I like. These choices aren't just to emphasize "new media in the gallery"--although that's definitely an aspect of the content.
Joe McKay: Tom, I felt your CRTs and DVD players had content. It took a minute to figure out what was wrong, but you just don't see home made GIFs on T.V. When I see a CRT I still think "T.V." - when I see a flat panel, I think monitor, be it video, computer or tv as its input. It made your show interestingly disquieting.
In a sense, the DVD froze the GIFs in time. I liked the presentation of Michael's work but the fact that they were playing off of computers made me wish that some of the content was being dynamically created and not just loops. But I can understand his decision, it is "computer art" so why not have it play off of a computer? It keeps the work from being "just a video", and is way easier for a collector to get her/his head around.
When I saw your show I felt that the projection was in conversation with the Ecstasy show, (even though I'm pretty sure you didn't see it, it was up in LA).
I felt your piece was a deliberately low tech attempt at sensory overload. The big problem with Ecstasy was the fact that every piece was expensive, and expensive looking. What I enjoyed about both yours and Michael's show was the humor, something that's in short supply in a lot of digital media.
I think the primary reason MBS's stuff is playing off computers is so it can run in high def. It's much easier and cheaper right now to buy an extra Mac Mini than to buy a HD/Blu-ray DVD burner and player and buy/figure out how to use whatever software you need to use it. Plus we don't even know which one of the high-def formats will emerge the new standard (or it could be that physical media is obsolete and neither is adopted)
I'm not convinced High Def is the way to go. I bitched about artists using plasma screens and HD before making videos was even a gleam in my eye. My idea of a good show is one you can read from the door, as opposed to doing a head-bobbing walk down a row of objects. You can't beat TVs or projections for punch, walk-up appeal, instant readability from a lot of different angles.
I know, you can get punchy images with HD--but the cost isn't the Mac Mini, it's the screen or projector. I don't think artists should have to go into hock to do shows. We're all such fucking victims--"I'll max out my card and I just know I'll be the one they pick!" Even as a mere art video consumer, I didn't like that artists were having to keep up with the Joneses buying the latest gear. It's the same reason I use a home printer as opposed to paying a lot of money to have work printed "professionally." And as you suggested, whatever you sink the dough in is the first thing to be obsolete.
Also, I like a nice crisp image on my screen at home but I don't necessarily want to see that in a gallery--most of the art made for that format is just too damn slick and tech-finicky. I like Mike's show a lot, but I still think his war video game piece in the Infinite Fill Show, shown on a 27 inch CRT, is one of the strongest things he's done. It had that surprise factor that Joe is talking about. It was grittier and cruder, which made the tech wizardry seem even more miraculous to me. It might also be the context of that show, but I don't think so.
This is just my opinion--I have a strong Arte Povera mindset and tend to value that more than Arte Richera.
Lastly, computers are always freezing! By contrast, my DVD players were little workhorses, grinding away for six weeks without one call from the gallery saying, "can you come fix this, something's not working."
Oh, and speaking of content issues, we did manage to get through a three part interview without discussing much of the political content--the "war game" piece definitely referenced the Iraq war, which we were still in shock from in '04. Roberta Smith picked up on the Katrina reference in Continue 2000. I confess I missed it. Duh. I was dazzled by the angular patterns and was thinking of them as atmospheric rather than being floodwaters, but there was that house rooftop sitting right in front of me. I think because it goes into silhouette when the sun flares I was just thinking of it as a piece of the landscape. Hmm... the sun flares... Global warming... The last house standing on earth... I definitely had more of a sci fi reading of it and thought less about it being an allegory of current events.
It depends a lot on the work. For MBS I can definitely see HD for a lot of it. For yours, in general I think standard def (and possibly interlaced) works best.
But that infinite fill show piece he did definitely should be on a CRT since the game it came from (Marble Madness!!) would have originally been on a CRT. It would actually work really well on a B&W CRT.
But at least in the case of us and Foxy, the gallery bears a lot of the expense of getting the right hardware. It's not that expensive anyway -- the prices are dropping fast. I always just remind myself how much a big canvas and good paint cost.
The great thing about HD is that it opens up possibilities artists never had. We/they can do stuff that has the clarity of good film at a price an artist can afford. Avoiding the more glaring distortions of video if we choose to. I'm interested to see what comes out of this. And other possibilities are opening up too, like extreme slomo. I think part of the reason Viola is so popular is just because he's the only "video artist" who could afford the film equipment needed to do that crazy-ass slomo.
yeah Katrina came to mind, with a floodwater of animated GIFs. Is it using digital icons to speak about the environmental problems or using the environmental problems to comment on technology? Mike's work is cool because it can be read in a lot of different ways that make sense. An attribute of most of my favorite artists. Also, the music is totally rad.