Video is a collection of works by five artists from the World Wide Video Festival directed by Tom van Vliet that takes place each year in Amsterdam. Four of the works on show were commissioned for last year’s festival, where they were extremely well received. The fifth is a new work by Michaelis professor Malcolm Payne, co-organiser of the exhibition, who has also featured in two previous festivals.
Payne has assumed directorship of a drywall structure in the old Michaelis Gallery that was constructed for Steve McQueen’s visit last year, and he intends to show new work every month.
Further viewing spaces have been created for this show, the most spectacular of which is in Hiddingh Hall where Minnette Vari’s masterpiece Chimera can be seen. This cavernous double-volumed room of 20m long is completely blacked out. Four diaphonous screens are hung at eccentric angles and the whitened images of two animated video loops penetrate these screens and spill on to the walls and floors behind. Footage from the frieze of the Voortrekker Monument morphs and segues into an elusive goat-headed female nude that itself morphs and dissolves back into the statuary. The soundtrack is equally unsettling with its distant voices, shimmering choirs and hollow dragging sounds.
Matthew Hindley will be an unfamiliar name to most, but his video projection is very compelling. As much madcap science experiment as psychological exercise, what his piece shows is as interesting as what it leaves out. It involves a tiny head-mounted camera, sensors on the subject’s fingertip and a recording device. When the sensors register excitement, footage is recorded. In other words, this is always the director’s cut. This may reveal, of course, that selecting music is more exciting to one of Hindley’s buddies than the lovemaking it is to accompany. It may also mean, for the viewer, long stretches of nothing happening on a London tube or an interminable bout of housekeeping.
Tracey Rose’s Ode to Leoness takes place on three abutting monitors. This silent tribute to the famous, recently deceased, transvestite involves black-and-white panoramic footage of a suburban backyard. A woman talks ceaselessly, constantly grooming, a goldfish swims aimlessly around its bowl and a net curtain hangs undisturbed. From time to time a figure in a feather robe and cap of cycling hues dances on to the scene, staining the surrounds with her colours.
Angolan-born Fernando Alvim’s Gela Uangu — War and the Art of Elsewhere was also part of the huge touring exhibition Memorias Intimas Marcas. Footage of war-torn Angola is overlayed with text from Alvim’s anti-war manifesto and is interspersed with interviews with ex-soldiers and artists from surrounding countries. It is a stark reminder of the devastation war brings to a country and the stresses it places on a population.