Seeing It; Swimming in It


Literature accompanying a new exhibition at Cornell University's Johnson Museum of Art writes the history of video art in terms of two modes of expression: "feedback" and "immersion." The first encompasses work that uses the camera to literally reflect a moment while the latter covers encircling--and frequently more cinematic--installations. Looking back on the last 15 years, the show, titled Stop. Look. Listen: An Exhibition of Video Works, traces these tendencies into the present with work by Burt Barr, Mircea Cantor, Amy Globus, Christian Marclay, and 12 other artist working primarily in the medium. On the immersive end of the spectrum, Janet Biggs's 1997 work 'Water Training' surrounds viewers on both sides with wall-size projections of floating figures--a horse, synchronized swimmers--shot from under water. Slater Bradley, on the other, implicates the viewer not through inundation, but by creating a sense of watching a home video with the 2003 work 'Phantom Release,' which displays footage of Kurt Cobain styled to look like it was shot with a handheld camcorder. On November 9th, Smithsonian American Art Museum film and media curator John Hanhardt discusses both approaches to the video-viewer relationship with the lecture 'Media Matters: Cinephilia and Installation Art.' Perhaps signifying a give and take between the two, Janine Antoni's 2002 tightrope act 'Touch' screens on the building's facade throughout the exhibition.