Risky Bidness


Video has always ridden the double-edged sword of its own verité. As a realist medium, it bears the burden of speaking the truth, but as photographic media, it labors under questions of authenticity that now tend to precede the image. This is a perfect if chaotic framework in which to engage the question of the relationship between video art and activism. In a new exhibition at New York nonprofit art space Art in General, entitled "High Risk Citizen" and curated by Mary Billyou and Eva Díaz, no less than twenty-eight artists chime in with contributions to this trouble-making discussion. These include Peggy Ahwesh, Harun Farocki, Eric Fensler, Sabine Gruffat, Les LeVeque, Martha Rosler, Keith Sanborn, Shelly Silver, and The Yes Men, among others. The show is unabashedly situated in the heat of the moment, with the curators arguing that, in this "year of presidential electioneering, a costly and ongoing war in Iraq, and growing economic recession, both the precarity and possibilities of the moment are incredibly high." All of this weighs on artists who've taken it upon themselves to comment upon the world. Whether the artists interpret this as a utopian opportunity or a dystopian jaunt towards failure, the focus of the show is to consider what it means to act radically or resistantly, in this era, and how the increasing tension between public and privates spaces, identities, and policies relates to the current increase in privatization and brokering of human relations vis-à-vis access to capital. Ultimately, the show falls back on the oft-neglected question of citizenship, which brings with it a valence of state ordainment and, yet, a long-documented public responsibility to participate in public governance by occasionally questioning authoring. The exhibition will be open through May 3rd. - Marisa Olson

Image Credit: Sabine Gruffat, Head Lines: Hybrid Film Trilogy, 2007