phile under: video art

Review: Echo Gap

By Lisa Radon September 12, 2009

For Echo Gap at Valentine’s this past Wednesday night, artist/curator Modou Dieng corralled a handful and a half of video pieces by Portland-based artists, displaying them primarily on notebook-sized Sony wall-mounted displays. Sound? One artist offered earphones, while the rest of the pieces were as mute, drowned out by the ambient music on the Valentine’s PA ranging from reggae on entrance to Fleetwood Mac “Rumors” on exit.

The best part of Sean Joseph Patrick Carney’s video, “I am actually seriously into metal,” a Seagrams 7-fueled backyard air band romp is really the opening credits with the underwear-clad figure squatting close to the camera to give us full torso view while a hand reaches through his legs to show the camera a notebook on which credits are handwritten. That and the figure crouched on the ground “playing keyboard” while the madmen cavort around him/her.

Posie Currin’s experiments optically with hand-painted film, found footage and digital images while Jeff Jahn locks into images of heavily moss-covered branches, asking the aggro-experimental soundtrack to do the lifting for “The Woods.”

David Eckard’s “TV/PA” uses video ironically to record three static poses by the naked Eckard, classically positioned as if on a stage amidst set flats painted draped fabric in black and white. (Couldn’t help thinking about tourists using video camcorders to shoot buildings…that don’t move…while some of my fellow viewers became antsy as Eckard held his pose.) He enters the stage, mounts a platform and raises a flat “piece of fabric” to strategically cover himself then holds the pose for some minutes. By inhabiting in flesh and blood this set made fake by its black and whiteness, itself a simulation of another environment as well as an imitation of a classic portrait or religious painting, Eckard multiply folds perceived and real in on themselves while challenging the expectations viewers bring to video rather than photo or painting.

And here was another chance to consider Kelly Rauer’s video from her Conversation series that she showed as well at the Manor of Art. Her hands are shown carefully forming the word “aggressive” letter by letter with a length of pink cord, then taking the string into her mouth, beginning at the end of the word and slowly unraveling/devouring it. Interesting that she engages a soft craft material (fiber typically being a feminine medium) in addressing what is most oft considered a masculine trait. Is she neutralizing the word or owning it? And with whom does the solitary actor have a “conversation” here?

Arnold Kemp’s looped piece juxtaposes two horrorshow sequences involving water doing things water doesn’t do, one in which it creates a penetrable vertical barrier and one in which it flows upward to flood the ceiling. Both scenes, too, involve humans interacting with water in unusual ways: one in darkness where water appears to be threat and one in light where it appears to be promise. A laden metaphor, water, but I have to say I am left wondering if these are obvious film references that I don’t get because I haven’t seen the films. Speaking of film appropriation, Hannah Piper Burns overlaying of a Rattatat song on footage from West Side Story forms her consideration:“if I were a man.” In Valentine’s, there was no sound, which is a shame because it’s cleverly synched. Less so is her interruption of the film with text on black screen with too-easy/vague questions “what is having/instead of being” “what kind of man would I be?” and an answer involving a slanted MJ reference and a rhyme ending in “tits.”

Finally, Stephen Slappe’s four-channel video, “Increasing In Significance” features a 360 degree panning camera at four locations in familiar if uninhabited PDX cityscape. In each, a figure (Slappe) enters the frame and approaches the camera. He walks with the camera, occasionally looking at it, and slowly as he walks, moves away from the camera. The farther away he gets, the faster he has to move (math!) until he is far away and running…until we don’t see him at all any more. I liked the technical goodness of the cameras all panning at the same speeds, I liked the empty locations animated only by a train or car until Slappe enters the frame. I appreciate the play “in (space) significance”=”insignificance” of the title and the question it carries—what is the significance of the individual in the metropolis/society?—but I’m mostly wild about the experiment as carried out.

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