Universo vídeo. Reflecting through Images

Analysis of the Universo vídeo [Video Universe] exhibition and several of the works that may be viewed

Published: Apr 01, 2013
Universo vídeo. Reflecting through Images

Anna Marziano, The mutability of all things and the possibility of changing some

By Semíramis González (@semiramis_glez), Semíramis en Babilonia.

On 15 March, in addition to the exhibition opening of Realidad Elástica [Elastic Reality] the project Universo vídeo_Prácticas experimentales [Video Universe_Experimental Practices], curated by Alfredo Aracil in collaboration with Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains (France), was opened featuring video pieces by Clorinde Durand, Clément Cogitore, Tatiana Fuentes Sadowski, Vimukthi Jayasundara, Anna Marziano, João Pedro Rodrigues, Laura Huertas Millán and Mitsuaki Saito.

Based on a conceptual development which is centred on the video’s ability to capture reality, the screenings aim to bring about a reflection on our way of seeing and how this is altered by different visual circumstances

The variety of the pieces means that the themes being addressed are different from one another, although we do find a number of common threads: once again we are reminded of the image’s capacity to be a record of the past and consistently transform nostalgia into the present, its facility to bring events which have already happened to the present day; this fine line seen by Barthes between memory and what we are experiencing today.

This can be better understood as we watch various pieces, such as the one by Mitsuaki Saito, Yabuki-machi, a documentary from 2012 which presents various inhabitants who suffered in the Fukushima disaster. Distancing itself from an obvious display of the suffering during the earthquake, it is focused more on the idea of return, going back to the site of pain and suffering to ascertain that many have now gone while others have stayed, trying to remain removed from what happened, as if it had been an impasse in life that needs to be overcome in order to get on with the daily routine. Has anything changed? Is everything the same? And if something really has changed, can this be seen with the naked eye, or is it an open secret, a thought shared by everyone, one which has to be silenced?

Similar to what Adorno spoke about in the impossibility of writing poetry after Auschwitz, here the aim is to present a different reality, where the imprint of the disaster is never to be forgotten, but needs to be overcome to make it possible to carry on.

This same idea of getting over terror and fear is shown in the piece by Anna Marziano who in The Mutability of All Things and the Possibility of Changing Some, also from 2012, reflects on the tragedy of the earthquake that devastated Italy in L’Aquila in 2009, in which more than 300 people died.

It reiterates the need to show how history overcomes itself and how life prevails beyond pain.

Marziano achieves this with long, still shots that follow one another in different spaces: a snowy outside, a firewood oven where the fire heats up… Playing with the temporary nature of the shots themselves intensifies this sense of calm, an unstable peace that even so harbours the grief caused by death in its conceptual sense which we do not seem to be aware of until we delve deeply into the meaning of the piece.

One which particularly impressed me at the exhibition viewing was the piece by Laura Huertas Millán, Voyage en la terre autrement dite (2011), in which a narrator tells us in first person through a voice-over about the experience of arriving in the “New World”, of finding a new geographical space which he was not prepared for. The images, which were shot in the Tropical Garden of Lille, very subtly show nevertheless two different ideas: the feelings of anyone who arrives in another place and occupies it, who becomes an oppressor and conquista* [conquers] a place which is not theirs, with the modern European mindset of the domination of the weak. Additionally, a parallel is drawn between modernity today, where the exotic (if indeed, there is really anything exotic) can be found anywhere, even in botanical gardens. The visual disorientation contrasts with the descriptive precision of the narrator, who seems to be speaking of the same place that we can see. However, nowadays you don´t have to go far to enter a jungle, nor to closely observe plant species characteristic of America.

This kind of cultural and social pastiche where we enjoy pretending to be in another place, which also has a certain exotic and ruinous romantic sense, is a postmodern heritage in the less optimistic sense of the word. We cannot help thinking about those theme parks that are capable of taking you from Polynesia to classical antiquity or Egypt in its greatest splendour.

Perhaps what best defines almost all of the works presented in Universo Vídeo is the concept of time standing still, either mental time, as in the previous pieces where it seemed to be on standby, or through time brought to a halt by the camera. We can see an example of this in the piece by Clorinde Durand, Naufrage (2008) which toys with showing in slow motion many of the most repeated scenes in classic cinema: falls, pursuits, collapses, fights, explosions…and highlighting something unusual in slowing down these moments, trying to bring out the dramatic sense of the action. A suspense which is properly interrupted and seems endless. In this way, any scene is this piece is an excuse to slow down time and show us the gestures of the protagonists almost to the second, as if they were kind of dancing in a dramatic and visual choreography.




In addition to these works, at the exhibition you can also enjoy those by Tatiana Fuentes Sadowski, Vimukthi Jayasundara, Clément Cogitore and João Pedro Rodrigues. This project was opened at the same time as Realidad Elástica [Elastic Reality], also in collaboration with Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains, focusing more on the video art part, as opposed to the installations in Realidad Elástica. Undoubtedly, this collaborative work with the French centre involves a high quality of exhibitions at LABoral, which is able to present two parallel projects that have different conceptual meanings which, nonetheless, remain connected. Two different proposals which can enjoyed as a whole.

* conquista is the Spanish word for “to conquer” in the context of the New World in the 16th century

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