film

Bruce Nauman, Joan Jonas, Martha Rosler, Liza May Post & Keren Cytter: A Comparative Approach
3 Sep - 6 Sep 2015

A screening of a selection of video work from the Stedelijk Museum collection

Location
Stedelijk Museum, Teijin Auditorium
Language
English
Admission
Entrance fee to the Stedelijk Museum
Reservations

Not necessary, free entrance with museum entrance ticket 

In conjunction with the publication of Video Art Theory: A Comparative Approach (Wiley-Blackwell publishers, 2015), written by Helen Westgeest, the Stedelijk Museum presents a selection of video work from its collection: Bruce Nauman, Joan Jonas, Martha Rosler, Liza May Post & Keren Cytter. The selection demonstrates how video artworks are intertwined with other visual media. Moreover, these works provide insights into how video artists critically interrogate the language of media such as television.

Video art cannot be captured in a single, all-inclusive definition. Through observing video art from a “media comparative approach,” the program aims, like the book, to provide a crucial understanding of video as a medium in contemporary art, and of the related visual mediations we encounter in daily life.

This film program is scheduled in conjunction with a theoretical forum program, titled Video Art Theory: A Comparative Approach, on Sept. 3, 2015, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. More info and tickets

SELECTION OF WORKS

The selection of works from the Stedelijk Museum Collection presents an interdisciplinary approach towards video art in the form of a diptych: one part outside the auditorium, the second part inside the auditorium. First, three monitors present work from the 60s and 70s: Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975) and Joan Jonas’s Vertical Roll (1972) address the visual language of television shows through video performances, and Bruce Nauman’s Wall/Floor Positions (1968) investigates the notion of the spatiality of the television set and performance art. Then, inside the auditorium, two more recent works show contemporary examples of how video artworks are intertwined with other visual media: Liza May Post’s Bros (1999) presents a video performance (of a process of being attached and breaking off), that sometimes looks like a moving abstract painting;  and Avalanche by Keren Cytter is a four-part segmented journey through several narratives mediated through the visual language of film and television.

Bruce Nauman
Forth Wayne, IN (US), 1941
Lives and works near Galisteo, NM (US)

Wall/Floor Positions, 1968
Video (b/w, sound), 59’02”

In this videotape, Bruce Nauman assumes a set of positions in relation to a wall and floor, similar to those he had executed for an untitled 1965 performance, which he described as “standing with my back to the wall for about forty-five seconds or a minute, leaning out from the wall, then bending at the waist, squatting, sitting, and finally lying down. There were seven different positions in relation to the wall and floor. Then, I did the whole sequence again, standing away from the wall, facing the wall, then facing left and right. There were twenty-eight positions, and the whole presentation lasted an hour.”

Through limiting his movements to the frame of the video camera, Nauman seems to investigate the inner space of the television cube, while the wall behind him becomes the rear wall of the cube.  Nauman’s video performance also displays a relationship between video and sculpture through his references to the figural poses of the body, as if using his own body as sculptural material.

Joan Jonas
New York, NY (US), 1936
Lives and works in New York, NY (US)

Vertical Roll, 1972
Video (b/w, sound), 19’39”

Joan Jonas began exploring the relationship between performance and video during the 1970s, and often performs in conjunction with her videos. Vertical Roll’s title refers to the term for an unstable rolling picture on a television screen, and the video itself shows an image of Jonas bouncing and dancing in time to a relentless beat. The image of Jonas seems to jump from top to bottom: a horizontal black band spans the video frame, rolling in sync with the staccato beat. The artist is at the mercy of technology; her body is alternately thrust out or pulled into the frame, or forced to leap over the black barrier.

Jonas considers performances recorded on videotape as mere documents, in contrast to video performances that are altered through its special effects. In Vertical Roll, Jonas’s feet, legs, arms, and torso appear as disembodied fragments. The temporal delay between signals makes the viewer aware that television presents distorted views by definition. 

Martha Rosler
New York, NY (US), 1943
Lives and works in New York, NY (US)

Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1968
Video (b/w, sound), 7’00”

A short black-and-white video reveals the suburban kitchen as a war zone where routine food preparation masks the violent frustrations felt by women on a daily basis, being confined by their homes. A static camera is focused on a mid-shot of artist Martha Rosler in a kitchen. In an ironic tone accompanied by increasingly aggressive gestures, she alphabetically presents a variety of cooking utensils and demonstrates their functions briefly by moving them around in her hands. In this way, she turns these familiar, kitchen-related objects into domestic weapons. According to Rosler, video allowed her “the opportunity to do work that falls into a natural dialectic with TV itself.” In Semiotics of the Kitchen, she presented herself with her lexicon of rage and frustration as “an antipodean Julia Child.” Julia Child, a major TV personality in the United States, presented the first television show on cooking.

Liza May Post
Amsterdam, (NL), 1965
Lives and works in Amsterdam, (NL)

Bros
, 1999
Video (color, sound)  6’07”

The video projection shows two people (‘bro[ther]s’) dressed in suits with colored strips Velcro rubbing against each other in a literal and figurative attachment and detachment processes. The work was presented in the Dutch pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2001. At first sight it has a fairly 'formalist' look which fits into a more painterly approach to video. Moreover, originally the work was part of the art and music project Flash from 1999. Local and international artists collaborated with composers and musicians, reacting to each other on the basis of their own discipline, which resulted in a 9-part DVD series.

Keren Cytter
Tel Aviv (IR), 1977
Lives and works in Berlin (DE)

Avalanche, 2011
4 channel digital video (color w. sound, 16:9), duration 31’ 56"

The films and video installations of Keren Cytter involve a complex interweaving of experimental narrative and extraordinary visual language. Flouting conventions of scriptwriting, storylines and fact versus fiction, Cytter creates works that draw on a variety of filmic styles and genres.  This subversive approach continues in her editing process, which utilizes elements such as discontinuity, repetition and loops to forge compelling narratives.

Cytter’s work Avalanche was filmed in Berlin and London. It consists of four chapters, Ducks and Woman, Francophile, Lonely Planet and Chain Review. Each chapter features scenarios involving a small cast of characters, with subtle shifts in style and plot that invite the viewer to journey between the different, yet related, narrative threads and locations. Recurring images and events—such as a glittering disco ball, a piano, a girl eating an apple, and a film poster of Gone with the Wind—anchor and connect each of the chapters.

CREDITS

This program is a collaboration between the Stedelijk Museum (Britte Sloothaak, assistant curator) and Leiden University (Helen Westgeest, assistant professor). The Stedelijk Museum would like to thank Helen Westgeest for the insightful discussions on  video art in relation to the collection.