The Crossed ‘Signals’ of MoMA’s Largest Ever Video Show

Beauty is great and elegance deserves it, but sometimes a visit to a museum can be disconcerting. You may agree or disagree, argue or reassess, or be less certain than before.I’m sure your wish came true “The Signal: How Video Changed the World” The exhibition closes this weekend at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. And this exhibition, screen by screen, hour by hour, stands proudly as the most complex exhibition of the year.

Since its opening in March, I’ve probably climbed up to the top floor of MoMA to see this ambitious and sporadic exhibition of video art. This exhibition is the largest the museum has ever held. I have swam through its screens and projections, broadcasting more images than any one visitor can handle. Four months later, I still have no idea, but my feelings about The Signal were a mixture of admiration, bewilderment, intellectual provocation, political fatalism, and (for some works) absolute anger. I am subdued by unclean emotions. Given the recent subtropical weather here in New York, this final weekend might be ideal for wrestling with Signal in MoMA’s air-conditioned galleries. Go with your friends and brawl about it.

Curators Stuart Cummer and Michelle Kuo’s ‘Signal’ paintings from the museum’s collection is clearly not the history of video art. Instead, it aims to document events and mobilize the public by presenting video as a medium of communication transmitted by citizens, artists, through closed circuits, television satellites and mobile phone apps. A focus on communication means eliminating many of the medium’s pioneers, from Bruce Nauman to Joan Jonas. (Of course, Naumann Large retrospective exhibition Nam June Paik still reigns as the father of video art, but his most famous work here is his later work, “Good Morning, Mr. Orwell.” A live satellite broadcast of a music and dance performance, whose soft-edged footage was broadcast simultaneously from New York and Paris on New Year’s Day 1984.

This program emphasizes the method of expression of images rather than recording and playing back. circulate: Through networks, through society. So we’ve relaxed almost nonchalantly about the technical peculiarities of our videos, drifting indiscriminately from Sony PortaPak to Samsung Galaxy. Confusingly, one of the show’s biggest objects is the “Movie Drome” by Stan Vanderbeek The work of 1964-1965 was not video art at all, but rather a work of extended cinema, with American techno-optimists using 16mm film and 35mm and 70mm slides on the roof of a prefabricated aluminum igloo. projected. (MoMA’s media conservators used several video projectors in their impressive reconstruction of “Movie Drome,” which are modern digital stand-ins for VanDerBeek’s original film reels and slide shows.) VanDerBeek envisioned the entire world of Movie Drome. It leads to “artist exchange”.

The exhibition conditions are also loose for the show. Very few videos are shown in a black box, and sound leaks from exhibit to exhibit. However, the museum does make excellent accommodations for hearing-impaired visitors, including audio track descriptions and headphone rentals. I appreciated Comer and Kuo’s relaxed approach to viewing, especially the show’s decision to stream his 70+ single channel his videos for free. moma.org. Knowing you can watch them later at home saves you from having to watch all the videos at once, but playing them online introduces a new idiosyncrasy. It’s a fast scrubber bar. Its preview thumbnails and instant fast-forward completely defeat the viewer’s pretensions. Video art as an absorbing medium.

So this is a video exhibition rather than a video art exhibition. Against: Videos against television broadcasts, videos against government censorship, videos against corporate interests. In recent times at his MoMA, this hostile pose has become a little more reflexive, not necessarily convincing. The numerous videos and installations here, including an archive of queer interviews by Carlos Motta and animations of colonial monuments by the New Red Order collective, showcase the visibility that elite organizations can easily metabolize. is received as

On the other hand, some of Signal’s best young artists are really skeptical about the value of visibility and documentation. Tiffany Sia‘s “Never Rest/Unrest” (2020) shows the behind the scenes of a viral protest video. It presents a familiar image of Hong Kong’s repressed pro-democracy protests. She shot in her 16:9 vertical aspect ratio, the same as all the other protesters’ iPhones. For Sondra Perry’s two-screen projection,Double Quadruple Etcetera Etcetera I & II(2013), the artist filmed two black dancers dressed in white and performing against a white wall. She then used “context-aware” editing software (a dubious name) to blend the dancer’s body into the environment. However, digital erasure is interrupted. A problem will occur. A ghost possesses a machine. The black figure resists elite capture in ways that head-on representation cannot.

Because, as was the case with six videos by Francis Stark, naive trust in the screen can lead to short-sightedness and even moral ruin. Her “US Greatest Hits Mix Tape Volume I” consists of six of her iPads, each displaying two of her other videos, and played on a computer at the artist’s desk in Los Angeles. will be played. One of her in the screen plays an old pop song. The other plays her YouTube clips of contemporary wars and conflicts allegedly orchestrated by the United States. Her one of these videos implies (starring Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer) that the United States, not the Soviet Union, was primarily responsible for the war in Afghanistan that began in 1979. Another article simply sent a speech (starring Ariana Grande) blaming the “U.S. Empire” for Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro’s 2019 uprising. Most frighteningly, the 2014 Ukrainian Maidan revolution is attributed to US interference. This is a fiction often supported in the Russian media to justify President Vladimir V. Putin’s initial invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

I am not exaggerating when I say that MoMA spent four months spreading Putinist propaganda. The Afghan video incorporates footage from Russia Today, the Kremlin-backed cable network. The Ukraine conspiracy theory originated from a small YouTube channel promoting Russia’s war message, but “the Western mainstream media doesn’t want to say it.” And if you thought Stark was making a distant comment about digital gullibility, MoMA thought otherwise. When I first saw the show in March, the writing on the wall clearly stated that Stark’s work “investigates the history of U.S. military intervention in six countries,” and the democratic revolution in Ukraine. was outrageously listed as one of the U.S. military programs.the text later changed in response to public complaintsthe government now accuses the United States of “suspicious or covert involvement”. It brings as much subtlety as the Katy Perry song that plays in the background.

MoMA should never have bought this bankrupt “mixtape.” But amid the “Signal” hustle and bustle, Stark’s helpful silliness (in old Cold War terminology, referring to Western dupes apologizing for foreign oppression) has been a slam dunk for streaming, linking, sharing, and commenting. It may have contingent value as a warning against bad habits. That’s where video’s final democratic potential seems to have been buried. In the show’s catalog, art historian David Joselit explores how 2010s video became more about permanent renewal and erasure than archiving events, and how I Observing how our endless record ironically leaves us with an “erasure of history”. The best videos of “Signal” are against this eradication, especially two of his, which you can watch in person or online last weekend.

One is classic.revolution videogram, 1992 by German film director Harun Farocki and Romanian co-producer Andrei Uhica. In the final days before the overthrow and execution of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, pro-democracy demonstrators occupied the headquarters of a television station in Bucharest, kicked out propagandists and started broadcasting for themselves. Did. Not just revolutions, but personal testimonies and even folk songs. Farocki and Ujica have collected hundreds of hours of free Romanian television to create a valuable archive of the democratic potential of video in times of extreme turmoil.

One is new.Letter to Turtle Doveis a beautifully jagged video poem produced in 2020 by young Ukrainian artist Dana Kaverina. Combining stop-motion animation, camera-phone videos of Ukrainian soldiers, and back-projected Stalinist footage of the 1930s, this harrowing recent work depicts Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking industrial area in eastern Ukraine. It depicts both historical and contemporary realms. Amnesia, erased here by propaganda, erased there by indifference. Like many artists after the 2014 Maidan Revolution (which, as the show first suggested, was not an American conspiracy), she has been buried beneath the polluted soil of Donbass since a full-scale invasion. , has discovered a new aquifer of Ukrainian art that is becoming more and more urgent. When Kaverina’s famed Turtle Dove turns into a blazing fighter and her whispered verses give way to air raid sirens, we remember whose signals need to be let through and whose signals need to be jammed.

The Signal: How Video Changed the World
Until Saturday (Sunday for members). Museum of Modern Art, New York, 11 West 53rd Street. (212) 708-9400, moma.org.

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