12 Video Artists to Watch
by Carina Imbornone
November 25th, 2017
This still from Center Jenny (2013) by Ryan Trecartin draws attention to the uncanny.
Video art--nobody knows how to define the genre, but it's here to stay. Although the medium, historically attributed to Nam June Paik in 1964, predates the internet, video art is particularly relevant to cyberspace and cyberspiritual expression.
Video art represents the internet age in its most distilled format. It uses the techniques of shareable video and allows distinctively original, non-narrative presentation. It is a hybrid form between the narration of traditional film and the naturally non-narrative, yet suggestive format of visual art.
As a medium at the crossroads, it has yet to be given definitive treatment. While at the fringes, video art is certainly breaking onto the main scene. Crossing over into the decidedly lowbrow world of memes, several artists have created content which extends beyond the Academy into the Facebook Newsfeed. And then there is the middle ground, an array of visual albums and music videos which exist as collaborations between video artists and contemporary successes.
Here's 12 Video Art Pieces to Watch on your rainy Tuesday, or you know, whenever.
[1.] Frank Ocean -- Endless
You didn't think we would start out like this, did you? A major creative popular success, Frank Ocean is a rarity, having received critical and popular success as an artistic innovator. Frank quickly ascended to the forefront of experimental R&B after bursting onto the Odd Future scene with intelligent yet conventional songs such as "Novacane" and "Swim Good". Endless is novel for its commitment to being slow and meditative, the antithesis of commercial music videos; it is a looping video in which an album is encoded. Released online, Endless was unconventionally but omnisciently disseminated, flipping the traditional economic model for album release.
[2.] Ryan Trecartin -- Center Jenny
The prolific master of internet art, the youngest artist (age 25) at the 2006 Whitney Biennial, represented on both coasts: Ryan Trecartin has inspired a lot of reaction from critics and not enough reaction from the public. The first time I watched Ryan Trecartin's work, after reading this very good profile, I had to turn it off after 5 minutes. Then I turned it back on and have been unable to look away since.
It's accurate in the strangest ways, narrative but without possession of a narrative thread. Syntax and words dissolve behind a day glo dollar store approximation of the Jersey Shore on acid. Except it's more than that. It leaves you to wonder where the meaning is, and then you realize the meaning is in none of the traditional places. It’s gibberish in the common context and it’s attempting to rewire your perception of the everyday and the awkward.
And you will love it.
[3.] PES -- Fresh Guacamole
Maybe Ryan Trecartin was a lot for you to handle. PES is the soothing antidote. Fresh Guacamole won an Oscar, and it’s in the familiar (and much underrated) stop motion format, but I’m counting it. Art doesn't have to be obscure. Sometimes an avocado is just an avocado.
[4.] Howardina Pindell -- Free, White, and 21
I kind of lied when I said video art isn’t narrative. Sometimes, it is. This video, which deals with the experience of coming of age in a racist America, has become a MoMA favorite. The video unfortunately isn’t available online, but Abbi Jacobson (of Broad City) profiles it well in her podcast A Piece of Work.
[5.] Christian Jankowski -- The Hunt
If you need an excuse to drag your ass out to the ICA, this is a good one. Look for the video on display next to the central elevator. Some video art bursts into the prank/gag category, i.e. "what’s the craziest thing we can film”. Which is cool of course, if that's the message, but temper it with a witty idea, and you get something like this, something like some guys taking bow and arrow to the supermarket aisle.
[6.] Steve Mcqueen -- Ashes
Another ICA video. This piece invites us to slow down, to consider both presentations of a narrative. Video art is the medium of film perverted against the traditional aim of providing information as universally as possible. That is good. Experimental by nature, the film runs two rolls on two sides of the screen, one narrative, one aesthetic and meditative--the lush footage of the sea. Watch to feel transported to the spiritual realm of summer.
[7.] Bruce Conner -- A Movie
One of the greatest virtues of video art is how it takes a quintessentially modern technology and divorces it from the digital age’s short attention span. Bruce Conner’s videos, many devoted to the expression of light, would easily bore if they did not enrapture. And isn’t that the point? Under Bruce Conner’s skill, the flicker of color on film becomes something dream-like.
[8.] Jonas Lindstrom -- Truth or Dare
A warning: Jonas Lindstrom’s work is dark, and contains graphic depictions of sex and violence.
According to this article from Nowness, “Truth or Dare is a narrative film project in 21 cinematic vignettes, which was presented for the first time as one spatial, room-filling audio-visual installation, on a continuous loop. The project serves as a subjective commentary on the now. Imagine an elevated version of the content found on cell phones around the world, condensed into these single, focused cinematic frames.” Kendrick Lamar drew inspiration from him for his Element music video--showcasing that video art can and will gain public recognition.
[9.] Martine Gutierrez -- MARTIN(E).TV
When I first saw her work, I thought it was music videos without the music. Lush, captivating, and consumerist, it’s a commentary on gender, identity, and living life on the political margins.
[10.] Pipilotti Rist -- Ever is Over All
Did Beyonce steal Ever Is Over All? Is Hold Up a tribute? I’m not sure, but give this a look.
[11.] Hannah Black -- My Bodies
Something about My Bodies trips into the meme space. But this is not a quick laugh--My Bodies, although humorous and satiric on the surface, left me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the creepiness of the stock photos and the unnatural nature of the music sampling, but something about it will strike a very relevant nerve.
[12.] Mary Reid Kelley -- You Make Me Iliad
Visual and verbal puns. Black and white. There’s a lot to discover within Mary Reid and Patrick Kelley’s magical worlds. The transposition of static painting onto the moving image builds texture into an already poetic world.