Curated by the talented Dr Angela Halliday, the 48:45 minutes of digital art raised strongly one question, that of appropriate duration. It may seem secondary, unnecessary, insufficient issue, in the context of the differences in talent, subject matter, mode of processing.
Indeed, the selected work has been carefully annotated and ordered, once the curator had responses to an issued call for submission.
The range on offer is impressive, eight artists present ten exhibits whose subject touches upon life and death, sensations grounded in slippery of words, of animated narratives, esoteric comical animation, history, morals, boundaries between real and imagined, and reflexive studies of obsolete technique as well as the most up to date digital manipulations.
The question of where and when a time based work should end does not apply to video, film a digital manipulation only, it is quite crucial for performance art. It matters great deal. The work is failing if i cannot wait for it to reach some kind of resolve, shift, change or an end, when I wish I had a remote control far fast forward. The most illustrative of this discomfort was the digital video When I am Explaining Something to You by Sara Amido, 2011, and Unknown portrait by Emanuelle Negre, 2008.
Amido dislocated the image and speach to ensure that actual incomprehension will be experienced. It has worked immediately, allowing the duration to be felt as superfluous, and worse, letting the viewer to get used to it, thus blunting the impact. The restoration of an old photographic portrait in Negre’s super8/ digital video appealed by its power to translate an obsolete technique into the more available one. I like that the movement was stopped on each frame, it resonated with my youthful attempts on docu/poetic super 8 films. Unluckily, the slow tempo and long duration inserted unwelcome ennui that successfully overwhelmed the delicate rescue.
Other visual art can rely on the boundaries forged by a story or lean on the Gottfried Semper’s(1803-1879) theoretical investigation of economy of means. He, of the 19th C, has not extended it to time base visual arts. That is thus still a task for the artist to address every time as new.
The ambitious Anus Mundi by David Dunne, 2012, is a superbly crafted high definition video, formed on the adapted script from a diary of an SS Nazi physician practising in Auschwitz / Oswiencim. Entry September 2, 1942 illustrates his detachment from personal individual responsibility, detachment so widespread still at present. It reads:“Was present for the first time at a special action, by comparison Dante’s Inferno seems almost a comedy…” I felt an acute attack of memories from that period, I failed to evoke my attention to art issues.
That was much easier when I watched the two wonderful animations. Cold and Wet by Damian Magee, 2011 is an experimental animation of drawings, paintings and photographs to forge a sensation of floods of biblical proportion, and swashing waves. Even the distortion forged by two different sounds competing, and not to the benefit of the narrative, it achieved impact by questioning mankind’s responsibility for environment, by questioning evolutionary forces too.
Sayesex by John D’Arcy, 2012 is just under seven minutes long text animation. Employing random blocking, highlighting, dimming of words on a screen fully covered by letters introduced playful element, an experiment in time based poetry, reminiscent of the proverbial hat of Tristan Tzara (1896-1963). D’Arcy succeeded in offering a marvellous visual feast intoxicated by speed and catching up the possible meaning.
On this evidence, the Digital Studios are not just a welcome, but an essential part of the visual art sphere of Northern Ireland. The film and video are firmly in our visual culture.