In May, New York is for art lovers. But though many of the fairs like Frieze New York on Randall’s Island, Pulse, and NADA NYC focus on traditional art, Video_dumbo, which opened to the public Thursday evening, is the only art fair of the bunch dedicated solely on video art and the moving image. After 50 years, video art is still the cutting-edge Visionary medium.
The fair’s curators, Caspar Stracke and Gabriela Monroy, have chosen to concentrate on experimental, conceptual works intended to confound or provoke, like Belief, the 13-minute video from artists Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead. The film is a compilation of clips culled from YouTube of people talking about faith. There’s the four-year-old wrapped in a sky-blue hijab being quizzed in Arabic by a woman who poses questions from off-camera:
Does anyone know the unseen but Allah?
Who are struck by Allah’s wrath?
Who are the misguided?
Cut to a young blond woman with the YouTube screen name JesusGirl444 recording herself in her bedroom in the United States: “At the start of Lent Christians came together all over the world and we have been praying specifically for God to open the eyes of atheists all over the world,” she says, staring into her webcam earnestly, “And just a few days, not even a few days, later, God shook the country of Japan. He literally shook the country by the shoulders and said ‘Hey look! I’m here.’” Then there’s the bearded Satanist (“We consider ourselves to be the truest form of humans”), the Doomsday prophet, and the young woman with the pixie cut and vague European accent claiming to be the reincarnated spirit of Adolf Hitler.
Not every screening is quite so loaded, thematically. The fair, which is in its eighth year, takes place over two weekends (May 16–19, 23–25) and features the work of over a hundred artists from thirty different countries, allowing for huge variety. There’s Social Netwalks by Ralph Kistler, which takes the methods of analyzing personal data collected by social networking sites and applies those methods (like trend-identification or demographic groupings) to film editing. Or Magic for Beginners, by Jesse McLean, which examines the mythologies of fan culture. Or John Skoog’s Late on Earth, a broodish narrative short set in the Scandinavian countryside. As regards sensibility and subject matter, there’s plenty of variety.
The centerpiece of the fair is an exhibition called Re-Return to Sender, which examines both the omnipresence and the narcissism of the moving image. Comprised of work by 11 artists, the exhibit reflects on the way video art looks not just at the world, but at itself. In other words, the audience is invited to look at the art looking at itself while also looking at them looking at it as it looks at itself. Dizzy yet? Don’t worry, you’re supposed to be. When it comes to experimental art, the vertigo is half the fun.
Video_dumbo runs through May 25 at Eyebeam, 540 W. 21 Street, New York, NY. Tickets start at $5.