Craftsmanship = Mastery

Published on April 8th, 2006

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From 08-04-2006 until 28-04-2006

JODI, Bodies Anonymous, Sonia Cillari, Ad van Denderen, MVRDV en Depart

With the exhibition Craftsmanship=Mastery the Netherlands Media Art Institute presents a selection of artists that show their work outside of their own discipline and of that of videoart. Are these experiments of artists not connected with the discipline producing insights or a different perspective on the existing disciplines? What is the meaning of expertise in this light? How can we critically evaluate this visual culture? Or – is there in fact a new visual culture, and to whom is that of interest? Finally: what is the attitude of video art?

The Netherlands Media Art Institute is tentatively organizing a series of interviews in order to debate the above questions. A number of figures from various disciplines and professionalisms have been asked to formulate their opinions on the status of video art and the rise of one (or perhaps even more) new visual languages. The results of these talks will serve as the impetus for a public discussion to exchange thoughts around the outcome of the interviews. The results will be made available by means of a webarticle summarizing the proceedings, which will appear on the website of the Netherlands Media Art Institute.

In 1977 Alan Kay ended his article on the Dynabook with the following observation: ‘What would happen in a world in which everyone had a Dynabook? If such a machine were designed in a way that any owner could mold and channel its power to his own needs, then a new kind of medium would have been created: a metamedium, whose content would be a wide range of already-existing and not-yet-invented media… But if the projected audience is to be everyone, is it possible to make the Dynabook generally useful, or will it collapse under the weight of trying to be too many different tools for too many people? The total range of possible users is so great that any attempt to specifically anticipate their needs in the design of the Dynabook would end in a disastrous feature-laden hodgepodge which would not be really suitable for anyone.’(1)

Nearly thirty years after those words were written, we find ourselves in the future of the Dynabook. The creative use of the computer still has a lot to offer, but could Kay’s presumption be applied to the medium of video?
Until the 1990s the video artist, film maker, architect, theatre maker and choreographer all moved within their own field. Video experiments from the 1970s and ‘80s were always presented under the name of video art, if only because of the medium used. With the rise of high quality, user friendly video, in recent decades the medium became accessible for everyone. This made the classification of video art increasingly blurry. Several times a crisis in – or even the death of – video art has been mooted, one complaint generally being how video artists lacked the historical knowledge and technical skills to produce good work.(2)

But what is video art today? Since the mid-1990s various disciplines have been working together more often, and multidisciplinary projects have become commonplace. In addition, increasingly more artists are picking up video cameras without knowledge of the traditions and conventions that go with the field. These new forms of video are not however automatically labeled as video art. On the other hand, within video art at this point the video camera is increasingly being traded in for the computer and sensors, so that the viewers themselves determine the effect of the work. What does all of this say about the status of video art? Rather than speaking of a crisis, the death of video art or a feature-laden hodgepodge, it would seem to be more interesting to see if the time has come to speak of the development of another visual language.

1. Alan Kay, Personal Dynamic Media,
2. Among others, Lucette ter Borg en Sacha Bronwasser, Ziende Ogen (Volkskrant 2002); Impakt debat ‘I’m so boored..’ (Utrecht, 19-04-2002); Rutger Wolfson, Kunst in Crisis (Prometheus, Amsterdam/De Vleeshal, Middelburg, 2003); Sandra Smallenburg, ‘Tien misverstanden over hedendaagse kunst’ (NRC Handelsblad, 11-08-2005).

Artists in the exhibition

Bodies Anonymous, Jack Gallagher, Onus (2006)
Since 1999 video projections have been a part of the decors that choreographer Jack Gallagher and light designer Bernie van Velzen use for their dance projects. Generally speaking, the audience in a theatre are as quiet and motionless as possible, but in their performances Gallagher and Van Velzen create precisely an environment that encourages movement by the spectators. The appearance and disappearance of lights that one might see by chance during a night-time trip forms the decor for an intimate, dramatic, personal experience, inspired by metaphors and anecdotes about light that floods in on us. Onus is an installation that shows movement in and around the body, by means of metaphors about light, its amorphousness and transience.

Sonia Cillari, Conscious Space I (2005)
In her work Cillari investigates the application of dynamic methods of designing architectural models in digital environments. In this she resists the rational notion of objective space or digital space that receives information. The interactive installation Conscious Space I investigates the conscious and unconscious relationship of the visitor’s body to the space, and the relation of the visitors to one another. The bodies of the visitors are read in relation to one another, whereupon magnetic fields, actions, movements, attraction and repulsion result in changes in the image and sound.
Sound design: elpueblodechina

Ad van Denderen, Go/NoGO (2004)
For more than 16 years Ad van Denderen traveled along the boundaries of the Schengen countries, in search of migrants from within and outside Europe. Through his photography he seeks to give a face to people who otherwise remain anonymous. The ‘Go/No Go’ project consists of a book, an exhibition, a film and a website. The projected black and white images interchanged with texts – statements by the refugees.
Produced by Paradox

Depart, Asphodel (2004)
“ASPHODEL is there where you are when you’re not there anymore yourself, and the me in the I gets lost in the myshelf.the illusion fusion blending in and out of focuspocus, measured in a multitudilonginal attemptiness of capturesizing the coordetonation of teXt, Ymage and Zound.”

Depart plays with audio-visual-text, a ménage à trois that produces jolting environments, hot-wired improvisation, twisted tales and a lot of noise. Electronic music, photography, video and interactive graphics come together in a poetic manner on this DVD. Asphodel is divided up into three chants in which the journey of the protagonist unfolds.

JODI, Max Payne Cheats Only (2005)
Known for their simulated chaos, disfunctionality and humor, with Max Payne Cheats Only JODI has added a new phenomenon to their oeuvre. From the popular action game Max Payne, which tells the story of a New York undercover agent, they have deliberately chosen scenes in which little happens. The action from the original game totally disappears, but makes way for absurd perspectives and effects that totally change the once realistic game. More than 300 hours of games were transformed into a 20 minute long double projection.

MVRDV, Pig City (2001)
The MVRDV architectural studio creates computer sequences that give viewers the feeling that they are flying through huge spaces, like an immaterial entity, or separated from their bodies. Almost like a computer gamer the viewer moves through the space in the videos of Metacity.Datadown, only here people have no control over their own movement. The video Pig City, which came out of this project, is a simulation of a gigantic tower that was made for the industrial breeding of pigs. Officially a search for new production methods which are biologically responsible and animal-friendly, Pig City appears so unreal that one is overmastered by the feeling that the video serves primarily to reinforce MVRDV’s aura.

For more information about the artists:
Bodies Anonymous –
Sonia Cillari –
Ad van Denderen –
Depart –

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