In this hyper-connected digital era, the multidimensionality of video seems to play an ever more dynamic role in our perception of reality, especially within the imaginative realm of art. An exhibition that opened on February 19 at Foreland in Catskill—"The Moving Picture Show"—offers an engaging encounter with the fantastical nature and expanding possibilities of video art today. Curated by Peggy Ahwesh (a highly accomplished artist in experimental film and video in her own right), this group show is a brilliant installation of works by 10 media artists based in the Hudson Valley, including Ephraim Asili, Cecilia Aldarondo, eteam (Franziska Lamprecht and Hajoe Moderegger), Goss&Gitlin, Maggie Hazen, Laleh Khorramian, Les LeVeque, Keith Sanborn, and Carolee Schneemann.
As the title suggests, "The Moving Picture Show" is a series of sculptural "video-scapes" rooted in moving images that appear to be half "quasi documentarian" and half "otherworldly sublime." The work of eteam beautifully encapsulates the interplay between these two contrasting themes: their piece titled Flowers 1–12 (2020), is a circular sculptural installation of 12 videos on separate monitors, each with a set of headphones that invite the viewer to sit on small tree stumps while experiencing a visual meditation of ravishing, animated flowers accented by diverse sound scores, including gospel, acid jazz, and techno-esoterica (all musical collaborations with various sound artists). The ritual space created by these exalted flower-fantasies combined with the range of musical moods inspires an exceptional atmosphere while perhaps hinting at the alarming bio-annihilation of our Earth—is this kind of video representative of a cybernated flower future?
In close proximity to the eteam installation is a large screen projection by Laleh Khorramian, Water Panics in the Sea (2012). This mesmerizing, semi-abstract piece pulls us into a series of powerful water scenes and also seems to address the radical environmental fluctuations occurring on our planet—the health of our global waters and rising sea levels as a primary concern for all. Two works by Les LeVeque reverberate the focus on flowers as divine messengers of Mother Nature: Recycling/Upcycled/Feedback #1 and #2 (2020) are comprised of wall-mounted videos with a live CCTV camera feed of dried flowers spinning in perpetuity and captured on screen. The hypnotic effect of this work reveals a common theme across the entire show: video (as sculpture) as both a faithful record and an elaboration of fleeting worlds.
Several provocative works by Maggie Hazen upload the violent visuals found in video games. A notable aspect of her art, however, is that she incorporates delightful flowers as avatars that offset the violence that gamers can experience in those crafted environments. In her piece Call of the Lily_2 (2019), for example, a robust pink flower avatar gracefully guides us through a savage dystopia, yet another example of artistic praise for greenery amid ruination.
Considering the "video-as-documentarian" aspect of this show, Asili Ephraim’s video piece Fluid Frontiers (2017), which includes women reading aloud from books, and a series of Polaroid portraits Measuring Time 1-8 (2020) are a candid reminder of the beauty and intelligence of humanity as purely analog. In this same vein, 10 small videos seen in reverse fast-forward, titled Energy of Delusion (2010) by Keith Sanborn, and the interactive sculpture Summer How To (2014) by Goss&Gitlin propose that history and intentionality are indispensable conditions of artistic creation.
The unexpected treasure of this show is Carolee Schneemann’s Water Light/Water Needle (1966). In this dual-channel video, overlapping images of performers dressed in white are seen interacting with one another through acrobatic-style movements as they walk gracefully across ropes suspended in a dreamy outdoor location. They entertain other forms of ethereal gymnastics, creating a hazy and peaceful vision of an experimental scene that is both intriguing and perplexing at once—this is the indomitable Schneemann, who died in 2019, at her finest.
"The Moving Picture Show" is an exploratory investigation of video narratives that express the diversity of our world as a boundless "moving picture" while simultaneously transcending that world through colorful recapitulations of reality. These video visions push us further into a dimension of infinite intersectionality and bring us back to Earth by way of adoration and remembrance.