Light and shadow flow at Art Basel Miami Beach
Unlike in the past, video works unexpectedly became a bright spot at Art Basel in Miami Beach, which just ended, while previous exhibitions were dominated by still life exhibitions. Many art dealers brought their own videos and displayed them in the middle booth. Vienna’s Krinzinger Gallery has two works on display, including Incision, a 1978 performance by performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay. In the film, a naked Ulay, strapped to a wall by a rubber band, dashes toward the camera while Abramovich stands stiffly to one side. At the end of the 25-minute film, according to the plot, a man in the audience ran into the camera and kicked Abramovich viciously, knocking her to the ground. Another work is “Blooming” by Viennese artists Markus Hanakaim and Roswisha Schuler, in which Hanakaim and Schuler wander the countryside with strangely shaped and colorful objects while In the voice-over, an American is introducing the 19th-century British art critic John Ruskin’s views on landscape painting.
London’s Vilma Gold Gallery presents Charles Atlas’ striking 2000 Martha, Martha, Martha, Martha, Martha, a film with dancer Martha Graham The impersonator Richard Muff co-shot. The clips included dance performances by effeminate male actors from mid-20th-century hit films and veiled pornography, as well as snippets of drama adaptations of stage plays in which the character is named Martha (such as “Two Girls”, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe) and dance performances by Graham, Moss Cunningham, Douglas Dunne and Carol Armitage, among others. Atlas has long worked with renowned choreographers, and this work showcases his fluid and expressive dance skills.
New York’s PPOW Gallery also exhibited two excellent videos of Carolie Schneemann’s groundbreaking performances. In Body Collage (1967), Schneemann smears himself naked with a layer of paste, and then rolls and sticks a layer of scraps of paper. The other is Carnal Pleasures, which documents her groundbreaking performance, in which performers in lingerie frolic ecstatically in the flesh of animals. Along with it are some nude photographs of Schneemann in her studio in the 1960s, clad in translucent plastic, with horns on her forehead and other bizarre props.
There are also some works recommended by emerging galleries in this exhibition, such as “What You Touch is the End of the Water is the Source” (2013) exhibited by Columbia Center Gallery. This panoramic work is calm but thought-provoking. The film was shot by the river in the Colombian town of Honda, recording the daily life of residents along the river. The idyllic images also reveal the poverty of the people, reflecting the artist’s concern for issues of class and equality.
In the same exhibition area is the witty work “The Origin of Specimen 52v” by Uriko Hertoft, presented by Anderson Contemporary in Copenhagen. The artist roams the wild dressed as prehistoric humans clad in animal fur, sometimes burying human skulls in the ground and then digging them up in later scenes. This skull scene is a metaphor for the tragic fate of the Danish prince Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet” named after the protagonist. In the grave-digging scene in the play, the prince holds the skull of the dead court jester and thinks about death. The 3D model photographs of related subjects taken by Heiltoft are also displayed in the booth layout. The artist based the model on herbarium pictures from the 500-year-old Voynich manuscript, now housed in the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University. The artist tries to make a virtual reproduction of the original nature through these photos.
In the exhibition area of new art forces, the works of emerging galleries in the past three years are mainly displayed. Gonzalo Lebrija from Guadalajara, Spain, is impressive in Who Knows Where Time Gone (2013). In the film, some books are thrown into the sky, and the artist shoots them with rifles, which actually symbolizes the removal of romantic remnants by Dadaism. Next to the projection screen, the cover of Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich is displayed in a wooden frame, pierced by bullets.
Many of the films in this exhibition show the diverse and cross-border attempts of contemporary artists. Avant-garde composer and virtuoso Joaquin Orellana plays a homemade xylophone-like instrument in Mexico City-based Carlos Amorares’ black-and-white film “Fantasia de Orellana.” Glasgow’s David Shrigley brought two one-minute animations, “Headless Drummer” (2012) in which an animated line transforms into a headless drummer, and “New Friends” (2006) told the story of a square cartoon character being made round with the help of a round character. New York’s Darla Birnbaum has several works on display, including a clip of “Arabesque” (2011), named after Schumann’s song of the same name, featuring YouTube videos of pianists playing the piece, interspersed with Hollywood actresses. The movie star Katharine Hepburn starred in the fragments of the film, interpreting the love entanglement between the 19th century German composer Schumann and the pianist Clara. Joan Jonas’ Rebirth (2010) is set against a snowy backdrop, capturing the artist painting with ink in the snow and wind blowing snow on a highway. “Women Are Heroes” by French street artist JR tries to show the joys and worries of women in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. There are faces and pairs of eyes painted on the display wall outside the house. The lighthearted humor of the film and the cheerful optimism of the residents lighten the subject.
The light screening exhibition area planned by Art Basel this year focuses on the film works created by artists or themed by artists from all over the world, including the film creations of the most eye-catching international artists today. The exhibition has attracted top galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa to select and submit the best works to participate in the exhibition, the scale and influence of which are far beyond the previous ones. Art Basel is full of innovative spirit and aims to promote the development of visual art, providing a platform for global emerging artists to display and communicate.