Thursday, May 29, 2008

TV or Not TV

Above: Brian Bress wearing Hundley-flage ® homages Munch's Skrik in 'Undercover'

"The high humor quotient is the key. Taking their cue from Bruce Nauman’s absurdist exercise videos (his 1968 'Walk With Contrapposto', an hourlong art-historical sashay back and forth in a narrow plywood corridor, is among the earliest works in the show), California artists as diverse as Chris Burden, John Baldessari, Paul McCarthy, Eleanor Antin, The Kipper Kids and Tony Oursler permitted themselves to risk appearing foolish, embedding their often-profound philosophical observations in documentations of comedy-tinged performances.

This legacy continues today, with works like Martin Kersels’ genderific slapstick remake of Fred Astaire’s dancing-on-the-ceiling routine, 'Pink Constellation' (2001) and 'Undercover', L.A. Weekly Annual Biennial alum Brian Bress’ heady 2007 conflation of painting, collage, performance and the vernaculars of cable access and infomercials. To my knowledge, Bress is the only artist in the show who shares his oeuvre via YouTube (as well as his own Web site,, which brings us back to our clotted-irony elephant, which has put on a couple of tons in the light of the digital frontier.

If the underlying point of video art was to create a more democratic, nonhierarchical, parallel model for the production and dissemination of information in the form of moving images, well, digital camcorders, Final Cut and the interweb done whupped video art’s ass. (Also conspicuous in its absence, especially considering the inclusion of such nonartsy material like the S.F. punk archives of Target Video, is the wealth of material generated over the past quarter century via the soon-to-be-shit-canned public-access cable stations. Where the hell is Francine Dancer?) We are right now in the midst of a radical renegotiation of the nature of authorship and the very concept of “intellectual property,” on which most professional artists stake their livelihood. But you wouldn’t know it from this show..."

Read the rest in the LA Weekly, and see the Getty's California Video show in person (thru Jun 8) or online.

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