Video/Art/Video: Curator’s notes
and questions: Marisa Sage
is an exhibition featuring the work of Man Bartlett and Kwantaeck Park, two
artists who’ve created videos that document original pieces utilizing mediums
often viewed as “difficult” to exhibit in a “normal” gallery setting. Due to the
nature of performance art (in Man Bartlett’s case) and time sensitive
installation work (in Kwantaeck Parks’ case), the setting of a white cube
gallery may not be the ideal atmosphere to experience these ephemeral works. We
faced with the temporary nature of both works, “Where’s my sping?” and
“#140hBerlin”. In “Where’s my
spring?” we are swiftly aware through the use of sound and time-lapse video that
ice is melting before our eyes, and in #140hBerlin we quickly realize that we
are viewing a work that has already taken place and we have inadvertently become
part of the aftermath. As the curator of this summer exhibition in the
Electronic Gallery I was very interested in how and why these artists decided to
document these memorable works. I also wondered how the documentation of these
“temporary” works changes their effectiveness and how an audience then
understands and Interacts with the work?
To answer that, I posed the
following questions to the artists. I was hoping to better understand each
artist’s connection to the documentation process, verses their connection to the
work itself. I also asked each artist about their individual processes and
thinking when creating these pieces:
Sage: Kwantaeck & Man,
the original intention with Video/Art/Video was to show works which
document pieces that are "difficult" to exhibit in traditional settings,
performances and/or installations which might only exist for one moment; with
that idea in mind: A. How does the documentation of your performance and/or
installation effect, challenge, or change the work itself? B. Did using video
and filming the process of the installation and/or performance change the
outcome of the original work in anyway?
Park: Well, maybe the
documentation is one of the most common forms we can see other artists’ work if
we are not able to see actual one. And I think sometimes it’s more preeminent as
many artists get their website. Even though I like the form, which is ephemeral,
the documentation is still secondary. That’s why I feel some difficulties when I
have to show people my work through documentation. Documentation is unavoidable
procedure to me and still very tricky. Sometimes a single photo with good
description works better than the real time video documentation. So far, in my
work, nothing has been changed due to documentation but it’s true that sometimes
I modify arrangements of installation when I document it for better composition.
Bartlett: Similar to
Beuys, it shapes the narrative. It also does a better job of showing an
assemblage of symbols. The "reality" was that for 6 days I was basically trying
to figure out what the hell I was doing and why it was important to me. Like I
mentioned before, a lot of this had to do with a sort of homelessness. In
general I'm moving more towards wanting to completely delete "documentation" in
favor of the fleeting, ephemeral. But that's always a tough balance. One
solution I've come up with recently is to only keep the last two years of my
practice and to destroy the rest. This way I'm not weighed down by my past yet
projects can still have some life. Which other people seem to be quite concerned
about. Which is funny considering the fantastically short shelf-life that
anything has, humans or art and everything. I mean, even in an absolute best
case masterpiece scenario a work lasts a few hundred years. The Universe is how
old? I mean, no contest. Blinks of an eye. To continue that analogy, I suppose
what I seek is a sort of infinite blink. I'm just usually too scaredy-pants to
commit to it, hence documentation like video, archived tweet streams, etc.
Kwantaeck, could you
explain more about "Chevron's Green Campaign", why you choose their campaign,
and how the campaign might relate to you personally?
Instead of revealing my personal relationship to Chevron’s Green Campaign, I
might have to talk more about my motivation and process of this piece. As you
may guess through the title “ Where’s my spring?”, the idea came out of my
personal memory and experience. Not only this piece but also other most of my
pieces followed similar sequences. When I get some ideas or something I feel it
is problem, I start to investigate what made it happen or what caused it. And I
don’t hide this process. Rather, it becomes a big part of each of my pieces. I
hope myself to be co-‐researcher with viewers rather than didactic experts.
Maybe that’s why I put more value on linking my personal experience to bigger
structure: the environment or the society where I live.
Let’s go back
to “ Where’s my spring?”. It starts from my realization that Spring, my favorite
season in Korea gets shorter and shorter. Even recently it’s almost disappeared.
There could be numerous reasons for loss of Spring. And I knew it’s too easy to
target a single oil company and blame it for climate changes. Maybe it’s not
even because of oil industries at all as many anti-‐environmental experts point
that it’s the natural moment of climate change of Earth. So, it is almost
impossible to find out a clear single cause.
While I was
researching advertisement of oil companies, I found out our reflection. Many oil
companies are doing so-‐called “eco-‐friendly campaign” and they are dealing
with different methodologies Chevron’s Green Campaign was one of them. But more
than any other campaigns, Chevron’s Green Campaign uses very family-‐looking
photos. I looked at eyes of models in the images. They looked sad. I didn’t know
why. One thing I was able to be sure with was that the models in the photos are
directed. The family-‐looking photos are not trustable. Maybe the models are
actors who were hired for this campaign ad. But strangely I could see myself
through their faces. They were our reflections. I felt even if some might argue
that many corporations generate fake positive images and try to allure their
customers to buy more and consume more in the consumerism era, somehow it could
be me or you and us who may not be able to free from being blamed for current
environment issues. Because we still use their products and consume their items.
my spring?” is not the piece which just seeks a single cause for loss of Spring
and condemn it. Rather, it’s questioning. How come I get clear cause and argue
it with absolute truth? That might be what journalist and activists try to do.
Chevron’s Green Campaign is a kind of backdrop, there’s no specific reason they
need be more blamed than other oil companies but I believed that their ad images
show the ambivalence and contradiction I wanted to talk about more explicitly.
Kwantaeck, does the
installation change each time you install it, and if so in what way?
Yeah, It will definitely change, what you saw is very prototype of my idea. I am
hoping I can have a chance to have a single room I can fill it with more number
of ice cubes and photos. And also it’s up to the venue, if I can use two
different floors, I would focus on how to visualize rain dropping more
important is the sound element to the final piece?
Without sound, I would not work on this piece. I am not saying it is all but
it’s definitely one of the biggest parts of the piece. I hope that viewer can
sit or lie down on the floor listening the raindrop in the final piece.
Kwantaeck, what other
artists or works inspire you, and/or inspired this work?
I usually get more inspired by artists whose work came out of their personal
experience but reached to others beyond self-‐portrait, resonated in viewer’s
heart too. I like On Kawara, Janet Cardiff, James Turrell, Pedro Reyes, and
Michael Rakowitz, etc.
Man, what compelled you
to retake/reinterpret "I Like America and America Likes Me"? Would you describe
specific elements of the piece as an appropriation of Joseph Beuys original
I had just learned about that particular performance and was blown away by it. I
was also a little suspect of it, and wanted to try flex it for "our time." In
that regard I was initializing a bridge to a sort of social media shamanism,
while maintaining a healthy dose of the absurd.
It was probably more substitution
than appropriation. Which is maybe not giving it enough credit, but I literally
remember thinking, ok, what's the craziest shit I can think of? Hence a stretch
limo Hummer, turkey, etc. But then once I was embodying the performance, in
front of a live stream with people all around the world watching, and myself
hidden beneath the flag, I found myself pretty helpless, and homeless. The
question for me then became, what does it mean to be "American?" To be a
citizen. It sounds trite, but that's what was going through my head.
Man, when you created
#140hBerlin, did you also hope to incorporate Beuys’ ideas––such as his social
philosophies and/or ideas of the artist as shaman,––into your work?
To some degree, yes. Beuys definitely had a way of giving his work a very
specific kind of Power. I was seeking a similar Power in my own way, while
trying to share that with the public. I was also trying to stay as open as
possible to allow new perspectives to shape the experience.
Man, to further
elaborate on the previous question: By performing on the streets of Berlin,
rather than only in one specific room during your multipart performance, did
your lack of isolation intend to speak to specific parts of American or German
culture, just as Beuys’ intentional isolation had a very specific meaning?
Here the editing is misleading, as the amount of time I spent on the street was
literally a matter of minutes, compared to 6 full days inside the gallery.
Sleeping there, not showering, etc. I was very much isolated from the outside
world during those 6 days. The editing of this video followed the general arc of
the original, although Beuys had assistants covering him up and taking him on
the gurney into the gallery. Ironically I've been told by numerous sources that
Beuys only spent a few hours in the gallery where he performed, and that he
dined out, and actually saw New York. In other words, he crafted the narrative
he wanted to craft. And that's kind of lame, but pretty par for the course with
20th Century mega-artists.
Man, lastly, a lot of
your work utilizes live streaming, can you explain why that is and why you think
this might be important to the experience as a whole? When I ask this I am
trying to understand if you are using live streaming as a vehicle for
participation, or more as a method of creating a larger audience, or both?
I think it's mostly a method to make the audience feel more comfortable to
participate. Sometimes that participation is literally as passive as just
watching. Other times I ask a little more of an audience. I'm constantly
experimenting. Constantly seeking for different ways to engage people. But if
there's one thing I've learned it's that there's no one formula for a successful
project. Which is both maddening and welcoming.
Watch Man Bartlett's documentation
of #140hBerlin by clicking here.
Kwantaeck Park's documentation of "Where's My Spring?" by clicking here.