In the first line of her review of the 2011 Armory Show—perhaps New York’s most highly anticipated and infamous art fair—New York Times art critic Roberta Smith makes the claim that “art fairs are for art lovers.” Oh, how I beg to differ, Roberta. There is almost nothing worse for an art lover, in fact, than clamoring to see works of art amidst hordes of people (whether collector, celebrity, or mere plebeian) in a sanitized, convention center-type arena with carpeted floors and makeshift, temporary booths that are more cubicles than anything else. Often times much of the work is fresh off of an artist’s recent show with the gallery, or worse yet, the really good work might be stashed in the “office” area because it was purchased by a collector three hours after the fair opened. Regardless, despite the overwhelming sense that one is trapped in a suburban shopping mall, art fairs—which this year, as always, were the first weekend in March—are somewhat timeless rites of passage, worth going to just for the few works that do stop you long enough to catch your breath.
This year saw the emergence of a brand new art fair that actually deeply considered, and was in fact entirely constructed around, modes and practices of viewing video art. Moving Image: An Art Fair of Contemporary Video Art was on view from March 3-6, located in a vast, semi-darkened tunnel on Eleventh Avenue. The cavernous, ample space made for an effective venue to show video, a medium that is notoriously difficult to sell, and even more difficult to get people to sit through. This was a fair that demanded a lot of its viewers—no getting away with thirty-second glances at this one (okay, unless of course the video was crap, and yeah, there was plenty of that). Select international galleries were invited by Moving Image’s curatorial advisory committee to present large video installations or single-channel works by an artist of their choosing. The installations were placed towards the entrance, while in the back, rows of sleek digital monitors playing the videos hung from the ceiling, equipped with headphones so that viewers could attempt full-on immersion.
Weaving my way through the sensory overload and fighting intermittent bouts of Attention Deficit Disorder, I was immediately fond of several works: Miranda Lichtenstein’s brightly colored, elegant video Danse Serpentine (doubled and refracted) submitted by Elizabeth Dee Gallery, which shows a re-filmed and manipulated version of a clip on YouTube, a short film by early filmmakers the Lumiere Brothers of the fin-de-siecle dancer Loie Fuller. Glen Fogel was represented twice in the show: Participant Inc. submitted the new work With Me…You, a room-size, five-channel installation showing detailed, slowly spinning close-up projections of wedding and engagement rings belonging to women in Fogel’s family; while Callicoon Fine Arts offered up Quarry, which takes a scene from Law & Order: SVU, slows it down, and intersperses it moment by moment with an entirely re-enacted version. This particular scene depicts a pedophile identifying his victims by the smell of their baseball caps, so in his literal fragmenting of the clip, Fogel seems to break down frantic media and societal portrayals of sex crimes, particularly those often associated with homosexuality. Fun times! Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev’s startlingly compelling video installation TransSiberian Amazons, submitted by Winkleman Gallery (a founder of the Moving Image fair), was comprised of three flat screens, two of which documented a moving landscape by train, and one showing two older, Kyrgyzstani women in a train car, singing a song popular in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The screens were surrounded by piles of the immediately recognizable Chinese plastic plaid shopping bag, inviting interpretations about labor, economy, travel and impermanence.
Though Moving Image, like most art fairs, still depleted me of energy and somewhat of optimism, its take on medium-specificity and attention to presentation was enough for me to look forward to the direction it will take next year…stay tuned. (images courtesy of rhizome // art fair photo essay)