Viva Video

It's alive and well and exciting, and it's on view now

Returning a Sound by artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla is over-the-top. We follow a young man riding a motorcycle on the beautiful island of Vieques in Puerto Rico, which until 2003 was a U.S. Navy bombing range. What's unusual is that this bike's muffler is a trumpet; the motor's sound becoming (as the catalogue rightly describes it) a "gurgling call to action."

In A Homeless Woman (Cairo) by Korean artist Kimsooja, we perceive a woman wearing a thick blue dress (the artist herself) lying on the ground in downtown Cairo, surrounded by a bunch of bemused passersby. They are very responsive to the camera: Some laugh, some talk to themselves, others approach and then walk by the camera, looking annoyed at the whole situation. Then I realized that all the passersby were males -- men and boys. Immediately the contrast of this single woman encircled by all of these men became a very strong image.

Compared to Kimsooja's piece, Anri Sala's Mixed Behavior looks unconvincing. A DJ plays music on a rooftop New Year's Eve against the cityscape of Albania's capital, Tirana, which is lit up by fireworks. And so?

From Returning a Sound, by Jennifer Allora and 
Guillermo Calzadilla
From Returning a Sound, by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla

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Through September 11. 305-455-3333
Miami Art Central (MAC) 5960 SW 57th Ave, Coral Gables

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In contrast, Douglas Gordon's Blue is a little difficult to watch, but it makes you think. The artist uses his hands as central characters playing a kind of bizarre sexual game. At one point the game turns rough, as Gordon fingers his cupped right hand repeatedly, obsessively. The product is concise, repulsive, and effective.

Even Phat Free by David Hammons was fresh, and it merely chronicles the trivial melting of a block of ice being kicked by a man all over the barrios of New York. It made me think of how many things you could do if you had all the time in the world.

In the catalogue for "Irreducible," Rugoff comments about how these straight-to-the-point single-action videos elicit "multiple and ambiguous meanings." But you could say that of just about anything. Some images are simply more powerful than others. If they can convey something -- whatever it may be -- that image will get you excited. A weak image will remain that, no matter how much you try to justify it.

Critics in the Nineties predicted the demise of video. They were wrong. Video art is alive and kicking. Curator David A. Ross recently boasted, "A whole new generation of artists now uses video like a pencil, as [conceptual artist] John Baldessari predicted." Check for yourself on sites such as www.post-videoart.com, which features dozens of festival links.

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