April 2011 Archives

A pool of water : Video Art

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Blink at DAM and it's gone

April 29, 2011

Six weeks is not long enough. Blink is a show at the Denver Art Museum that will close in three days. No street banners advertised Blink just a little sandwich board outside the museum and I've been wanting to get to the museum since the show opened March 13. Finally, I get to the museum today, and I need more time.

To visit this video - or as the Denver Art Museum wants to call it Time-Based Media - exhibition with your mother, your brother-in-law, an aunt and some kids is also the wrong way to go.

We all enter the second floor museum space and it feels like a dark arcade of at least 40 video games. The room feels good sized when it a painting show is inside, but with the asymmetrical and weirdly-angled walls dictated by the new-age architecture of the building, it is too small and too occupied by too many things speaking at once.

We are not able to multi-task no matter what our age. Brain scientists is fairly certain of this. A good multi-tasker is someone who is better at turning off and on focus quicker than others. They still concentrate on just one thing at a time.

If this show is about time, then we need to have a little of it to look at each work of art in this exhibition, particularly because we have to overcome the arcade effect. At first, one can't decide which game to play, so we dash around the room and see what 'catches our eye.'

In my dash, there were several works from the DAM's permanent collection that I recognized. I could skip those. And one piece was up in a closet-like space and was a one-liner: look that video is pretending to be something coming through the ceiling.

On my second pass through the gallery, I saw a B&W film of a cupped hand holding a pool of water. The last time I'd passed by I was sure it was just an abstraction of someone's hand. And then I watched as the water drained from the cupped hand. And I kept watching and I saw the abstraction I'd seen before. 'What is this I?' asked one of the kids.

'A blurry picture of somebody's hand.'

'What are they doing?' I asked.  'Don't know,' was the answer.

Then, the video faded to black and looped to the beginning with the hand full of water. The reflection on the water was a man's face - the artist holding the water - and as the pool became smaller and smaller, the face became more and more abstract, blurring the details on the palm of his hand. The face was so unrecognizable that it wasn't until I saw the whole piece that I could recognize it in the middle.

This is how I spent my trip to the 40-plus video exhibition Blink discovering the work of Oscar Muñoz, the artist watching water leave the palm of his hand.

Oscar Muñoz is a Colombian artist, and a still photo of this piece can be found by following the link. Nto be confused with the Texan, comic magician who works with school kids.

If you like thinking about his work, see my Art Tourists entry about Dissolve, the 2010 SITE Santa Fe biennial.

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