Vito Calabretta: Hi Kim, I would like to begin our conversation with this issue statement of NYR Magazine:
In our imagination, landscape is something that is hardly linked to our individual experience, but rather to our local feeling (we can conceive topography as a symbolic relationship with a physically individual experience), while current artistic practices are oriented throughout a globalisation of expressions and languages. Could it be said that NYR Magazine’s framework explores a geography inside this historical crasis? LANDSEASKY: revisiting spatiality in video art seems to shift the landmark in Jan Dibbets work, where the landscape is fragmented and reconducted to various points of views which propose a new topography. Do you agree with this kind of reading of the exhibition? Which kind of issues does it raise in the production of the exhibition?It could be said that this statement strongly links the theme of landscape to the artist’s expression, turning it into a topos where the “locality” can be found inside the artistic production. Another important landmark in this framework, although not involved in the exhibition, is the seas Sugimoto’s work. The caption localises precisely the exact position of the pictured sea, while the result (the image, the picture) universalises that situation. Other examples are interesting too: Niedermayr’s work concerning the mountains and the functional sites (hospitals, jails, highroad interchanges) or the Suzuki’s series on Mont Sainte Victoire. And, in facy, Paul Cézanne’s work on this subject is something similar. What do you think should be the starting point?
Kim Machan: It is very interesting that you have a list of artists that you think would suit the exhibition. It is a curious phenomena that the audience often respond to the exhibition with suggestions of other particular art works they feel would be interesting to incorporate – this could be a new curatorial project to continue with! Though apart from that, I think you are suggesting that nowadays actual artistic practices are oriented towards a global reading / a global language – and are part of a globalisation of culture and languages – particularly as we address the idea (the concept) of landscape. These imaginary landscapes represented in art are not really linked to our individual experience of any particular landscape. NYR Magazine editorial framework asks whether it is possible to imagine what the geography inside the historical crisis (of globalisation) might look like? The exhibition originally started with thoughts of projecting a moving image project that could travel to different countries and cultures with a common theme encouraging contemplation and critical engagement. I was particularly interested in art works that used deliberate sculptural approaches in a form of video that consider distance and what is between us. The exhibition aimed to look at works that were designed in relation to the space around them.
The universality of the horizon became the starting point through Jan Dibbets ‘Horizon-Sea’ series I, II & III. Dibbets is very well known for his series of photographic investigations of the landscape and horizon line, but I was surprised and delighted to find short online excerpts of moving images of horizons dating back to 1971. I watched each of the seven sequences as tiny 3×4 cm previews and eventually borrowed the works that had been digitized in the Stedelijk Museum’s collection. This work tackled the illusion of screen space with strength, poise and originality. I wanted to remind the audiences that such great works were made over 40 years ago. Consequently, I consider it a great ancho as it sets the tone alongside other contemporary pieces of works that are able to explore the use of video space.
The work by Jan Dibbets flattens the illusion of cinematic/film/video space. He exaggerates the camera presence by pivoting it on a tripod uniformly up and down perpendicular to the horizon line and also by using a similar exaggerated swift and smooth movement tilt on a 45-degree angle. The movement of the camera disrupts the representation of the sea horizon in the moving image however it still allows us to recognise this as a seascape. Dibbets forces together representation and abstraction and as a result creates a simultaneous existence. This oscillation between the two is moving as the horizon lines randomly swing across seven projection surfaces. As a consequence we are pushed and pulled. At this point it should be mentioned that this series has never been shown simultaneously since it was first created, 44 years ago. When I asked for permission to show the work, the artist was very pleased to know that all seven, two metre wide projections had eventually been displayed uniformly across a 20 metre span. An interesting aspect of this presentation of work is that it was not possible to show it as an installation until the creation of digitization, data projectors and DVD technologies. Could you imagine seven 16mm projectors clattering away together all day with the precious film looping through its spools?
So, returning to your question that asks if some kind of global reading or global culture plays a role in art – I would say yes, but this is not particularly new. Conceptual art practices from 60’s and 70’s used an international dialogue. Dibbets ‘Horizon – Sea’ series is a seminal self-referential Conceptual art work using film and a seascape. We can take this historic work and acknowledge how it deepens our understanding of the moving image. Screen space is such an integral part of our globalised culture and it demands continuous attention and consideration. The LANDSEASKY:revisiting spatiality in video art exhibition self-consciously focuses on the analysis of the moving image media. By taking an example of this can be seen from the Conceptual art movement (Jan Dibbets work) and compares it to more recent contemporary art practices with geographical, cultural and generationally different backgrounds. All of these artists are engaged in international contemporary art practice.
The exhibition’s eighteen artists are from Australia, Austria, China, Hong Kong, India, Italy and Korea. The exhibition does not aim to represent national or cultural generalisations about space. It simply places works that in my opinion demonstrate and explore considered ideas of spatiality. These ideas intersect with concepts of geographical borders and boundaries; psychological and imagined space; as well as actual and representational space. Predominantly these video art installations are an ‘object based’ experience – that is, the fine art experience of video rather than the illusion and narrative that comes from a cinematic influenced practice. I hope that this is apparent to those that see the exhibition.
And what about you? Can you tell us something about how your biography shifted into the frame you’ve found at the start of the project? Where did the desire to build a «moving image project» come from, a project in which a «contemplation and critical engagement» is shaped through sculptural approaches?
Very briefly, video art has been at the heart of my practice and study since the early 80’s. Since then I’ve worked with artists using video and media consistently including the new media that the Internet has created. I am interested in artists that work with problems that are not linked to the cinematic screen culture and beyond electronic paintings – hence my leaning towards sculpture (read space) that can be a phenomenological experience and that can be analysed productively.
And finally you must want to know who the artists are in the exhibition! Jan Dibbets, Shilpa Gupta, Heimo Zobernig, Giovanni Ozzola, Paul Bai, Lauren Brincat, Barbara Campbell, Derek Kreckler, Craig Walsh, João Vasco Paiva, Zhang Peili, Wang Gongxin, Zhu Jia, Wang Peng, Yang Zhenzhong, Yeondoo Jung, Kimsooja, Sim Cheol-Woong.
Kim Machan has worked in the field of contemporary art for over twenty years and has held the position of Director of MAAP-Multimedia Art Asia Pacific since 1998. Working as an independent curator and producer Machan initiated several projects in the mid 1990s including Art Rage: Art Works for Television involving 70 contemporary artists over four series broadcast on the ABC (1996-2000).
Vito Calabretta, writer, lives between Milan (Italy) and Lugano (Swiss).
LANDSEASKY:revisiting spatiality in video art open at Guangdong Museum of Art 19 March to 6 May 2015
The exhibition was presented toured in 2014 set across 6 venues in Seoul South Korea: Artsonje Center, Gallery IHN, ONE & J Gallery, Lee Hwaik Gallery, Gallery SKAPE, OPSIS ART. It was also presented at OCT Contemporary Art Terminal Shanghai; in Sydney at the National Art School Gallery; and in Brisbane at the Griffith University Art Gallery. A forth coming catalogue will be published by OCT-Contemporary Art Terminal Shanghai.