Quantcast

reviews, features & interviews

Digital Colors Concealing the Bleakness Within: Victoria Fu at Marginal Utility and UArts

By

April 30, 2013   ·   0 Comments

Lorem Ipsum, part 2, detail view

Victoria Fu has a developing ability to make blandness visually entrancing.  Clearly, she’s an artist who can take the “filler” that most of us block out every day and make it her subject matter.  Fu had two shows in Philadelphia this month – Lorem Ipsum, a premiere of new work at Marginal Utility (through May 26) and Time in Three Parts at the University of the Arts (now closed). Lorem Ipsum submerses you into pure, beautiful environments, gently controlled by the geometric interruption of digital editing. But there’s a darker, thematic bleakness at the center of this and other works by Fu. By visualizing and foregrounding the digital static of minds cluttered by technology, the Southern California-based artist taps into a peripheral, banal experience that typically might go unseen.

Victoria Fu and Tacita Dean – abstract filmmakers both in Philadelphia at the same time

Victoria Fu, Lorem Ipsum, part 1, (running time: 11:42 min., on loop), two detail views

Victoria Fu, Lorem Ipsum, part 1, (running time: 11:42 min., on loop), two detail views

Fu’s Philadelphia shows provide a much-needed dose of abstract visual art and serve as an extension of the two shows by Tacita Dean in the Philadelphia area earlier this year.

Like Dean, Fu can combine a traditionally cinematic sense of developing dramatic tension with colorful, chaotic imagery to create a powerful effect.Alas, after two months on loop at Arcadia University, Dean’s masterful and hypnotic JG went down April 21st, but videos of an artist’s talk she gave at the Fabric Workshop are available here.

Victoria Fu, The Milk of the Eye, installation view.

Victoria Fu, The Milk of the Eye, installation view.

Fu’s work in an intimate gallery space

The installation of Lorem Ipsum consists of three distinctive films played on loop within Marginal Utility’s intimate gallery space. As you enter the gallery, you are greeted by a rickety Eiki film projector playing a previously debuted black and white, 16 mm film, “The Milk of the Eye.” This short but complex piece focuses on a female figure traveling through various landscapes with a mirror, capturing sunlight and reflecting it back toward the camera. The artist’s hand is not only visible but also audible in this installation, and you can hear the sound of the splicing tape on film run through the projector, activating the reality of the manual process used to make this work. Matt Suib of Greenhouse Media provided technical assistance with setting up this piece and the larger exhibit.

Fu’s latest two works, “Lorem Ipsum, parts 1 and 2,” face each other on opposite walls in the next gallery space. Both videos are composed of images taken with 16 mm color film, then transferred and edited digitally. The textures from the different types of video and film create an atmosphere suggestive of a variety of realities.

Both films follow a female protagonist who, through a series of layers and cuts, becomes both distinctive and completely nondescript, emerging from and disappearing into an ocean of color fields in motion. The woman is most often seen looking away from the camera, giving the sense that Fu wants to evoke a place-holding character, ambiguously neutral, perhaps replaceable.

Lorem Ipsum, part 1, detail view

Lorem Ipsum, part 1, detail view

Fu writes in her statement, “‘Lorem ipsum’ is a popular filler text to test fonts and graphic layouts – ‘neutral’ words to not distract from the visuals. It signals emptiness to the contemporary viewer, yet it has a source meaning taken from Cicero: ‘Dolorem ipsum,’ translated as ‘pain itself.’”

The washes of color in both films resemble this concept of neutral filler, but the darker meaning from Cicero also seems present in the distinctly ominous images of the film’s protagonist, whose brief appearances are snatches of cinematic drama in an otherwise abstract study of color and light.

Lorem Ipsum, part 1, two detail views

Lorem Ipsum, part 1, two detail views

“Part I” focuses on a fragmented narrative tour of a suburban house and seems more involved with the nostalgic effect of 16 mm film. Shot in and around the homes of Chautauqua in Jamestown, New York, the piece is a collage of long shots of interior décor, shrubs, and yards outside in overlapping frames of various color filters. A female character interrupts the scenes and appears as the glue that holds together a vague narrative with a pervasive air of claustrophobia and captivity.

Victoria Fu, Lorem Ipsum, part 2, (running time: 5:55 min., on loop) installation view

Victoria Fu, Lorem Ipsum, part 2, (running time: 5:55 min., on loop) installation view

On the opposite wall, a small installation of objects against the wall — random rectangular and trapezoidal shapes — creates a multi-windowed surface for Part 2 to be projected upon.

This installation, with projected images, echoes the visual organization of a modern computer desktop, cluttered with different programs, videos, and documents. Just as technology presents an overabundance of information, which is intended to simplify but actually obscures the intention of the user, so is the human “reality” in Fu’s film practically made invisible by the other, overlapping images. The idea of the human overwhelmed by technology is present in both “Part 1″ and “Part 2.”

The background washes of computer-hued color suggest the color manipulations of Photoshop. But in fact, Fu made these backgrounds by filming light and sunsets through prisms and using other reflective materials to create what she called “handmade spectrum rainbows.”  These bright and colorful representations clothe the essential bleakness or blank “filler” in something far more cheerful.

Lorem Ipsum, part 2, detail view

Lorem Ipsum, part 2, detail view

Fu’s exhibit at University of the Arts

Fu’s exhibit at UArts included the film “Portmanteau,” a dual screen narrative of light and landscape around a mysterious city that resembles a sci-fi setting (the film was shot at Arcosanti, an unfinished experimental city in Arizona). “Deuce” is a film of a ghostly game of tennis where tennis players run on top of the digital specters of other players. These films are an interesting bookend to a viewing of “Lorem Ipsum” and “The Milk of the Eye.” Absent the digital insertions of “Lorem Ipsum,” “Portmanteau'”s and “Deuce”‘s simpler approach reveals the exploitation of haunting symmetries as a central component to the effectiveness of Fu’s work.

Maybe Tacita Dean is a good jumping off point to understanding Fu’s work. Dean is a well-known film purist who staunchly refuses to use simpler digital processes. In contrast, Fu’s knowledge of the digital process allows her to integrate digital and analog imagery in thought-provoking ways and without sacrificing the power inherent in images on film. Lorem Ipsum feels like a contemporary triumph in its representation of a blend of the living, normal world with the false colors and the pixilated, 72 dots-per-inch reality of digital screens.

Lorem Ipsum, by Victoria Fu, is up at Marginal Utility through May 26. Time in Three Parts at UArts closed April 19.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply