Still videos–report from a student show

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I stopped by Omar Rodriguez-Graham‘s MFA installation at Temple Gallery last week, and should have put up a little something in time for First Friday (these final-project shows come and go so quickly, it’s a miracle if I get something up fast enough to make a difference). Anyway, Rodriguez, who curated “Pulp” (see post) out at Tyler earlier this year, locked himself in his studio for several days and videotaped the experience. The products from that experience make up the content of his exhibit (left, Rodriguez at the gallery).

The most successful of the products was a time-lapse recording (in addition there were several large paintings based on video stills, a real-time video, the paintings he made while locked in the studio, and a giant “contact sheet” grid of video stills).

The time-lapse piece was a distillation of the experience–one second of recording time taken every five minutes, and then played back. Like so many art videos, it has its slow moments, but then there are the funny cuts when he’s in motion, appearing in one spot, then another, or remaining in the same spot and repeating the same motions.The piece reminded me of the Roxana Perez-Mendez‘s funny “Terra Incognita” piece (see Roberta’s post), a video shown in the same exact back-room space at the Temple Gallery in which she screened a recording of herself doing things like reading a fashion magazine and painting her nails as she plays the role of a bored astronaut-ette orbiting in a space capsule out in space.

But Rodriguez really has isolated himself and what crops up is agitation, paranoia, a loss of time orientation–and a distillation of what it’s like to be an artist isolated in a studio.

I talked to Rodriguez about what he was doing. “In graduate school, you’re always under observation,” he said, “always being pressured to move forward (developing new art work) in constantly accellerating speed. The video raises questions of motion and no motion, recording, time productivity versus futility.” He also had thought about how video surveillance in the parking garage keeps recording, even when no one is there, and he drew a comparison to the recording continuing as he slept (right, the video of Rodriguez in the studio).

He had no watch and lost track of time in the space, which was sealed from outside light as well as from people. Because he was painting, he was worried about the fumes, so he set up a good filtration system and he set up a monitor outside so people could peek in on him and rescue him if necessary. He stayed inside for about three-and-a-half days, and then couldn’t take it for another moment. His original plan was a week. But the goal wasn’t about endurance but about the situation–time versus productivity. The final time-lapse video takes an hour.

“It was an experiment in failure–the romantic notion that an artist locks himself in a studio and comes out with a painting. It’s almost like being a prisoner–painting because you can’t do anything else.” (left, giant contact sheet)

Rodriguez is going back to Mexico City soon. He’s not sure where he’ll land, but he hopes it’s a mix of creating art and curating.

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