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Living with video

You may have seen yesterday’s great NY Times feature story by Edward Lewine about collectors living with their video art. Here.

I’ll summarize my favorite bits. It’s quite a long, informative story that gets into the cost of owning video art and more interestingly how to weave it into your apartment or, in one case, garage. (image is Doug Aitken video installed in a garage)

The piece focuses on a couple of collectors, like the Kramliches of San Francisco who have their house filled with video art. They own 250 pieces, for which they spent millions according to their curator. The best, behind the scenes information is about how the couple got started collecting video. Quoting:

The pair, who married in 1981 after just seven weeks of courtship, began collecting art when they discovered they had nothing in common (my emphasis). In consultation with curators from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and their adviser, Thea Westreich, they chose to amass video art, because it fit in with Mr. Kramlich’s interest in technology, the museum needed patrons in this area, and there was little competition from other collectors (my emphasis).

Another collecting couple highlighted are Norman and Norah Stone, who installed a work by Doug Aitken in their garage. The story says they worked with the artist who distilled his original 5-screen, 1,200 ft. video installation into a one-screen version. When they want to watch it, they park their 2 Porsches and their BMW wagon on the street.

Both couples own work by Matthew Barney. The Kramliches also own Gilbert and George and Bill Viola works.

There’s lots of talk in the story about what you might expect — video art being intrusive into a person’s life. There’s the challenge of fitting the tv screens or projections into your living space; and the even bigger challenge of dealing with the medium’s sound and the constant movement of the imagery. Video art becomes like a 2-year old needing constant attention — and frequent naps. Or in one of the best quotes in the article,

“They remind me of my Jack Russell terriers,” said Norman Stone. “You can’t ignore them.”

I think personifying video art as an active 2-year old or a frisky dog is right on the money. There’s room in most people’s households for that kind of energy — as long as there’s an adult in charge of the remote, the leash, and the naptime schedule.