(L-R) Filmmakers Suman Mukhopadhyay, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and Anik Datta discussed video art with a group of video artists at Studio21. Picture: Sayantan Ghosh
The occasion: Outside the Box, an exhibition of new video works by British video artist Paul Holmes, at Studio21.
The adda: Studio21 arranged an informal discussion on video art practice and post-cinema format with filmmakers Anik Datta, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Suman Mukhopadhyay and a group of video artists on June 27. Over cha and shingara, the adda raised the issue of the long-standing relationship between video art and language of cinema, the format of screening of video art and more. “A video art festival along with an experimental cinema festival is going to take place in November-December,” said Manas Acharya, curator at Studio21.
t2 spoke to the filmmakers and video artists on some of the themes that emerged in the course of the discussion.
On Andy Warhol: During the discussion it occurred to me could Andy Warhol’s Sleep be considered as one of the early attempts at video art? I have never heard his name in the context of video art, but I had heard of his Sleep, in which a man is shown sleeping for many hours. I had heard that video art started in the 1960s and Andy Warhol was one of the most likely persons to take it up.
Video art in gallery or on Internet: I think this is the second time I’m seeing video art in a gallery. I had seen video art projected in an auditorium 15 years ago at Max Mueller Bhavan, and later at some other venues. But my experience in Studio21 was different. The engagement a viewer has with video art is almost like the one he has when he observes a painting. It’s more intimate, one-to-one. Video art is probably closer to painting than films. When you watch a film, you are part of a bigger audience. With video art, you have the option of walking in and out. The ambience of a room or gallery also makes a difference. The surface where it might be projected, like a building, can be important too. Films are either screened in auditoriums or uploaded on the Internet. When you are watching video art in a gallery, its impact on the viewer will be different. You cannot replicate the experience by watching it on a laptop. One ought to be present physically in a room.
Demarcation between filmmakers and video artists: Why demarcate and define video art and then restrict it? I understand that video art need not have a narrative. When asked whether a film should have a beginning, middle or an end, Godard had famously replied, ‘But not necessarily in that order.’ In video art it is often difficult to figure out the beginning, middle or the end. A film is of feature-length or a short one. But with video art, the visual is very often on loop. It is almost seamless. It is difficult to figure out where it starts and where it ends.
Watching video art: When it comes to watching a movie, you buy a ticket and you are expected to watch the film from start to finish. Of course, one can also walk out. When you go to watch video art, you enter a gallery, and the visual is on. In some cases, it is difficult to figure out which is the first and last shot. On Saturday, I watched Time Machine at Studio21 for a while. Inadvertently, after a while I noticed one frame coming back and realised that I have completed one loop.
Takeaway from discussion: I got to know about the various aspects of video art and what the younger lot (of video artists and enthusiasts) are thinking about it in Calcutta.
Time: The perception of time, and how differently it is shown by video artists and filmmakers like
Bela Tarr, who have worked extensively on the theory of time. It’s a question worth pondering over.
Democracy of choice in video art: I feel this is an important aspect. I leave the audience to choose (whether to watch the video art or not). When somebody walks out on my film I am offended. The viewer is meant to stay till the end. But if someone walks out of a gallery showing video art I am not offended. It is meant to be like that. Same is true when an enthusiast admires a work of painting. He can walk off after a few seconds or stand there for hours.
Takeaway from discussion: It was an out-of-the-box discussion, giving you an insight into the world of video art. I got to know that the market for video art is growing.
Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury
Communication: I have a question. A video artist must be trying to communicate something through his visuals. How do I get the whole picture if I walk into the screening 15 minutes late? So if the video is on loop I watch it till the end and then stay on to catch the first 15 minutes I had missed earlier.
Takeaway from discussion: It was an enriching adda. As filmmakers, we can all further explore the possibilities of video art.
(of Unbound Studio)
What is video art: It is very difficult to say what is video art. It is similar to filmmaking but differs in certain aspects. Every artist is looking at video in his/her own way. The background of the artist, his/her interests play a big role. Since I’m interested in music, poetry and history, I draw on all three for my works. Video artists have to deal with time limitations. While Anders Weberg can make a 720-hour-long film, Alison Williams called on various artistes living in different parts of the world to send her five-minute videos, from which she made a surreal film, Tea In A Thunder Cup, by juxtaposing the videos together.
Taking risks: We choose how we want to portray something. If it is a video installation we are very specific about the requirements we have, and if it’s a single channel projection we are very specific about how it’ll be screened. We are flexible. Probably filmmakers lack that independence of being flexible. Video artists can do something risky, unlike filmmakers.
Cinema as inspiration: We draw inspiration from films. Some films like Man With A Movie Camera are as strong as any video.
On the video art scene in Calcutta: It is growing, still developing to other levels. And people have begun to accept us. Galleries like Studio21 are promoting the scene and hosting these discussions.
Requirements: We need people to be more aware of our situation and give us that space where we can take risks for greater projects. We need financial support, a space and resources. My friend Aditi Kulkarni and I formed the multi-disciplinary platform Unbound Studio to facilitate interdisciplinary discussions and dialogues and encourage exchange of ideas through workshops and screenings.
Sourav Roy Chowdhury
(of group Taxi)
When video art started in the 1960s, video and film were technically very different. One could not use cameras meant for video work for film. Now, after the technology boom, one can hardly differentiate between video and film. The term video art grew out of technical reasons.