A Dog Day For Video Art

The difficulty of showcasing video work in an exhibition is unparallel. How many times have you gone to a museum or gallery and entered a darkened room to see the film is a quarter of the way done? Furthermore you may trip on a visitor who is sitting on the ground as you awkwardly find a place to lean against the wall to only count the seconds before you’ve spent an appropriate time with the art? It’s no secret that curators and artists have dealt with this problem for many years with several creative solutions. Most galleries, however, retain the classic way of presenting videos despite these apparent setbacks. Arratia Beer’s latest exhibition of Omer Fast’s films is no exception – yet where the curator’s remained conservative in their presentation of Fast, his videos proved to not need any special treatment.

A Different Kind Of Opening

I had never been to an opening that featured only video work, especially by someone as world-renowned like Omer Fast. Before attending, I wondered: Were there going to be individual screenings of his films? An artist’s talk? Would there be a red carpet leading up to the gallery’s entrance? Was this a black tie event?

In the end, the opposite couldn’t have been more true. Unlike most openings where you’re greeted by a luminous white cube covered in colorful art, here visitors congregated in a stark lobby surrounded by walls stripped of their usual chalky barriers, exposing the sepia and metal skeleton of the gallery’s interior. The grim atmosphere was a result of Fast presenting his newest pieces – “Continuity” (2012) and “5000 Feet is the Best” (2011) – in two rooms on opposing sides of the space.

Doubting James

I was skeptical that this would be the best atmosphere to view his notoriously dark and troubling films. Since only large curtains guarded the entrance to each movie, I was sure the black boxes would be polluted with noise from the excited exhibition attendees. This really disappointed me, because I had seen parts of Continuity” when it was shown at Documenta in 2012 yet failed to view the whole film despite the pleasant atmosphere provided in Kassel. Obviously hoping to view a video work at an opening in it’s entirety is naïve; however I gave it a shot, pulled open the black drapery and edged in.