At the center of this cycle is the media, specifically digital media, cable, and social media. So, in the context of calling real news fake news and calling fake news real news, what is the role of the artist? Some artists will internalize, but many have taken this moment to speak to the moment.
One way is to use the digital tools to reclaim a different version of a truth. Of course, artists have worked with video and digital media for as long as these tools have been available, but it’s urgent for artists to get us to think differently about what these tools have done to us. The Dallas Museum of Art recently opened its first major exhibition of video art centered on the theme of Truth: 24 frames per second.
Joan Davidow has now curated FEAR OF CHANGE: true scenes & flat screens at SITE131. The exhibition navigates truth in digital representation with works near and afar that help us re-see the media we unconsciously absorb. Each subverts our expectations of what the normal presentation media might be. It runs the gamut from pseudo realistic portraits to digital constructed portraits and other digital representations.
To me the exhibition’s center is The Dust Channel, first shown at the international exhibition Documenta 14. Roee Rosen creates a 23-minute music video operetta with a Russian libretto. It focuses on a bourgeois Israeli family that has a thing about dirt and dust and a fetish for the Dyson DC 07 vacuum cleaner, the one where you can see the dirt. Along the way we have an allusion to Un Chien Andalou (Spanish director Buñuel and artist Dali’s silent short film) and a clip of German filmmaker Harun Farocki’s Inextinguishable Fire. But the film|video is really about the Helot Israeli detention center for immigrants for which the dust is a metaphor.
Rodrigo Valenzuela’s New Land Number 5 photographs a large landscape he hand-transfers onto canvas. A landscape suggests freedom and wide space, but he has drawn barriers, transparent barriers, but barriers that separate us, the viewers, putting us in a box, distancing us from this freedom in front of us: the freedom of open landscape, constrained, and distanced by constructs of man, government, and culture.
Heather Valcik’s “Anonymous how u doing” digitally re-constructs her social media presence with the hope of connecting through social media. Her selfies are hidden behind the color and digital noise of the age. Like in 1972, Valcik constructs a performance portrait that makes us question the realism and the context of the portrait.
And finally Clayton Harper’s Class Warfare v1.01 video installations navigate safety and danger in different planes. The background of each image is a slow-moving dolly shot of an everyday classroom. The dolly implies a sense of drama in an otherwise peaceful space. In the static mid-ground are symbols of education (books, school bags, and caps) in saturated colors. These pop out as if in a 3-D image. In the foreground we see rotation images of destruction (a bomb, a rifle, and a handgun). The initial reaction portrays that violence can be anywhere and conveys a comment on guns on campus, but as we look further we can see the watermark from an image bank ~ making us wonder what is real.
The exhibition as a whole makes us question: what are these images telling us? What is real and what is truth? The artist can suggest the deeper truth that can help us deal with the age of misinformation.
Associate Professor, University of Texas at Arlington