Monday, May 28, 2007


Loop Barcelona was divided into two sections: the festival and the fair.

The FESTIVAL was a massive, sprawling, chaotic organism.

Time and time again, I set out with high hopes, but low expectations. Oftentimes the venue was closed, other times it was open but had no video art, and when the advertised time and place came together in an actual event, the presentation was mediocre to poor. I kept dreaming about Peter Kubelka's Invisible Cinema.

Nevertheless, there were jewels to be had:

1. Monserrat Soto "Lugar de Silencios"(Barcelona) at Centre D'Art Santa Mónica:
The exterior setting of several rooms of an old concrete structure going to ruin is rear-projected onto an array of 7 or 8 large screens. This is a place being reclaimed by the foliage, a place receeding from the physical upkeep, and thus consciousness, of mankind. The poet Dionisio Cañas is heard and/or seen wandering from room to room, screen to screen, depicted in a process of ruminating and composing outloud, to himself.
This ground-floor installation by Barcelona artist Monserrat Soto blew away the other work on view at the art center-- other work brought in from the states and the UK. This is an interesting phenomenon I have noticed back at San Antonio's Art Pace, where cycles of three residents create new work for exhibition. One is always regional (from Texas), one national (from the States), and one international. Whenever the regional artist is from San Antonio, you can be sure that they are going to labor 10 times harder than anyone else, creating work that will give the work of the visitors a run for its money.

2. A Breif History of the Video Data Bank (Chicago) at the MACBA auditorium:
Brigid Reagan, VDB distribution manager, presented an overview of the history of the Video Data Bank with a focus on the main themes and genres in the collection. The VDB is a resource close to my heart. I took great advantage of my privledge to browse and screen work at the VDB when I was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, home to the collection. This program positively affirmed the foundations of my education in experimental moving image practice.

Early Interviews with Underrepresented Female Artists visiting SAIC (Lee Krasner interview)
Early Video and the Womens' Movement (Martha Rossler - Semiotics of the Kitchen)
Video as Activism (Videofreex)
Filmmakers Who Made the Move to Video (John Smith - Girl Chewing Gum)
Mastering the Technology (Paul Garrin - Free Society)
the 1990's (Miranda July - The Amaturist)
Diary Video (George Kuchar - Weather Diary)
Scratch/Found-Footage (Animal Charm - Stuffing)
Tributes and Remakes of Earlier Video (Anne McGuire - After Wegman)
Remix of Classic Films (Nicholas Provost - Papillion d'Amour)
New Work from Europe & the Middle East (Hester Scheurwater - Mama)

Visit the VDB website to see samples of all of these videos, and more!

3. STRIP Film Festival (Paris) presentation
Though riddled with severe technical difficulties, the presentation by Marc Audí and Marianne of STRIP Film Festival featured some work that I was really happy to see: "Money" by Henry Hills (NYC), and "Descent" and "Mi Casa, Su Casa" by Pierre Reimer.

4. Jeremy Shaw "Best Minds" (Vancouver) at Galeria Dels Ángels
On exhibit were two sublime video projections of imagery shot at punk shows. The super slow-motion made it possible to observe each scene in great detail. The first was of group of young men in the mosh pit, thrashing their bodies around with facial expressions full of rage. The second documented an altercation between three young women which evolves into a fist fight. I was transported beyond simple observation, though the warp of time and into the projected psyches of the individuals in the work.

5. Interancia Videobrasil 2006-2007 at El Mercado Del Borne

6. Videotape Hong Kong at Red03

7. "Vive la Mort"at the Fundació Suñol, video art from the collection of Marc & Josée Gensollen.
The perspective of the private collector is what interested me most. The theme of the body is what distinguished this group of videos. Some of them were documents of the body in action, such as Carlos Amorales' (Mexico) "Interim," a tight close-up of two masked wrestlers head-to-head against a white backdrop, and João Onofre's (Portugal) "Sin Titulo" which used digital tools to reorient two falling bodies to work against gravity and fall against the sides of the frame, repetitively, making a strong rhythm.
Though not documentary in the traditional sense, there were some videos that could be categorized as documentary for their use of straight recordings of small events in the world. "Uomo Duomi" by Anri Sala (Albania) was recorded in a church frequented by tour groups and featured a tripod shot of an old man sitting in a pew, alternately praying and sleeping. "Coffee" by Hand Op de Beck (Belgium) used the same technique to observe and capture the scene of an elderly couple having coffee at a restaurant.

8. Johanna Billing at Galeria Joan Prats

9. China Vision - Yang Zhenshong at Holmes Place Balmes Fitness Club, and Miao Xiaochun at Keihl's Since 1851

Saturday, May 26, 2007

LOOP Barcelona: Buried Treasure

The city has become the backdrop for a giant scavenger hunt. Each day I follow clues in search of precious booty. Somtimes the signs lead to genuine gold, sometimes to costume jewelry, and sometimes to a dead end. Three ingredients contribute to the enigmatic nature of this undertaking. First, major portions of Barcelona are simply inscrutable, such as the old city. Its a maze of small and crooked streets leading to even smaller and crooked-er ones, which are often depicted on the map with the wrong name or without any name at all. Second, the Spaniards are not known for punctuality, or for necessarily holding to any time-frame, published or otherwise. And finally, the printed LOOP program, besides being 60 pages long with no index or all-encompassing organizing principle, is all in Castilian, which I have studied for one semester only.

Moored in a state of disorderly pursuit, at least I have an anchor!

Tune in for more about the video art soon!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Films at Caíxa Forum, and an Excursion to the Hospital Sant Pau

Last Tuesday night, I took in a program of films at Caíxa Forum by the Montjuïc park "Documento y Ciudad," curated and presented by David Reznak. All in all a good selection of experimental documentary that anchored itself in images of "the city." For me, each piece presented a different vantage point from which to focus and process the visual information absorbed in various urban environments. For example, "Sea Change" by Joe King and Rosie Pedlow (2004) interwove various times of day into a very long tracking shot of a manicured trailer-home neighborhood. "Din 16538/39 (Paris)" by Augustin Gimel (1999) based the organization of its documents on color, beginning in reds, moving into oranges, and making its way through the rest of the rainbow. And "Blight" by John Smith (1994-6) hung itself on a structure of fragmented storis and rememberances relating to the destruction of homes in a particular neigborhood in East London.

Woke up the next morning feverish with a sore throat and spent the next 3 days in bed, riding the dreamstate to regions father and farther from consciousness. Around the time my system should have been kicking the virus, I had a night of fitful sleep complicated by breathing difficulties. I thought: tomorrow is the day to go to the clinic, and while waiting for Dr. Sobre to rise on Saturday morning, decided to look up my symptoms on the internet-- the worst possible place to go for any kind of medical consultation. Googling "flu-like symptoms, difficulty breathing" brought up SARS!

Well, Dr. Sobre, fluent in both Catalan and Castillian, looked over the listing of Barcelona hospitals and clinics from the American Consulate webpage. Leave it to her to pick out the great Modernista Hospital de Sant Pau, designed by Domènech i Montaner! We hopped a cab by the bus station & were off.

Still fairly hazy from the illness, but not too out-of-it to notice the fantastic structures and tilework, we jumped out at the emergency entrance. Shortly after signing in we were led to a small office where a young and very kind doctor asked a few questions, then sent us up the block to the emergency room that handled lesser-emergencies, where I could be attended to rather quickly. He was practically beaming as he lead us to the street, pointing the way with directions in Catalan.

I recommend travelers' health insurance for anyone taking a trip out of the county-- I didn't get it, but since this incident have learned that is it really cheap-- like $30. Thinking that I'm still young and invincible along with a strong disdain for the traditional US health system factored into my "overlooking" this detail. All things considered, though, I fared well. The emergency room consultation, an x-ray, 3 medications and cab ride only set me back about $165 USD-- can you imagine what this would have co$t in the States without insurance?

Well, the infection had turned to bronchitis which in turn had triggered an asthmatic episode (not that I normally have asthma). All of the doctors and technicians who worked with me were were quite personable yet professional, seemed to have the time to hear about my illness, talk to me (one in fairly good english, another who slowed his Castillian w-a-y down, and the other spoke Catalan while Dr. Sobre was present), and examine or perform labwork (in this case an x-ray). The paperwork took almost more time than the one-on-one, and the waiting was about equivalent.

Medicine is socialized here in Spain, so eveyone has access to decent healthcare any time. One other thing I appreciated was not seeing any clocks with the name of a phamaceutical drug company on its face. We ambled back over to the Modernista complex for a look around. Dr. Sobre may be small, but is she fast! That woman can walk! In my condition, I couldn't keep up, and so we agreed to come back another day and caught the metro back home.

Dr. Sobre said gee, you could probably do a pretty cool video with x-rays!
This pleasantly brought to mind Barbara Hammer's 1990 16mm film "Sanctus."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Wandering the Barcelona Night

In this barely affordable apartment here in Barcelona, amidst the many dozen turtle nicknacks, lives a most unstable internet connection, non-functional since our arrival at the end of the business-week. Sit with the rental agency's pro-IT practitioner for 3 hours as he resets the settings a million times while Dr. Sobre tours the students around old Roman Barcelona-- a real shame to miss the first class session.

Spend the next 6 hours playing catch-up on my contribution for the class, honing in on all of the video-art coming down the pipeline due to Loop Barcelona. Dr. Sobre returns, and after a typical meal of salad, cheeses, meats, fresh bread, and wine, we put the finishing touches on the syllabus and I set out looking for a copy-shop, though it's really too late for such business.

Hoof it up Carres Ribes intending to walk it to a dead-end, but see the Sagrada Familia off to the west-- no way to get out from under its spell. It beckons. And after another little while it pops out from behind the many city blocks I had traversed. For reasons beyond mentioning in the scope of this blog, I was prepared for disappointment. But the Sagrada Familia IS glorious-- if you've ever seen it, you know. For me it is an outrageous display of the glory glory glory of a contemporary (20th c.) expression on a scale of immense grandeur. Why the world I generally live in doesn't seem interested in high craftsmanship infused with a deep articulation of the living moment is beyond me.

And so I meander back to Ribes 13, zigzagging through the Eixample, daring myself to get really lost. But then there's that old redbrick Arc de Triomf that Dr. Sobre practically spits at for its ugliness every time we pass it by. I cut around some sidestreets gambling on one last shot at dematerialization, see the 'copiteria' I had originally set out in search of, then 3 blocks later am back on Ribes, and "home."

It'll be an early one tomorrow, with a stop at the newfound copy-shop on the way to meet the students at their dorm on the other side of the Gothic Quarter.