Curated by Astria Suparak
For EXPO CHICAGO, The International Exposition of Modern and Contemporary Art
@ Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
Sept. 18 – 21, 2014
John Akomfrah, Skip Arnold, Eric Fleischauer and Jason Lazarus, Adam Magyar, Takeshi Murata, Jennifer Reeder, Michael Robinson, Alyson Shotz
Located on the main floor of the exposition, EXPO VIDEO highlights some of the most exciting video and animation being made by artists represented by EXPO CHICAGO exhibitors. Presented in Navy Pier’s Festival Hall in viewing stations designed by Studio Gang Architects and with a custom bench designed by John Preus, this year’s program is divided into three reels of work. Nine videos were selected from submissions from over 140 international exhibiting galleries.
Selected artists are from the U.S., Ghana, and Hungary, and include John Akomfrah (Carrol / Fletcher, London), Skip Arnold (Greene Exhibitions, Los Angeles), Jason Lazarus and Eric Fleischauer (Andrew Rafacz, Chicago), Adam Magyar (Julie Saul Gallery, New York), Takeshi Murata (Salon 94, New York), Jennifer Reeder (Andrew Rafacz, Chicago), Michael Robinson (Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago) and Alyson Shotz (Carolina Nitsch, New York).
In addition to the three stations displaying the work of selected artists from the exhibiting galleries, this year’s program will feature a fourth station featuring the best of Columbia College student video work. Student winners include BJ Allen, Bret Hamilton, Eli Zazquez and for the second year in a row, Ahmed Hamad.
Takeshi Murata and Alyson Shotz create eerie, minimalist worlds seething with suspense. In Shotz’s abstract digital animation Fluid State, an ocean of metallic orbs crests and becomes airborne in finely-spun, dewey threads over the course of a quick day/night cycle, condensing back down into dark waves. Murata’s fantasy thriller, OM Rider, follows a badass werewolf musician who inexplicably tangles with a glaring old man in a canary yellow suit. OM Rider is flush with impending doom, strange humor, and surprising edits. Both videos exist in the thin atmosphere of computer-generated animation that is at turns hyper-real and disquietingly awkward.
- Fluid State, Alyson Shotz, 2012, 2:35 minutes
- OM Rider, Takeshi Murata, 2013, 11:39 minutes
These videos exploit the language of pop culture, with hilarious results. Skip Arnold’s two videos from 1984 were made for the short timeslot of a television commercial, maximizing each of his performance’s impact with disciplined distillation and comic timing that was sure to disrupt the TV viewer’s experience. Jason Lazarus and Eric Fleischauer’s twohundredfiftysixcolors (preface) consists entirely of animated GIFs. Starting with deeply familiar GIFs related to time, including quotidian signifiers of programs loading and launching on digital devices, to digital animations of proto-cinema’s analog images, to related spinoffs, memes, art and film jokes, and art GIFs, the video charts the evolution of the form. A generation apart, with Fleischauer and Lazarus younger than Arnold, the artists reflect on their present moments and deeply engage with their respective mediums and the creative possibilities within them.
- Hello Goodbye, from the series Activities Made For TV, Skip Arnold, 1984, 30 seconds
- twohundredfiftysixcolors (preface), Jason Lazarus and Eric Fleischauer, 2013, 6:20 minutes
- Punch, from the series Activities Made For TV, Skip Arnold, 1984, 15 seconds
These quasi sociological videos evince the banal reality of subway riders, the artifice of soap opera archetypes, a revelation within a well-trodden history, and a utopia of feminist teenagers. For Stainless, Adam Magyar uses a customized high-speed video camera to capture a brief moment in the world’s busiest transport hub. By slowing down the footage, we see unsuspecting commuters of all ages suspended in time and lost in private moments in public – listening to music, checking their phones, reading books, chatting with lovers, curling eyelashes and scratching noses – many staring blankly into space. This is an involuntary group portrait, capturing the transient fashion, technology, and body language of a large swath of people in one place at one time, on the Shinjuku Station platform in Tokyo. John Akomfrah’s Peripeteia reinserts the presence of black people into the white-washed history of Europe, the Renaissance, Western art, and the countryside. Akomfrah takes drawings by the 16th century German artist Albrecht Dürer as starting points for this quiet and gorgeous rumination. In Michael Robinson’s The Dark, Krystle, footage from the 1980s hit show Dynasty is heavily edited into a new dramatic arc, focusing on two lead characters and their repeated gestures: Krystle, a helpless blonde with puppy-dog eyes, awash in self-doubt, worry, sadness, and fear; and archly browed, scheming brunette Alexis, who endlessly swigs white wine in triumph and self-satisfaction. It’s also a delightful showcase of glamorous, bourgeois 80s fashion, with heavily rouged and bejeweled women parading in pleated silks, oversized ruffles, ostentatious furs, monochrome jumpsuits, and ever-present shoulder pads. Cliched female tropes become complicated in Jennifer Reeder’s A Million Miles Away, an alternate world of racially diverse and intersectional feminist girls. Set in the present-day Midwest and rife with pop cultural and literary references and feminist jokes, the precocious girls, who whisper to each other about manifestos and protests during choir class, unexpectedly comfort a melancholic substitute teacher. These four works range from black and white realism, to speculative enactment of history, to Hollywood illusion, to personal fantasy, each revealing something poignant about our culture.
- Stainless, Shinjuku, Adam Magyar, 2013, 11:11 minutes
- Peripeteia, John Akomfrah, 2012, 18:12 minutes
- The Dark, Krystle, Michael Robinson, 2013, 9:34 minutes
- A Million Miles Away, Jennifer Reeder, 2014, 27:50 minutes
THE CHICAGO READER
The International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, now in its third year, is an intimidatingly large event that promises/threatens to overload your eyeballs as galleries descend on Navy Pier for three days of exhibitions, site-specific projects, panel discussions, and more. The disorientation can be its own experience, but for those who’d like some guidance, here are five high points to swim for amidst the aesthetic flood…
Expo Video: Four viewing stations designed by Studio Gang Architects feature nine artists. The works include Takeshi Murata… and Chicago artist Jennifer K. Reeder’s A Million Miles Away, which mines teen angst for pathos. One sequence involves a girl solemnly singing Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” to an E.T. figure.
– Noah Berlatsky, “Five must-dos at Expo Chicago,” Sept. 16, 2014
– Scott Indrisek, “Expo Chicago Names Artists For In/Situ And More,” Sept. 3, 2014