These pieces of text are intended as small windows or hatches into an archive of video works made at, or by artists related to, BEK. The video works do not illustrate the pieces of text, but it is the works that have given me the insight to write the texts. The hatches are different and formulated as statements or propositions. They are not about ‘making video’, but about watching and understanding video, and they discuss some features that characterise video art. I myself am an artist who works with video, and these hatches are based on thoughts I have had both as an artist and audience. Video, which means ‘I see’, is used as an adjective, verb and noun. In these hatches, the term video encompasses ‘digital time-based visual expressions’. Video is not, it happens. This makes video both exciting and challenging to describe. Video takes place in recording, in editing and in playback. Through careful, open and present production, processing and display of video, video art is created by artists.
Video in landscape – landscape in video
A landscape can be seen as a narrative when you travel in it. The hiker is the camera that looks around, walks between mountains, bogs, forests. Or around quarters in unknown cities. It can all be landscape, but it is the distance between the viewer and the surroundings, or the camera and subject, that gives the experience of a landscape. You cannot touch a landscape, but you can certainly be touched! The camera sweeps and zooms, but in the encounter with landscape, we as viewers are kept at a distance and lonely, or alone. The camera is a master of distance.
The Atmospherics 11 (2020) (40:42 min.), by Jeremy Welsh and Trond Lossius
When I see and hear this work, it is I who am the camera. I’m standing on the ferry dock waiting for the ferry. Everywhere is like everywhere and nowhere.
Video as time
Video is a time-based medium, a term most often used technically, but which is much more exciting as a philosophical concept. What does ‘based on time’ really mean, when we are so vague in defining time? Based on x? That’s a mystery. In some works, video is treated as a riddle-based medium, set to suggest solutions to the riddle. Like a Russian doll. Video art asks itself and its audience ‘what can time be now?’, while the time code runs on the screen (remember: philosophical, not technical). Videos can be observations of change, which in turn become a way of defining time. Is time changing? Does change require time? Video depends on time. Cannot exist without it. But doesn’t that apply to living life too? Life is time-based.
Video as an alternative reality
All fiction offers alternative realities, but in video you can go so far! So extreme! Try out extra-terrestrial or extra-terrestrial scenarios, or just a small but very compelling twist of our own existence. Like the fiction of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (1915), where everything is as usual, except that the main character wakes up as a large insect. Or in Hieronymus Bosch’s (b.1450 – d.1516) descriptions of hell on canvas. These scenes can be played out for our inner self as we read the book or look at the paintings. But in video, the scenes can unfold. They can break with reality, but also with the narrative, the genre and the audience’s expectations. The video medium was created as a reaction to institutional film production, an anti-hierarchical tool because it was mass-produced, independent of previous costly processes, and thus became available to ‘everyone’. Video is a live laboratory, with room for the occasional ‘mad professor’.
Love Is The Law (2003) (6:16 min.), by Ole Mads Vevle
The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet’s slogan states that ‘reality surpasses everything’. In their claim, they gallantly jump over what the media is doing with that reality to get us interested. They fictionalise reality. Vevle both reveals this, and not least he reveals religion’s method of achieving the same thing: religion promises an alternative reality and mediates with its big words and intimidation.
Are You Ready? (episode 1) (2020) (30:32 min.), by Gitte Sætre and Frans Jacobi
With the greatest certainty, and with equal doses of humour and seriousness, we are presented with an oracle in the form of a twig. And, just as naturally, I am able to follow ‘The Stick’ until the last day.
Video – a (contemporary) document
When the camera runs, the world happens – it captures action and state. When we look at the recording afterwards, a room for reflection opens up as to why the world is happening. A characteristic of the video works that I call (contemporary) document, is that they trust the viewer’s ability to think, understand, process. In these works, the camera is allowed to spend time, to be a viewer. The camera becomes the grandfather clock in the room. Just standing there, just being there, but standing to attention. The ability of a video artist to portray the camera as a passive observer is, of course, a means of device. A camera is never passive, it has a perspective.
Video – Beyond intimacy
The camcorder can be a tool to get close. Closer than interpersonal relationships allow. The lens has no ‘I’ and therefore breaks ‘the innermost gate’. Where another ‘I’ cannot reach, the lens can go. The camera sees and continues to see, and in the encounter with individuals and their reality we find those who look at company and kinship through the camera. The camera is a master of closeness. In Beate Grimsrud’s book Evighetsbarna (Children of Eternity) (2015) she writes: “What does it mean to understand? To penetrate another human being with sensitivity?” In some video works, it is the camera that with sensitivity is able to penetrate another human being and report back to the viewer. But in all these works, there has also been a video artist in the room, who has been able to create an atmosphere of closeness and trust.