GVI Logo
About Us Portfolio Services Contact header
About Us

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fiona Tan at the Sackler

There's a fascinating video exhibit at the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery. Fiona Tan: Rise and Fall presents the first major presentation of her work in America. Tan uses video to explore identity, memory, our place in the world and how we might understand and experience another person. Fiona Tan was born in Indonesia, grew up in Australia, her father is Chinese and she lives in Amsterdam. Her struggle to understand her own identity is a jumping off point for her art. More to the point, her work is unlike any video presentation we're familiar with. She pushes the realm of portraiture into uncharted territory. Yet her work inspires me to see things differently.

One piece, Rise and Fall, compares two women, one younger, the other older. They seem to be musing on their lives, on each other. Are they the same person, encountered at two stages of their lives? Is the older woman remembering the past? Or the younger imaging her future? Tan's languid images are striking in their simplicity. She has a wonderful eye for composition, often inspired by the Dutch masters. Each moment unfolds with a sense of mystery, while building a strong connection between the two women. It is quite a meaningful experience, yet no words come between us and the powerful images.

Another work, Provenance, explores portraiture as a fluid construct. We meet a person; see the artifacts of their life that surround and define them. Again, each person is presented without words, yet the profiles have a surprising sense of intimacy. The images are stylized, feel more like paintings than video, and are an example of her effort to create a new way of capturing identity.
Her pieces reveal themselves slowly, almost hypnotically. Go when you have some time to give to the experience. There are many unexpected pleasures that await. The exhibit runs through Jan. 16th at the Sackler Gallery.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Vision Thing

Sometimes David Brooks makes me mad. Other times, I think he's absolutely brilliant. Like other columnists I read, he makes me think. Can't ask for much more than that. And not too long ago he wrote about America's economic future. I liked what he had to say and so I'm sharing it here. His column, "The Crossroads Nation," appeared in the NYT this November. And he lays out an optimistic vision for what kind of nation we could be. I suggest you read the whole column. But here's an excerpt:

"... economic power in the 21st century is not going to look like economic power in the 20th century. The crucial fact about the new epoch is that creativity needs hubs. Information networks need junction points. The nation that can make itself the crossroads to the world will have tremendous economic and political power."

Too often we get so caught up with the issue of the day we lose sight of the big picture. Where are we going and how are we going to get there? I think we'd all like our leaders to spend a little more time developing "that vision thing." Because, without a road map for where we want to go, we're more likely to stumble around in the wilderness...

NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts

Radio's great. You get to paint your own pictures and no place provides a broader canvas than NPR. But not too long ago I stumbled upon their Tiny Desk Concert and loved it. First of all, finding a venue for new music is not easy. The old independent radio stations are pretty much a thing of the past.

Into the breech steps NPR. And not only with music, but with video too. Like this one, featuring Lost in the Trees. NPR's concept: bring the performers into a corner of the office, move away the desks to create a little space and shoot it simply, focusing on the music. The resulting performance has a lovely, intimate quality. Watching it, you feel like you're one of the NPR staffers just out of frame, hanging out to listen. And the musical variety is broad and stimulating. You also have a front row view of the performers, you can feel their connection as they play together; see how they listen and play off each other. Really watch the creative process unfold as you listen to their work. Also, because it's an acoustic experience, there are no electronics for the performers to hide behind. And the video makes it clear, it's all about the music. The variety of performers mixes the old with the new. You can link to the series, which started in March of this year. The old ones are archived. A great, innovative use of video for a radio network. And something to brighten your work week.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The High Line - Why I Love New York 2

We walked the High Line a few weeks ago. It's like the boardwalk with the city playing the part of ocean. All around was the bustle of urban life ebbing and flowing 50 feet below. Yet above the fray we could relax, ponder, sit, observe, chat, view, read, photograph, admireand exclaim in the company of hundreds of fellow city surfers. All of this taking place from an aerial vantage point hovering above the flow. Surrounded by plantings and such elegance of design. Design that incorporates the remnants of its original mission: providing rail freight to the West Side's meat packing and industrial enterprises. And taking fanciful flight, with an amphitheater complete with viewing window of the street, benches that rise right out of the walkway like waves, wooden lounge seats that roll on tracks, and a plentitude of artifacts, all preserved in homage to its rail yard past. And an instant creator of community. Amazing outcome for a project slated for demolition.
These photos may give you a little of the flavor.Good Magazine's first issue featured a video about the High Line's history that is a great background piece. Andthe New York Times has a whole section on it in their archives, including slide shows, multimedia and a piece on the people who perform for the high line strollers.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Underbelly Project - Why I love New York Pt 1

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound? If over 100 street artists create intriguing, original work that no one can see, is it there? How about work created in a secret underground location known only to the artists and a select few. A never finished subway station, long abandoned, then rediscovered and tagged with intriguing images, then abandoned to the stuff of urban legend. This is The Underbelly Project. And it models a vision right out of the work of William Gibson where part of the plot of the second book in his latest trilogy focuses on virtual art only visible to a select few.

In The Underbelly Project, an abandoned subway station in the bowels of New York City serves as the exhibit site. And an excellent article in the New York Times describes the event and how it came about. The exhibit celebrates the punk sensibility of street art. In another era, it would be the surrealist or the dada sensibility. You could say the process of making the art makes its own statement - it's Art for Art's sake.
So why am I writing about this? I like the sheer audacity that they did it. I like that two street artist/curators saw the opportunity and went for it. And that 100 artists saw the elegant irony of their vision and went for it, too. That they did it for the fun and exuberance of it. And then to be thrust instantly into the mists of urban legend. And the best work, as you'll see in the slide show and video that accompanies the article, conjures the mystery of the unseen and unknown. And in an almost perverse way, it celebrates the vibrancy of America's greatest city. A city where anything seems possible.