My experience has been that the installation of art video is dominated by a need to make audiences uncomfortable; consciously or not, they are designed to be difficult to enter, uncomfortable to occupy, and awkward to leave. This is the source of my guarded pessimism. I have come to resent the status quo and always brace myself for the worst as I open the black velvet curtains or snake my through the doglegs of hallways painted matt black. Video is a durational art. Unlike sculpture and painting it cannot be taken in with a glance - and often requires enormous amounts of time to judge a work, yet most installations seem designed to make the experience as miserable as possible. Imagine being asked what you thought of Empire Strikes if you had had to watch it standing in the middle of a dark gallery? You would have entered cautiously to find a nay-saying green puppet brow beating a sweaty guy, stood there for a bit and left. For a time I complained so much about the absurdity of having to navigate pitch black video galleries with little or no seating at worst, and totally shitty seating at best, that my friends teased that perhaps the real problem was that I am afraid of the dark.
In this new flick the camera just sat there, trained on this guy who just sat there too, sideways to the camera in a chair, like Whistler's mother's gay nephew, getting a haircut. That was it. The barber was out of the framAll we saw were his hands, the scissors, and the comb, fluttering around this guy's head. Clip-clip! Clip-clip! We couldn't believe it. This was really boring. Mesmerizing too of course, but not mesmerizing enough to keep us from moaning, keening almost, and swaying in our chairs.
Imagine Mystery Science Theater 3000 with a hot Texas mise en scene; The clatter of the projector in the glimmering darkness. Smoke curling up through the silvered ambiance. Insects swooping. The ongoing murmur of impudent commentary from the audience. References to Althusser, Marcuse, group sex. Like that... then it happened. The guy getting the haircut reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and casually lit one up! Applause. Tumultuous joy and release! Chanting even. And the joy may have been ironic (it almost certainly was), but the release was genuine.
- Simultaneous shots on the same wall - This one is used a lot in film, and to great effect, which may explain why it is relatively rare in art video installation.
- Simultaneous shots project into the corner of a room - This is very common, I suppose because it is so jarringly (irony) unlike film and TV
- Simultaneous shots on opposite walls - This is probably one of the most common perhaps because it makes watching a near impossibility - I hate these. I would like to stage a survey of this sort of installation in a mile long tunnel and call it "Watch your back."
- Simultaneous shots project onto all four walls of a room - This is also very common, agian because it is unlike film and TV.
- Simultaneous shots on two sides of the same wall - This one means you have to keep circling the video as if it was an object - Bill Viola, bless his heart, loves this one.
Tony Oursler, Swathe (2004); Guggenheim, Play (2010)
Happily Klaus Biesenbach seems to have some understanding of how art video needs to be seen - the theater in the Warhaol show is an example of this, and his survey of performance art video at PS1 was AWESOME (but needed chairs). The Pipilotti Rist installation in the MoMA atrium shows that his awareness is highly imperfect however - the big cumfy ring provided to watch the wrap around ginger porn was not actually comfortable for viewing video. I have one word for you Klaus: BACKRESTS. They are the future.
We are in yet another moment of Sea Change, Clock is the first Youtube masterpiece. Christian Marclay has, I hope, set a new standard, for how this eras video will be installed. It is important to nitpick, so I will say I wish the sofa backs had been a little higher so I could have rested my head and that the projection should have been 18" or so higher as well. Lining up the bottom of the projection with the low backs of the sofas means that you are forced to look at the back of everyone's heads - my best guess it is some wierd nod to minimalism, but whatever, that is niggling. I spent 6 very comfortable hours (over two visits) largely unaware of how my butt and back felt, I stretched out my legs in front of me my mind wandered and I got really really bored.