Video art is generally confined to darkened rooms in museums, viewing areas in commercial galleries or experimental spaces like Lincoln’s Fiendish Plots, which showed a striking piece by German artist Gudrun Barenbrock last year.
That, however, will change for two months in downtown Lincoln when the Sheldon Museum of Art presents “Taking Time,” a collection of 10 videos on The Cube, the giant video screen that overlooks the Railyard on Canopy Street in the Haymarket.
The videos will debut at 8 p.m. Friday as part of the First Friday art walk and will be shown back-to-back in their entirety, a program that will run about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Through June 15, they will be exhibited in three packages that run from 28 to 39 minutes in length. An exhibition schedule is at sheldonartmuseum.org.
Curated by Lawrence Rinder, director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive at the University of California, “Taking Time” is a representative sampling of video art that reaches back to a very early piece and includes examples of contemporary work from multiple styles, including animation.
The early piece, at 1 minute 19 seconds by far the shortest, is “Lightning,” a black-and-white video from 1976 by Paul and Marlene Kos. A simple piece, it is a repeating view of a woman sitting in the backseat of a car, looking out the window, saying a phrase that lightning doesn’t strike when she’s looking, turning to the camera, then lightning strikes behind her. While nothing close to new today, in 1976, “Lightning” was groundbreaking.
The longest video is Kim Sooja’s “A Needle Woman,” a 25-minute video of a woman in a stark robe with a black ponytail that extends down her back standing in the middle of a busy sidewalk with passersby swarming around and sometimes obscuring her. The woman is Sooja and the piece is performance art combined with video. First done in Tokyo in 2000, the version to be shown on The Cube was commissioned in Paris in 2009.
“A Needle Woman” is silent and watching it on a computer at Outpost 12 Studios was a bit of a slog. But the streets and sidewalks around The Cube will provide a couldn’t-be-more-appropriate soundtrack for it when it’s exhibited.
The video likely to be the most popular with viewers is Ari Marcopoulos’ “Claremont,” which captures three guys in '80s prom suits shooting down a highway in California’s Claremont canyon on skateboards, passing a video camera back and forth to document the ground-level, high-speed ride.
That nearly 11-minute piece opens the second of the three programs in “Taking Time.” Also in that package is an eye-grabbing video of a Weddell seal popping its head up and “oxygenating” through a hole in the ice on Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf.
The first program is made up of three distinctive, highly imaginative pieces -- Takashi Murata’s “Escape Spirit VideoSlime” that finds a chimpanzee running through a flowing, shifting cascade of color; Chris Doyle’s “Waste Generation,” an animated piece that opens and closes in a scrap yard and loops from nature to the construction of power plants and back to nature, and Rob Carter’s computer-animated “Metropolis” that shows, often from high above, the development of a city from forest to cleared area to 19th-century town to city with skyscrapers and sports stadiums.
The third program contains “A Needle Woman” and conceptual artist Shinado Taro’s “Reflection,” a series of contemplative views of the Basel Zoo that at 14 minutes is also one of the longest pieces in the exhibition.
I’m guessing that most who pass through the Haymarket and get a glimpse of The Cube won’t stand or sit at the Railyard tables and benches to watch an entire half-hour program. But it’s easy enough to get the gist of most of the long videos in a few minutes, and some, like the downhill skateboarding rush, are captivating.
All the videos are top quality and fine examples of video art. I’m interested in seeing them projected large scale, outdoors at night. Even more fascinating will be watching the reactions of passersby, most of whom never would venture into a museum or gallery to see what they’ll be standing in the Railyard watching.