Moving Image would be Emily Dickinson’s favorite art fair. The calm atmosphere allows you to cherish a solitary moment with art. Sometimes it’s refreshing to quietly ponder beauty alone, like the poet. Nearly every video uses software that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Like Dickinson, these artists don’t go for the past’s stale conventions. Finally, the recurring theme of psychedelic geometry in several video pieces conjured the magical and entrancing aspect of geometry that the poet explored in one of her lesser-known poems.
Best Witchcraft is Geometry
To the Magician’s mind –
His ordinary acts are feats
To thinking of mankind
Gushing about geometry and shapes in art sounds so old-fashioned that part of me instinctively resents this sentence. But it’s where these works lead — manipulating numbers and formulas on a computer (which sounds so ordinary) casts such bewitching visual spells. After viewing how complexly many of these new media artists employ geometry to such stunning effect, Euclides seems so… proto-psychedelic.
Pink Twins is a duo of audio-visual-electro wizards whose piece “Parametronomicon” pulses with all of these orbiting lines, rotating discuses, and glowing squares. The bright color palette keeps shifting in the shapes. Sometimes a techno-baroque chromatic storm just gales.
A few steps away, Sebastian Biskup offers a minimalist retort to the Pink Twins in “Untitled” (2015). Picking sides in the battle between the minimal and the ornate is a fight for art critics from 40 years ago. I’m bisexual on the matter and suggest you enjoy both. A few shifting squares can be totally mesmerizing. Josef Albers would have loved this. Bishop’s piece carries on for an unlimited duration, inducing a meditative trance.
Ranu Mukherjee offers several different geometric vignettes in “Home and the World” (2015). The slowly falling triangles and trapezoids that sully the floor eventually summon a ghostly apparition with a broom. Other footage meditates on the role of women in 2015. To state the obvious, women are good at many things besides cleaning. I am continually fighting to convince my friends that feminist content in art isn’t always an attack — it can be an invitation to reflect on sexism and how more nuanced relationships with the women in your life could actually be energizing and advantageous for your own self-interest. Maybe things will get better if you stop leaving triangles and trapezoids lying around for another woman to clean up?
Gravity wreaks havoc on the unstable shelves filled with spherical objects in Levi Van Veluw’s “Spheres” (2014). The slow motion enables you to catch the geometry in play as physics runs its course. There is something so entrancing about entropy and watching the carefully arranged baubles descend into chaos.
Switching from slow motion to fast motion, Pernille with Madsen creates a sphere by swiftly rotating a cluster of cubes in “Foreign Material I–III” (2014). The piece provides a nice moment of zen simplicity.
Leslie Thornton offers this series of video works that kaleidoscopically reconfigure pictures of animals. It’s like looking through binoculars whose lenses don’t match. For example, in “Binocular Series: Panda” a panda munches on bamboo. The rhythm of the noble animal’s gnawing dictates the motions of the adjacent kaleidoscope footage. The green, black, and white shapes dance. Plato would love this dichotomy between the world of appearances and a mystical order beyond it, which only faintly resemble one another.
Lana Z Caplan‘s “Play and Repeat” (2014) explores a similar tension between the “real world” and an imagined world of pure geometric forms. Brightly colored footage of New York is interspersed with geometric abstractions. Have you ever thought about how many aspects of climate change are invisible? Yes, catastrophic weather events are visible, but many of the underlying physics of changing global temperatures take place invisibly. Concerned about the environment, “Play and Repeat” asks us to think through what we can and can’t see in our daily landscape as New Yorkers.
Every art fair has that one work that invites selfies. At Moving Image it’s Selçuk Artut‘s “Fog” (2013), which allows you to watch a geometric inversion and a fog effect play out across your own image.
Timo Vaittinen was inspired by Hexual Spellings — a New York company that, in the 1980s, sold customized spells on videotapes. You cast the spell by putting the video into your VCR and pressing play. Vatittinen cleverly harnesses low-fi video effects to create glowing, mystical, geometric patterns.
Emily Dickinson was torn between whether geometry was the best witchcraft to the magician’s eye or the magician’s mind. The Harvard Library contains a variation of the poem in a note to her sister-in-law with the variant eye instead of the final mind. Does geometry primarily work by way of the eye or the mind? Even Dickinson had trouble deciding. But isn’t it amazing how art can both visually entrance and mentally intrigue? Why pick one when we can have both? This year’s edition of Moving Image allows video artists to shine as magicians of geometry.
Moving Image continues at the Waterfront New York Tunnel (269 11th Avenue, Chelsea, Manhattan) through March 8.
Pretty sure Hexual Spellings was not a real company in the 1980s… I think it’s just the fictional backstory for Timo Vaittinen’s piece. (But I’d be tickled to be proved wrong!)
The Finnish really have it going on. Very impressive stuff.
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