Art

Domestic Video Screens at the Armory Show

Diana Thater at David Zwirner's Armory Show booth (All photos by author)
Diana Thater at David Zwirner’s Armory Show booth (All photos by author)

Now that iPhones are ubiquitous and projectors on the rise as the home-theater tool of choice, we’re all getting a little more used to having different types of media screens in the home. We’re nowhere near the point occupied by the New York Times’s “magic mirror,” but our new acceptance of domestic screens shows through in some interesting Armory Show 2013 installations.

The traditional place to put a TV is somewhere around chest height, easily viewed from a sitting position. Several booths at the Armory, however, displayed a willingness to install screens in spots that before may have seemed awkward. Perhaps the most significant example of avant-garde domestic screen at the fair was Diana Thater’s work on view at David Zwirner.

Thater installed grids of frameless video panels, her Day for Night series, in corners of the Zwirner booth (seen at top). The screens light up in slow, shifting animations of flowers, plants, and organic-looking matter cast in a glowing blue light that brings to mind a strange underwater landscape or the distorting effects of moonlight. Gently hypnotizing, the pieces are more compelling for their unorthodox placements, which necessitate different kinds of looking. Viewers interact with these videos like they’re sculptures.

Rachel Lee Hovnanian at Leila Heller Gallery's booth
Rachel Lee Hovnanian at Leila Heller Gallery’s booth

At Leila Heller gallery, Rachel Lee Hovnanian shows a video installation composed of two screens talking to each other over a table holding a wedding cake. The head-height and face-size screens, one showing the countenance of a young man, the other a woman, converse through offscreen devices (phones, one assumes), which beep every so often, and the recipient of the message looks down. The message of technology’s ability to isolate us is loud and clear.

Jacco Olivier’s screens showing soft, painted animations of wildlife occupied the floor and upper registers of Marianne Boesky Gallery’s booth walls. The installation strategy is interesting, but the works, which are apparently meant to hang from real-life trees, would be more compelling in their intended natural contexts.

Jacco Olivier at Marianne Boesky's booth
Jacco Olivier at Marianne Boesky’s booth

Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery maintains its commitment to a certain type of new media sculpture, showing still images and objects combined with projection. There’s a certain amount of tackiness here — some of the pieces have all the charm of one of those “animated” waterfalls in a Chinese restaurant — but others are cutely compelling nonetheless. Ben Rubin’s six-letter row of white and blue pixels lit up in different words several times a minute, and I was pleasantly surprised when I turned around and it was displaying “curate.”

Ben Rubin at Bryce Wolkowitz gallery
Ben Rubin at Bryce Wolkowitz gallery

This trend of domestic screens is not, I think, a sign that new media art is dumbing itself down for mass consumption or appeal to high-end collectors, but that we as an art community are getting more used to the idea that screens can belong in the home just as much as paintings or drawings. It’s about time — but one assumes interactive projections and installations will take a while longer.

The Armory Show 2013 runs from March 7 to 10 at Piers 92 & 94 (12th Ave and 54th Street, West Side, Manhattan). 

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