The room under the Chapel restaurant in Bruton is rather stunning. It is handsomely appointed with a bar and some thirty comfortable chairs set up for cinema and screen shows. This made it an inviting space for Alice Workman, Hauser and Wirth’s director in Somerset, to use for the launch of the first free session on contemporary art laid on for an invited audience of local people.
Working with the Bath Spa University’s Professor Mike Tooby who leads the MA course in Curatorial Practice, the aim was to give two of his students, Roz Bonnet and Sara Knight, the opportunity to introduce the work of one of Hauser and Wirth’s artists, Anri Sala, by showing us four of his video films.
Video art I think remains fairly peripheral in the minds of most people interested in art, and certainly for me, and I suspect for others present, Anri Sala was no household name. Making quick recourse before writing this to Google Images and Hauser and Wirth’s website made me aware that this rather handsome Berlin based Albanian has exhibited widely in the most prestigious places and is highly regarded in this field.
Roz and Sara in their introduction pointed out that the films we were about to see were not in fact designed to be shown in a cinema with an audience sitting right through them, but to run continuously in a gallery alongside other video art. This means people could wander into the gallery or walk past a screen at any point and spend as much or as little time engaging with the video as they wanted. They also pointed out that for the artist sound and music were as important as the visual images and that he delighted in exploring different types and styles of music and the way sound might resonate within the environments of the videos.
We were then shown the four videos, back to back, with discussion or comment reserved for the end. Roz and Sara’s introduction stated that, “his screen work is characterised by ambiguity and through it he often explores the possibilities of communication, the limits of translation and issues of rupture and disjuncture.” Well yes, perhaps, but I for one was left rather puzzled as to what that might mean, so I sat back, watched and listened. Obviously how one reacts to such work is intensely subjective and I found myself asking, “What is he getting at? What is he trying to say?” The films also stirred in me something of a negative emotional reaction.
At the end there was opportunity for discussion and questions which I thought Roz and Sara handled well. They listened carefully to my reaction and to that of others and replied thoughtfully saying that the more they had watched the videos, the more they had seen. Still, I left the session feeling less than convinced that compared to other short films and videos I have seen, these works were particularly significant. That though is not the end of the story for I found that overnight the four videos had in fact bitten deep into my mind. They really had made me think and reflect in a multi-layered (ambiguous?) way – both about their content and about how I had reacted to them and for me making a significant impact on mind and emotions is what makes something art.
For this reason I will not describe the content of the videos for you, for to do so in a “straightforward” way could too easily skew, caricature or destroy the impact of what is best approached in an open meditative manner, so please wait until you have a chance to see them for yourself once Durslade Farm is open, something we are all looking forward to.