Be Kind, Don’t Rewind – ‘Fast Forward’ at CAF offers primer in contemporary video art

'HAPPY ENDINGS,' JEN DENKE

‘HAPPY ENDINGS,’ JEN DENKE

As curator Annie Wharton likes to point out, video as an art form is just a little over 40 years old, a child compared to any other medium, save computer graphics. It’s a language she says that has grown dramatically considering that the first “portable” cameras weighed nearly 70 lbs. (the Sony CV-2000). As a young curator and maker of video art, she has been bringing her fascination with the art to galleries with video compilations, hoping to catch the rest of us up with the state of the art.

This Thursday, Wharton comes to Contemporary Arts Forum with “FAST-FORWARD: A Screening of Contemporary American Video Art,” a 50-minute show. Up and coming artists in the program include Susan Lee Chun, Jen DeNike, Spencer Douglass, Gustavo Hererra, Adriana Farmiga, Dan Finsel, Jesse Reding Fleming, Christy Gast, Alexa Gerrity, Aaron GM, Micol Hebron, Marc Horowitz, Jiae Hwang and more. In this brief interview conducted over e-mail, Wharton — who graduated from the University of Miami with a BFA in sculpture — lets us know what’s in store.

'MARCH OF REFLECTION,' ALEXA GERRITY

‘MARCH OF REFLECTION,’ ALEXA GERRITY

'WHITNEY'S HOT LIKE FIRE,' DAVIDA NEMEROFF

‘WHITNEY’S HOT LIKE FIRE,’ DAVIDA NEMEROFF

How did you first get into video art? From a viewer or as a maker?

I began to make videos while at University, and video art has always attracted my attention. All of the projects I curate and most of the criticism I write includes video art as a central element. (Note: Wharton writes for Flash Art, OC Weekly and The Magazine, and is the West Coast video art critic for Artlurker.)

How long have you been putting together this series?

I have done several video screenings, the first one in collaboration with Anat Ebgi, my gallery partner at The Company (thecompanyart.com). That one traveled to Berlin and I’ve done some screenings and curated projects in L.A. and Miami.

How do you curate such a show as this?

I read a lot, do an incredible amount of research, and spend a lot of time looking at artists’ videos. I do several studio visits a month. And because people know I’m a video curator, they send me recommendations of video artists’ works. While I go to see films, I don’t really watch popular television, and choose instead to look at video art works for visual entertainment.

Is there a thread that all these videos share?

They are all made recently.

Is there a world view in the art that you have a stake in?

I do have a stake in the propulsion of video art in popular culture in general and into contemporary art vernacular more specifically. Video, which of course in some ways refers to filmmaking, is in many ways very different than narrative filmmaking. And many of the videos I find myself attracted to are non-narrative, without plot. Sometimes there are characters, but usually the work I tend to gravitate to is more abstract in scope or feeling.

Two particular videos caught my eye. One is Jesse Reding Fleming’s “Apart / Together,” which features some amazing bird photography near the end. Can you tell me more?

(Here Annie Wharton turned the e-mail over to Fleming himself:)

Jesse Reding Fleming: There’s a group experiment of “guess how many jelly beans are in the jar.” Everyone puts in a guess and everyone is wrong, but repeatedly if you add all the numbers together and take the mean average, it’s usually nearly correct.

I structured the video with the intention of letting the audience have their own experience — it’s a construction of the pigeon’s flight in a deconstructed way. I watch the birds and the eventual question arises of what it is to be an individual and part of a collective at the same time.

The other video is by David Jones, “Wildblood,” which is a Bruce Connor-meets-Man Ray-esque cutout animation of old black and white gay porn and abstract shapes.

(Likewise, Wharton hands the e-mail reply over to Jones)

David Jones: “Wildblood” is part of a trilogy, it being the third. “Poised and in the Throes” and “The Secret Loves of Jesse James” are the two others. “Wildblood” was recently accepted for a German compilation after the Oberhausen Film Festival screening, one of the premier showcases of art short films in Europe.

(Finally, Wharton returns for one final question.)

What else do you do when you’re not touring with this compilation?

I write almost every day. I curate projects at the gallery and independent of the gallery. I’m a really great cook, so I like dinner parties. And I paint and make videos of my own.

‘FAST FORWARD’
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Paseo Nuevo
Cost: Free
Information: www.sbcaf.org or (805) 966-5373

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