The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) hosts its annual Optic Nerve Video Festival on Aug. 23 which provides a glimpse at new and innovative ways artists are using moving images to create provocative works of art. The festival is the result of an open call to video artists, the 14 finalists represent five percent of the total entries and the winners, who will be announced at the screenings on Aug. 23, will have their works added to the MOCA’s permanent collection.
MOCA has hosted Optic Nerve for 15 seasons, a testimony to the museum’s role as a proponent of video as a medium. Last year during Art Basel MOCA presented a collection of celebrated video artist Bill Viola’s preeminent works, the largest exhibition of its kind since his Whitney retrospective in 1997. Friday’s screenings will be preceeded by a discussion between MOCA’s new curator Alex Gartenfeld and Aram Moshayedi, curator of the Hammer Museum who has written extensively about artists that work at the intersection between video and art.
Video art can be perplexing; works often undermine the conventional use of moving images – to inform or entertain – forcing viewers into deeper cogitation. Optic Nerve finalists’ works span a spectrum of thematics. Says Gartenfeld, “It ranges from narrative to abstract. Some submissions are highly academic, some are poetic. We selected works that are dynamic and groundbeaking, not in just creating narratives, but in terms of creating new ways of organizing content and in video material that is subverting the technology of video somehow.”
South Florida resident Jillian Mayer’s submission MakeUp Tutorial: How to hide from cameras is a satiric narrative that parodies the Youtube make up tutorial, a cheerfully delivered exposition on how to properly spread paint across the face in order to become unrecognizable to the facial recognition software she warns monitors our every move. The political subtext (“We all know that cameras are monitoring us at all times!”) muses that the Cubism-inspired face paint is the first line of defense against the incessant intrusion of technology into our lives.
The video, which can already be seen on Youtube, creates an interesting conversation. Says Mayer, “Some question it’s value or if it is a joke while other viewers go through the trouble of testing my technique for accuracy in facial recognition programs (and yes, it does work). The dialogue that happens on social platforms in response to my projects is just as interesting as the initial work.”
Other works demonstrate an interest in language, like London-based artist Mark Ariel Waller’s TIME TOGETHER – Gravitational Equilibrium and New Yorker Rachel Rose’s Sitting Feeding Sleeping. Says Gartenfeld, “I think there’s an international phenomenon that artists are revising the role of the speaker in video art.”
Submissions like Takeshi Murata’s Shiboogi lean more towards the abstract. The New York-based artist uses inventive ways of coding and recoding video programs to create a kind of abstract narrative in his work.
However delphic, GartenfeId assures that the works will both challenge and entertain and this event is an incredible chance to see both established and emerging artists rub shoulders. “Museums always field requests and proposals but the open call is a unique opportunity for artists internationally and across experience levels to commingle.”