By Zeena Oberoi
There he sat, in back and white, eating a mushroom on a couch. He’d stare, nibble, bite, chew and then repeat the entire process again. And so Andy Warhol’s video proceeds for 40 minutes.
Eat is a piece of Video Art [part of a trilogy including Sleep and Kiss], which documents the process of Robert Indiana eating a mushroom. Bizarre, isn’t it? But as the video proceeds, one actually feels drawn into a strong trace-like state. It doesn’t lack a purpose but quite the opposite. The video is an exercise built on the surreal notion of existence- a heightened sensorial experience.
Video Art started out in the late 1960s after the invention of video cameras. But, unlike movies, it didn’t necessarily have actors, dialogues or even a story, but instead acted as audio-visual poetry. Performance artists would often record their pieces, allowing them to showcase their work to a larger audience, without time or space restrictions. It was cheap, easy and experimental.
Over time, with the progression of video technology, Video Art has become an introspective study of film itself. Artists have begun to challenge conventional concepts of motion, colour, time and sound- almost morphing reality. Yoshi Sodeoka is one such contemporary artist who uses sporadic images flashing across a screen illustrated in a wide spectrum of colours and dramatic noises, leading the viewer into a deep psychedelic state. Sodeoka’s A Wind God’s Passage to the Funeral Games is a shot of adrenaline with its constant change of pace and plummeting motions.
Video Art also aims to contest views on sex, gender, relationships, and form. Scandinavian artist, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, in her feminist montage If 6 were 9 confronts issues of suppression and sexual discovery in this human drama. As Ahtila explains, “the story is created around a situation that involves humans as protagonists, with the topics being questions of identity, close relationships, and family relations. Even though the stories are experimental and nonchronological, the idea of character, for example, is left intact.” This changes after her video The Hour of Prayer where even though there is a narrator, the idea of a protagonist is dismissed.
Other artists worth a watch are Bill Viola, Pipilotti Rist and Chris Burden.
So if Video Art still intrigues you, I recommend you turn the lights off and get comfortable, as you are about to enter into a strange dimension of sound and motion.
Links to Video Art: