Video Art on the Big Screen, and in a Movie Theater

A selection from UT Landmarks video art collection is screened at Austin Film Society Cinema in a free event



James Turrell’s sublime skyspace “The Color Within” is arguably the best known artwork of Landmarks, the University of Texas’ public art collection.

And the least known? Perhaps the Landmarks video collection.

Now in its tenth season, the video program has over the years featured an impressive array of artists including Kara Walker, Mona Hatoum, John Baldessari, William Kentridge, Christian Marclay, Jayson Scott Musson and Pipilotti Rist, among others. Each month, a different video work is featured on a continuous loop on a large screen in the atrium of UT’s Art Building — a very public though admittedly not ideal video-viewing environment.

Now, however, a selection of Landmarks video collection will be shown on the big screen at Austin Film Society Cinema in a free, one-time-only event. “Gems from the Landmarks Video Collection” is at 2 p.m. Nov. 16. You can reserve free tickets here. Free tickets are available in person on the day of the event.

Landmarks video curator Kanitra Fletcher will introduce the six short video art pieces featured in the 80-minute screening:

Holly Herrick, head of film and creative media for Austin Film Society, culled the selection from Landmarks’ collection.

The program, she says, “acknowledges the disappearing, almost non-existent line between narrative film and much video art.”

Herrick selected the half dozen videos keeping in mind works that are essentially narrative though the story may told in the way an artist uses color, sound and visual abstraction.

“It’s interesting to consider too how not all of these artists might not consider themselves filmmakers, but their work should be considered within context of the film world,” Herrick says. “This is an opportunity to involve the audience in video art that really lends itself to a cinema screening.”

Indeed video and film artworks normally seen within a museum setting will get the cinematic treatment. After all, unlike in a gallery there’s no auditory competition in the controlled sound environment of a movie house. Lighting conditions are consistently dark too. Writ large on the big screen, the video artworks will have an entirely new context.

Op De Beek’s “The Girl” is a 16-minute recorded performance featuring a silent actor, an adolescent girl move through staged fictive scenarios staged landscapes and urban environments in varying states of dilapidation.

The Dallas-born Gary describes her six-minute video, “An Ecstatic Experience,” as “an experimental montage of historical and contemporary archival footage and a meditation on transcendence as a means of resistance.” Gary combines archival documentary footage of black churchgoers watching an impassioned preacher with vibrant abstractions of warped celluloid and segments from the 1965 miniseries “The History of the Negro People.”

Ja'Tovia Gary An Ecstatic Experience 2015
Ja’Tovia Gary, “An Ecstatic Experience,” film, 2015. UT Landmarks video art collection. Courtesy of the artist and galerie frank elbaz

As Gary told Landmarks curator Fletcher: “It’s interesting to me to meld these vintage, earlier techniques of handmade filmmaking, cameraless filmmaking, with the digital… A lot of my work is interested in traversing temporal spaces — crossing time, contracting time — whether that’s via subject matter or technique.”

Herrick says Gary’s work in particular illustrates how differentiating between narrative film and video art often is a fruitless argument.

“It’s firmly boundaryless,” she says.

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.

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