still from Something to Love, 2005, by Jesper Just
Earlier today I saw an exhibition by Jesper Just entitled Black Box at the Hirschhorn Museum in D.C. The show included two of his films, No Man is an Island II and Something to Love. I particlularly enjoyed No Man…, but thought Something to Love was also worthwhile. This was my first time seeing Just’s work in the flesh. As the New York Times stated last Friday in a review of his current exhibition at Perry Rubenstein, “Mr. Just’s work has rightly been celebrated for its high production values and seductive noirish ambience.” What was peculiar was seeing such production values in a museum context. While I’ve seen high-end Mathew Barney videos, they always include the requisite props, carpets, flags, etc. But Just’s exhibition, like the title of the show, is simply a black box. I couldn’t help wondering why I wasn’t watching these films in a theater. When I entered the gallery one of the films was nearing completion (thus spoiling the suspense when watching the beginning of the film ten minutes later). I was also aware of visitors (myself included) stumbling through the dark looking for a seat. While I’m not asking for popcorn, the experience would have been better if it had been given start times and the routine of the cinema.
I’m too sad to tell you, 1970, by Bas Jan Ader
This is, of course, an old gripe about video art. I guess it is on my mind because of something else I encountered last week. Someone sent me a link to a lecture and documentary movie by Rene Daalder on the film art of Bas Jan Ader. In the lecture, Daalder says (I’m paraphrasing):
You walk into these shows and its just atrocious how all these art institutions deal with the moving image. Unless there are big installations – that is the only way they can deal with it – it can’t be commodified. I have by and large given up on the art world. It is completely absurd. Every artist has to resort to weird installation framing because that will give it value. That way you can charge $30,000 for your DVD. Not everybody has always done this wrong. A lot of people know Brahkage, Kenneth Anger and the New American Cinema. These guys said to hell with the art world, we’re going to distribute our movies like movies.
Another of the Daalder’s frustrations is that it is so difficult to see Bas Jan Ader’s films. Fortunately you can see a tiny RealPlayer version (along with Daalder’s film) by clicking here.