PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 22.3 (2000) 58-65
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Video Displayed: Marketing Mixes Forms
Maria Marshall at Team Gallery, Lucy Gunning at Greenenaftali, Daniella Dooling at Anna Kustera, Marnie Weber at Fredericks Freiser, New York.
With the recent art-world decree of the "Return of Painting," many were arguing that video/film and other ephemeral media might be relegated strictly to institutions. While an ever-strengthening and increasingly competitive sales market for objects has seemed to push video artists into project rooms or not-for-profit spaces, a number of shows in commercial galleries over the past two years have presented artists utilizing the genre. No one argues that it is not difficult to sell film and video work, particularly pieces that require projection and that do not involve some kind of sculptural setting or puppet-like forms. But some dealers, for whatever reasons, have been willing to take the risk, offsetting the expense of the video pieces through the sale of objects related to the videos or by limiting the number of copies of the pure-video works. In some instances, cutting-edge technology has coincidentally opened the door for new strategies for the marketability of the medium. Among the more innovative artists recently presenting this type of work are Maria Marshall, Lucy Gunning, Daniella Dooling, and Marnie Weber.
At Team Gallery in Chelsea, British artist Maria Marshall exhibited When I Grow Up I Want to be a Cooker in 1998 and three large-scale pieces--I did like being born, I falled out of the air, I put my wings open, then I flied; Don't let the T-Rex get the children; and Once up--in 2000. Marshall's debut was disturbingly alluring. Projected onto a gallery wall was a much larger-than-life image of a stunningly beautiful two-year-old boy (the artist's son), puffing on a cigarette, blowing out perfect smoke rings. When the boy approaches being totally engulfed in smoke, the image stops and repeats seamlessly. The entire sequence is twelve seconds long and needs not one second more to make its impact. Originally made with film, then transferred onto video, and subsequently digitized, put onto laser disk, and released in an edition of ten, the piece is [End Page 58] [Begin Page 60] state-of-the-art technology. Because of the process, the image is much cleaner and sharper than most video projection, intensifying the impact of what is shown. While I was in the gallery, someone commented that there probably weren't many people who would buy the piece and jokingly suggested that only a corporation such as Philip Morris might procure it for exhibition. The director replied that he has had no problem with sales; the laser disk format has allowed the gallery to sell each edition as one might sell a photograph. (That the idea of scarcity--the limited edition of something created in a medium that allows for unlimited identical duplication--is at the center of the market for video now, as it has been for some time for photography, raises a number of troubling issues, which need to be considered at some point.)
In these twelve seconds of Marshall's tape, the child shown is transformed into a carnal being, a deliberate coercer of our gaze. Above his sweet-apple cheeks, the little boy's eyes look lascivious, his lips seductive. Could the act of inhaling a cigarette alone make a two-year-old seem charged with sexuality? The boy in the video isn't, thankfully, really smoking. The cigarette and the smoke rings are all special effects. This, however, does not lessen the effect. In fact, imagining the child mimicking the movements to make the smoke-inhalation seem realistic, pursing his lips just right, bringing his hand to exactly the right spot, would seem to distort the purported innocence of childhood. With this simple, elegant piece, Marshall evokes all manner of disconcerting questions. Issues of abuse loom heavily in the smoke, most obviously the deliberate or incidental abuse of...