TT Film Festival 2011: New Media show
From Atlantic Transformerz by Dutch artist Charl Landvreugd
AT A CORNER of the basement of the brand new Medulla Gallery on Fitt Street, Woodbrook, is a large black LCD screen. The rectangular screen plays a looped video showing several faces, each adorned with all sorts of different objects and textures. The faces look at you with an intensity that is almost disconcerting: the eyes, lips and features jump out and literally shimmer as slow movements capture changes in light. This is Atlantic Transformerz a work by Dutch artist Charl Landvreugd, one of several artists gathered for "New Media" one of the side-events of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival.
"Atlantic Transformerz explores the multiplicity of hues of the colour black, and makes an issue out of distinguishing black diversity," notes the liner notes to the show, curated by ARC Magazine's Holly Bynoe and Nadia Huggins. "Inspired by the African diaspora in Amsterdam, Landvreugd unites the four continents around the Atlanic Ocean." But there is something that happens to work when it is placed in a room where it interacts with its audience. Atlantic Transformerz managed to raise issues about blackness, yes, but also provide a glimpse at deeper mysteries: its half costumed subjects revealed more through their covered skin. They sought answers to the viewers questions.
Basement of the Medulla Gallery, Fitt Street, Woodbrook
This is the kind of exciting thing that happened at the New Media show which completed its run over the weekend. The show saw several video pieces share the same audio track, to disorienting yet unifying effect. What helped too was the fact that the entire ground floor was devoted to the stunning photographs of Trinidadian artist Abigail Hadeed. Viewers then descended a small spiral staircase hidden near the back and became submerged in the video pieces, which included 'Amphibian Mode' by Puerto Rican artist Nayda Collazo-Llorens, a work which united text and noise with nonlinear narrative and "post-aphabetic" communication.
Trinidad artist La Vaughn Belle's 'Somebody's Been Sitting in My Chair' worked well in the space. The video work showed the artist re-enacting the scenes of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, wandering an 18th century colonial great house, dressed in casual wear. The idea of the house echoed the space, which is itself a kind of house with wandering viewers encountering work and asking: who owns the work? For whom are these pieces intended? These complex questions mirror the complex issues in the piece which throws up ideas of ownership, identity, 'beauty', colonialism, race and class struggle. Is the artist/walker an intruder or the real owner reclaiming the space? Does she reclaim the space or is the space reclaiming her? In other words: what power does she really have? Who is she?
Installation view of Atlantic Transformerz by Landvreugd
Similar questions are raised by Jason Keeling's 'Jesus Speaks of Me as I Am': a series of clips of men walking. Who are they? Where are they? When are they walking? Costumes change, reflecting apparently different periods, walkers move from city to country landscapes and back. If the artist in 'Somebody's Been Sitting in My Chair' reclaims a space, then what are these men doing? Are they running away for a space? Or is the action of movement a space itself? Something about the piece reminded me of the gangs that have sprung up all over the Caribbean with their own vernaculars and iconography. Who really are these men? Gangsters or something else? Who decides?
This, then, is a show of affirmation curated with some ingenuity by Bynoe and Huggins. The assemblage, like Lorraine O'Grady's video-work 'Landscape (Western Hemisphere)' is a hybrid of perspectives all asking the question who are we in this brave new world.
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