Screenshot of a cat from Basement, a single channel HD color video art with sound, one of the contemporary video art ideas by Erik van Lieshout at the Art Expo Chicago 2017. Image: Anton Kern Gallery, New York
CHICAGO- In addition to all the artworks presented by galleries at the art Expo Chicago 2017, there is also a dynamic, curated screening program for film, video and new media works by artists represented by 2017 exhibitors that is attracting a lot of attention from art lovers. Aptly labeled Expo Video, the screening was curated by Los Angeles-based independent curator, Ali Subotnick. Located within the large-format screening rooms on the main floor of the exposition, on display are video art projects by Stanya Kahn, Erik van Lieshout, and Guthrie Lonergan.
In their works, the three artists address some of the topical issues of our time, including instability, unease, fear, dismay, angst, anxiety, anger, and malaise. Like many other people in America, Europe, and beyond, the artists in their own different ways have experienced the increasingly normal, everyday emotional and mental states that are now becoming commonplace in an anxiety captured the world. These emotions are reflected in their contemporary video art ideas.
To give credence to their contemporary video art ideas, the artists combine universal feelings with personal biography in a way to create deeply relevant and provocative works that are both of our time, and timeless.
In Arms are Overrated (2012), Stanya Kahn follows the musings of characters that traveled through time and space expressing their fears. Made from crumpled up paper reminiscent of the loveable, cranky balcony Muppets, Statler, and Waldorf, the two characters are mouthy and lack discretion. In their interaction with other objects they meet in their perambulation, they reveal how as humans we use language to impugn each other’s character, especially over beer and cigarettes.
The theme of disenchantment and fear transcends Kahn’s contemporary video art ideas. In Don’t Go Back to Sleep, another video art project by Stanya Kahn presents an apocalyptic scenario where a group of strangers engaged in some of the weirdest and sometimes thought-provoking dialogues. Dressed in hospital scrubs, they appear to be in a survival mode as they discuss a world destroyed by mysterious outside forces. The empty house in which they live adds to the eeriness of this touting video.
In one of the segments, two people- a man and a woman-talk about their impression of milk. While one has a phobia for spilling milk but loves to drink it, the other does not like it. To make her point, she recalls an incident that happened when she was a young girl and would not drink her milk. “One time my mother got so pissed at me when I didn’t drink my milk that she put me in the bathtub and purred it on me.”
The video art project also includes Stanya Kahn’s recent video, Stand in the Stream (2011–2017). The video follows the artist’s struggle with her mother’s deterioration battle with dementia. A section of the video also externalizes Kahn’s views of recent riots and political protests, as well as individuals making personal connections in cyberspace. The dialogues investigate the recent shifts in society and how we communicate and relate to one another, both at home and in the world at large. As with his other contemporary video art ideas, Kahn reminds viewers of the complexities of human behavior.
Erik van Lieshout’s video art titled Ego (2013) examines the relationship within the family and the society. Using his immediate family as the point of departure, he raises questions about religion, migration and the how toxic discourses around the Christian/Muslim dichotomy have engendered hatred. For his contemporary video art ideas, van Lieshout tends to go back to the past to make comment on the present. In Basement (2014), the artist documents his project for the Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
For Basement, van Lieshout created a home for stray cats living in the cellar of the Hermitage. In addition to reflecting the absurd scenario of social and political aspects of the contemporary situation, the video art project also examines the history of the museum and role of the felines in the pre-Soviet Russian empire. In his recent video art project film Die Insel (2016), van Lieshout examines the issues of gentrification using humor and absurdity of contemporary life, politics, culture, and the role of the artist. This is one of the very important contemporary video art ideas by the artist addressing gentrification as a tool for displacement.
Lonergan’s 9 Short Music Videos (2005) reveals how as humans we have become so reliant on digital technology to dictate our lives and routines. In this jarring video art project, the artist uses ringtones and email alerts sounds that have become earworms to create music videos. Accompanying the noises that have infiltrated our lives and become as familiar as a doorbell or car horn lyrics that make the video art compelling.