On 25th February 2012, Boccanera Gallery of Trento, in partnership with VisualContainer, presented the event “ON VIDEOS for Hours and Hours”: a day in which it was possible to watch and talk about the Italian Video-Art of the last two decades.
The show, which lasted up to 3rd March at the various exhibition spaces and hosted seventeen videos by Alfred Dong, Alessandra Arnò, Luca Christian Mander, Albert Merino, Barbara Agreste, Rita Casdia, Riccardo Arena, Cristobal Catalan, Jacopo Jenna, Barbara Brugola, Natalia Saurin, Valentina Ferrandes, Pascal Caparros, Sabrina Muzi, Maria Korporal, Marzia Moretti, Enrico Bressan; was born from an idea of Giancarlo Sciascia, the community manager of Ahref Foundation inTrento.
Giancarlo Sciascia told me that the initiative came from the wish to introduce a new habit unlike those we normally live every day: “We’re perpetually swamped with images, or live in symbiosis with them; so, why don’t we try to learn reading what we see? Why don’t we develop our critical thinking to learn knowing codes?”
The event, according to how it was organised by those who conceived it, has been a first step towards the “creation of a Media Literacy path in Trento, which straddles informal education and cultural entertainment; “Edutainment”,as a way to start settling some damage caused into the rugged eco system of Italian culture. That was an initiative in order to make communities aware of the new languages of modern times and, at the same time, to enhance them using those languages”, i.e., artists.
My article was inspired by that initiative in Trento and its targets set in relation to contemporary production of videos in Italy. It deals with a careful consideration on current display methods of videos in Italy and on (maybe pressing) necessary assessments, in order to find better support forms of production and promotion for the period we’re living in.
I talked to Alessandra Arnò and Giorgio Fedeli of VisualContainer, the event curators, who brought in Trento a comprehensive review of the Video-Art they usually shortlist and promote along with the association from Milan. VisualContainer was born with the aim of plugging the gap of a qualified Video-Art and New Media Art promoter in the Italian artistic scene, thus by planning to become: collection centre, promotion, distribution; and to make studies – on a National and International level – of works of artists who are on any stage of their career.
“ON VIDEOS” exhibition actually mainly focused on emerging or mid-career artists, consequently, the most famous and historicized names of Italian videos missed, but anyway they are recognised into other National contexts such as the Italian Video-Art show “Corpo Elettronico” (Electric Body), organised by Rocco Guglielmo Foundation at the Monumental Complex of San Giovanni in Catanzaro (up to the end of March). And that’s normal, because it’s an association involved in supporting the artists who are shortlisted by the latter, after applying for taking part to it. All the artists presented in Trento came from VisualContainer’s archive.
Giorgio Fedeli told me that languages evolve very quickly and that “ON VIDEOS” exhibition dealt with possible languages. He identified nine different possible paths among which narrative video inclination, the attention to environment and the ecology issue emerge.
As ever, I distrust of classification which can’t be defined from a historical point of view, but I realise that my article touches some key issues of the state of being of Italian current Video-Art, which, I think, should be extremely important for artists, curators and experts who, being qualified in different areas, work in this field and around it.
Where and when is Italian Video-Art presented? Who does produce it in Italy today, and how is production supported? Which are the current methods for presenting and enjoying videos at our disposal? And which are the cultural and curatorial choices made for supporting it? Does an Italian scene of Video-Art exist in Italy today? Which are the institutions and who are the private individuals supporting it?
All these questions – generically formulated – should be the ingredients of a receipt that has still to be put in the cookbook, but which is undoubtedly already taking place at various stages (for example, I’m talking about Giulia Simi on Invideo -http://www.digicult.it/digimag/article.asp?id=2243[VV1] ), and which should finally be pieced together and methodically highlighted. In this article I don’t mean to try answering those questions, born from “ON VIDEOS”, but I only want to mention them in order to kick off a debate, find a possible reaction which will lead to reflect, and to start taking stock of the current video situation in Italy.
The exhibition in Trento also dealt with those issues and with other less new, but equally pressing ones: sight and its time. The installation section of the show distinctly presented the videos one by one, giving them their specific time and creating their appropriate dimension.
The way in which works could be enjoyed, tried to recreate (within dynamics typical of galleries) the modalities tested by VisualContainer along with [.BOX] in Milan, i.e., a space dedicated to Video-Art; a 20 sqm-screening room where it’s possible to sit down without distraction. The fact that one can give time to sight, is certainly an interpretation of the way works can be enjoyed, and it’s also the focal point of a curatorial choice, of the precise direction to follow, towards which addressing their own audience. Giorgio Fedeli told me, however, that in Trento the debate went beyond video quality: the idea of working on categories, was born from the aim to make visitors better understand what they were looking at and to create a space where a close examination for those people who don’t know videos, was possible.
I don’t fully agree with that view, because, according to me, videos can’t disregard image quality. Anyway, curators stressed the fact that in this case, work was focused on the guide to sight and on the purpose of involving a wider range of audience, by going beyond the museums-goers. The important thing consisted in showing Video-Art in a way in which it was accessible to everybody.
That is a thorny problem: video is strictly linked to technology, but it’s also true that we’re witnessing the presence of visual trends borrowed from mainstream cinema or advertising, and that the appeal of some tools or 3d effect can’t be used as quality parameter for video works. Italian production is subjected to those aspects. Within the discussions and the modalities of video presentation (except for some rare and virtuous cases) Italian videos don’t seem to become independent of technique.
Alessandra Arnò stressed the huge amount of resources provided abroad, unlike what’s happening in Italy, where artists have difficulty in finding support in this field. Here, in fact, we start from contents, and then we use the means we’ve at our disposal: I think that the debate on technique and content is still very tricky.
VisualContainer’s initiative aims at bridging those gaps, by giving confrontation, comparison and places where it’s possible to talk about videos and to enjoy them; at giving more points of view and trends in order to give birth to a debate, to understand people’s mood, see what their feedback is and enable them to ask themselves questions.
I’ve the feeling that, although the excellent initiatives which can be organised, Italian videos are still suffering an inappropriate situation today. Although its potential well and truly used for business purposes. The point is to understand why it happens. That’s the reason why we need to talk about videos, to see them and to talk about them again.