Critics’ Picks

Beryl Korot, Babel: The 7 Minute Scroll, 2006, still from a color video, 7 minutes 14 seconds. Installation view.

Beryl Korot, Babel: The 7 Minute Scroll, 2006, still from a color video, 7 minutes 14 seconds. Installation view.


Beryl Korot

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
June 27, 2010–January 2, 2011

In this miniretrospective, Beryl Korot, cofounder and editor of the seminal 1970s video periodical Radical Software, demonstrates her career-long commitment to technology, language, and the history that binds the two together. Korot’s video pieces on view anchor the technologies of the medium, and in particular animation, to an older practice—the first computer on earth, so to speak: the hand loom. In Babel: The 7 Minute Scroll, 2006, Korot creates an animated hand-scroll weaving that depicts, with text and images, the movement from an ancient alphabet-centered language to a more contemporary visually based vocabulary. In Florence, 2008–2009, blocks of text by Florence Nightingale drop quietly over interlaced video footage of snowstorms and waterfalls.

As if to bind her own personal history to her pieces, Korot’s multichannel video installation Text and Commentary (originally exhibited at Leo Castelli in 1977) is reinstalled in a private room. The alternating channels show Korot prepping the loom, and, at varying distances, the threads as they combine to form a pattern. Five gray, black, and white weavings hang directly across from the monitors, each exhibiting slight changes in patterns that otherwise mirror those formed by the threads in the videos. Pictograms describing the organization of the video channels and drawings of the tapestries line the walls.

Text and Commentary can be seen as a variety of interleaved information systems—both literal and abstract threads: The monitors themselves are single channels that when placed together create a visual experience of the warp and the weft. The tapestries mirror the monitors in their pattern, while the pictograms reveal the underlying structure of the videos. Each work encodes and decodes another, line by line—an act of representation so basic it can be traced back to the beginnings of human language. With Text and Commentary and in her more recent works, Korot transforms bundles of information, the very material of the video signal, into profound meditations on the various systems of communication.