Videopanel 2008

Video art has by now become so well established that its massive representation in big exhibitions has developed into a problem: When there are numerous works, their overall length taxes the public’s concentration span. The international video festival Videopanel took place for the first time in 2006 (under the title International Forum for Video Art) as part of a larger exhibition on contemporary art in public space, “Art and Consumer Architecture,” and its organizers have clearly learned from experience. This year, the second installment of Videopanel included eleven contributions, with a total duration of just under two hours. The manageable length worked to advantage, as did the installation, which dispensed with white cubes and black boxes. Instead, visitors found themselves in an open landscape, an undivided field of virtual spaces.

Like its predecessor, Videopanel 2008 was thematically organized, this time investigating reciprocal influences among film, video, and art. The advantage of this rather formal theme was that it made possible a broad spectrum of content. The winner of the International Video Prize, Jenny Perlin’s Transcript, 2006, was based on FBI surveillance transcripts from the McCarthy era. Perlin reconstructed in poetic manner the conversations of two couples, acquaintances of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were clearly aware that they were being listened in on. What one sees are exterior views of Manhattan apartment buildings—the kinds of places where these conversations might have taken place. The Feedback Prize, decided by public vote, went to Amie Siegel’s Berlin Remake, 2005, a double projection of historical footage of postwar Berlin mixed with contemporary reenactments. The present-day camera shoots the original locations of the earlier films, following the movements of its “prototypes,” or captures passersby, who maneuver through the city with body language almost identical to that of the earlier Berlin residents. In contrast to conventional remakes, with their restagings of previously filmed narratives, Berlin Remake produces a different form of repetition, a kind of cinematic time-parallelogram that comes closer to a cyclical than to a linear concept of time.

Time provided a common theme for other entries as well. Cordula Ditz’s Nightmare on Elm Street, 2007, deleted every scene that features animate beings from the ’80s horror film. The result, which runs less than three minutes, nonetheless conserves the atmosphere of a horror film in nuce. In Astrid Nippoldt’s loop Fog on Nov. 2, 2004–2007, time is rewound in a number of ways and brought to a standstill. Nippoldt captured webcam images of Mount St. Helen’s on the day of the last US presidential election and then transferred them onto 16-mm film. The translation back to an older format produces a melancholy, romantic perspective on the volcano, even if the high technical expenditure seems disproportionate to the pith of the statement. Much the same was true for Miri Segal’s Just a Second, Life, 2007, recording her own adventures, some of them erotic, as an avatar on Second Life; the work, however, comes across as a simple documentation of her experiences in the virtual world, lacking any artistic intervention. Her own virtual gallery, projected on the ceiling, didn’t manage to compensate.

Beyond the competition, a permanent component of the festival is the inclusion of an older work that is seen as a historical predecessor. Samuel Beckett’s Comédie (Play, 1966), based on his 1963 play, is an example of an older format transfer. Another festival concept is that it changes venues in each iteration but always to a place where it can engage “people’s social reality,” as curators Dirck Möllmann and Filomeno Fusco put it. In 2006, the festival took place at an abandoned shopping center; this time, it was housed in a former wine warehouse. A more significant change of location is planned for 2009, when it is anticipated that Videopanel will move to Berlin.

Wolf Jahn