The Dissolve: Site Santa Fe Eighth International Biennial
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This year’s Site Santa Fe Biennial was in part inspired by a previous edition.
Curators Sarah Lewis and Daniel Belasco met while serving as curatorial assistants to Robert Storr, when he organised his 2004 biennial.
“We were standing in front of Robert Pettibon’s and Kara Walker’s works and we both said, ‘There’s a show here’,” Belasco told The Art Newspaper.
Two animations (Pettibon’s Repeater Pencil and Walker’s Testimony: Narrative of a Negress, Burdened by Good Fortune) led Belasco and Lewis to examine the growing trend of animation and new media in contemporary art, and the result is this tightly focused edition, a “moving image biennial”, as Belasco described it.
Organised into three sections in specially built galleries designed by architect David Adjaye, the show includes around 30 works, all incorporating some form of video, although a few of the works also include sculptural and painted elements.
Each section will “evoke a different phase of moving image technology”, says Belasco, and be separated by a system of scrims and slightly transparent screens.
For example, the show begins with a smaller, more intimate display like those of early nickelodeon theatres, then moves on to the large communal experience of the Cinerama theatres of the 1950s, and ends on the personal view made possible by digital platforms and handheld devices.
This decision to display each work in a more open installation rather than the traditional darkened room—treating them like a painting or sculpture—is a concession to the difficulty of presenting video art in a museum context, and even Belasco acknowledges that “it’s a lot to expect of the viewers to sit through all those videos.”
The show also offers a historical look at the development of the medium, giving the public a rare chance to see some of the earliest examples of animation, including the 1900 film The Enchanted Drawing by the Edison Manufacturing Company (founded by inventor Thomas Edison) and the 1924 cartoon “Big Chief Ko-Ko” by Fleischer Studios.
Belasco says he and Lewis wanted to “put aside the normal sense of what is contemporary and what is historical and find the commonality in the works.
The older films are monuments of animation in their own right, but they also have a contemporary resonance.”
Two works have been specially commission for the biennial.
The first is a live performance piece combining dance and video by the MacArthur “Genius” Award winner, the choreographer Bill T.
Jones, presented at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. The biennial itself includes an update of the work Ghostcatching, done in collaboration with the artist collective the OpenEnded Group, which uses motion-capture technology to turn Jones's movements into three-dimensional, computerised drawings.
The other commission is a film by artist Mary Reid Kelley, in which she wears black and white makeup to flatten her appearance into that of a two-dimensional character.
The biennial is rounded out with a programme of films on the opening night that present the more abstract or non-representational examples of video art, under the title “The Abstract Dissolve”.
This includes a new film by Clifford Ross with an original score by the avant-garde composer Philip Glass, which was completed just before the show’s opening. Helen Stoilas
Categories: Contemporary (1970-present)