The Moving Image Art Fair offers a pleasant close to a hectic week of art fair viewing. Decked out with high-definition monitors, a spacious interior in Chelsea's Waterfront Tunnel, and plenty of stools and chairs, it's the perfect place to spend some time sitting down while enjoying some art. Video art is often best viewed from a bench.
It also happens to the be the only fair I’ve attended where, immediately upon entering, I was greeted by a dealer ranting about capitalism. Yesterday’s panel discussion, “What Do You Get When You Buy Video Art”, prompted the outrage, and I'm now disappointed I missed it. It included panelists Lisa Dorin (of AIC), Jefferson Godard (the video collector), Berta Sichel (a Curator for the Reina Sofia), Fabienne Stephan (of Salon 94) and Rebecca Cleman (of EAI); I was told with great gusto that they failed to adequately address the willful rarification of video at the expense of the medium's participation in culture. “EAI is the worst offender!” the gallerist cried, lamenting their enormous “discounted” rental fees for institutions.
This kind of conversation, in and of itself, distinguishes Moving Image from the host of other fairs in town this week; the fair prides itself on keeping the sales out of sight—there are no dealers on hand to sell work on the spot—and the exhibition hall is a refreshingly idealistic space, designed to bring attention to the art more than finalize sales.
The videos themselves are a draw, too. Anyone who’s watched online the short clip of Jesse Flemming’s cliffhanger chronicling a snail's travels over a razor will have an opportunity to see the video in full at Moving Image. “People have been coming in just to see what happens,” fair co-founder Murat Orozobekov told us, noting the video had sold out. Company, a participating gallery based in LA, handles the piece, aptly titled “The Snail and The Razor”.
With five fewer TV screens than last year, the space feels a little more open than it did in 2011, though a good selection of video remains. Mary Lucier, VALIE EXPORT, Martha Wilson, three well-known female artists from the 70s, are some of the bigger names showcased this year at the fair, along with emerging artists such as Kate Gilmore and Alex Prager.
Of the installation work, Josh Azzarella's three-channel projection “Untitled #105 (SFDF)” (2009-11) from DCKT Contemporary makes a splash. Each panel shows a single, subtly animated still from the original King Kong (1933); for most Kong fans, Merian C. Cooper's sets will be immediately recognizable. A quiet assortment of naturey-jungle sounds lends to the installation's eerie presence.
Head to the back of the tunnel, and a giant projection screen documents Estonian performance artist Jaan Toomik's collaborator Alar Sudak. His penis tied to a stake in the ground, he forces himself to mark out a circle as far as he can reach away from the stake, putting himself in obvious pain. It strikes a somewhat different note from the King Kong work. It's an anxiety-inducing piece, but in a lot of ways isn't nearly as powerful as Wilson's installation “I've Become My Own Worst Fear”. In this work, the artist juxtaposes an early 1974 video piece, in which she uses make up to age her face, with a wall-sized portrait of herself in 2009. She has aged, arguably, even worse than she imagined.
I took shots of both this installation and Toomik's, though it was a little more difficult to find the right angle of Sudak. “You’re waiting to get a shot of his penis, right?” an attendee asked me. I laughed, thinking it was nice that he could immediately identify what I was doing and why. The relaxed atmosphere of the hallway made this sort of interaction—a rarity at the other fairs—common, and as I tried again to photograph the dick on my iPhone, I noticed that it felt a lot like community.