Fans of democracy will love Rachel Steinberg, who’s been tirelessly sorting through thousands of emerging video submissions for NURTUREArt’s thematic “Videorover” program, which she’s curated now for the past five seasons. What started out as a one-off by-submission show has since expanded to regular screenings from Brooklyn to New Orleans, and is beginning to become an index of video artists in the emerging New York scene. This season, Videorover will work with Chicago’s video-performance festival RAPID PULSE, co-curating the video component with RAPID PULSE’s Giana Gambino. Needless to say, Steinberg’s an art fag to watch.
What’s your background? Where’d you come from, what’s your general field of interest, what’s your focus in your own work?
I went to school at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, I studied fine arts (I was a drawing major on paper, but by the time I graduated I was doing more socially engaged projects and video.) I also currently work in an alternative education collective, Trade School, which is a learning space that runs on a barter system.
Broadly speaking, my interest in artwork is works that serve to change the way we perceive something – be it a situation, object, or something more ephemeral or symbolic. I guess you can call that a more pedagogical approach – the shift in perception is where the magic happens. I am also (obviously) interested in video in particular as a medium. As a vehicle for art, the screen is something that we are currently very comfortable interacting with. Since it is something that we see and use regularly, we think we know what to do with it physically, and I like to see works that harness that potential.
Did you have any personal goals with the Videorover program? Through your selections, were you responding to something that you wanted to change?
One of my goals for this program is to see it as something that will eventually take on a life of it’s own, not just me in the control room. I want to get more people involved (as collaborators, artists, and spaces/venues) who also see the value in video as a medium. I am trying to set the bar higher for video art and develop a language and context for it.
The video selections were not specifically chosen as agents of change, but maybe just as things that I would like to see more of. Because we are constantly inundated with flashy and colorful moving images, my selections often respond to an urge to slow down and concentrate. The images which make the biggest impression often take time to do so. This isn’t always the case – sometimes the works can be great for other reasons. I try not to limit the project too specifically to themes or tropes, because I feel as though the really excellent works will stand out self-sufficiently.
Has the project changed at all since you started it? How? Did your outlook change at all since you began it?
When I first started the project I only thought of it as a one-off exhibition – from there it turned into a series, and then a program which travels outside of NURTUREart where I get to collaborate with other organizations and venues. It has also gotten a lot more notoriety as a project. Now I see the project as something that has the potential to continuously evolve to respond to each season and the type of works which are being submitted, but that was one of my hopes from the beginning.
Any major influences? An artwork or a person?
I will keep this one short: Vaginal Davis, Ai Weiwei and my Trade School NY co-organizers.
What’s your favorite art event or venue outside of Chelsea? Why?
I’m a big fan of outer borough musuems (Queens Museum of Art, Bronx Museum, Brooklyn Museum) because of the way they relate and are aware of their local communities. For galleries I really like KANSAS in TriBeCa, just because I am always impressed by the work there; Interstate Projects in Bushwick + Higher Pictures on Madison Avenue for the same reason. I like going to openings at the 1717 Troutman spaces in Ridgewood because it usually feels like an art block party, and the events at EFA Project Space are always really interesting.
I also enjoy temporary/independent spaces because it feels like the work is less mediated, like at Terminal Projects in Bed Stuy, and I used to love the days of St. Cecilia’s when that was still happening. Even though I missed it this year, Art Hack Day at 319 Scholes is great as well!
As you can tell, I also don’t believe in just having one favorite!
Who are your best friends, and how’d you meet them? (Weird question, I know)
This might sound cliche but my best friends are people who creatively inspire me in some way. I have typically met them through projects (art, curatorial, educational, etc) or end up collaborating with them in some respect. I feel that sharing a common desire with someone that you both want to put into action is one of the best ways to form close relationships.
Can you think of an artwork or art worker whom you think people should know more about?
This is a tough question, there are tons of works and people that everyone should know more about, but I’ll stick to an old favorite here – my favorite public art piece in NYC is a sound piece by Max Neuhaus called Times Square, which comes out of a sewer grate in (you guessed it) Times Square. It’s been there on and off since the seventies through the Dia Art Foundation. Most people walk right over it and have no idea that it isn’t just superfluous city noise, but once you know it’s there, it’s like you’ve tapped into this little moment of magical isolation in the middle of one of the busiest centers in the city. I encourage everyone to find it at least once.