Our life is half natural and half technological. Half-and-half is good.
You cannot deny that high-tech is progress. We need it for jobs. Yet
if you make only high-tech, you make war. So we must have a strong human
element to keep modesty and natural life.
I’m in a hurry. I’m on my way to Babel to talk to Carolina about her exhibition before I’m off to my next destination. While biking I wonder whether it would be possible to write about an exhibition without seeing it and decide that yes, that’s perfectly possible. I might for instance write something about Nam June Paik and the technical development and artistic potential of video art. A few hours ago I received an e-mail from the artist where she expressed great doubt whether the video would be working at the time of our appointment. According to new information it’s all o.k. now, however. Only Carolina herself is missing. I am curious and I am waiting. I cannot remember ever having seen any of her works earlier on. Having breastfed her baby she will soon return.
The showroom is dark and it smells of buttermilk. Carolina asks me to help her turn on the videos; two players must be turned on at exactly the same time so that the two flows of images are shown synchronized and in parallel. “One, two, three” – play!” We made it on the second try and I sit down on a chair and let myself be mesmerized by Carolina’s visual universe... Distortion (2009) is shown on two large canvases mounted side by side, at an obtuse angle. In this way, the installation defines a new room within the room, gently and invitingly embracing the audience. In addition to the video projections Carolina shows three stills, two from Distortion, and a third from another video work not exhibited at Babel. As the stills also function as independent works, this is no drawback. Distortion consists of two separate image sequences which are shown in parallel, side by side. The left image works as a kind of extension of the right one. It may remind one of an alter-piece in two parts and I start wondering whether anyone ever thought of making digital ecclesiastical video art – I think that might have worked quite well. A painting, a photo or a sculpture may be perceived visually at an instant; video, on the other time, takes time. As I have often experienced in museums and galleries, video art may sometimes put your patience to the test. I admit that I’m not always giving the media the time and attention it deserves. Distortion lasts for 9 minutes and, like most video art works it is presented in a loop, as images in a never-ending motion. I feel relieved that it lasts “only” 9 minutes. When the 9 minutes have gone by, I remain sitting in the chair, watching and listening. For this proves to be no trial at all. On the contrary, it’s just wonderful: pleasant as an aroma therapy session, a massage for the mind. The accompanying sound-track is at least as important as the visual impressions; it is catching in a repetitive and monotonous way and contributes to creating an alternative space of sincerity and a kind of meditative flow. This is the opposite of MTV: no non-sense, no visual pollution. This is calmness, delicacy and sophistication – pure and simple perfectionism. Furthermore it is beautiful, very beautiful indeed.
Nam June Paik, who is usually considered to be the father of video art, was a Zen Buddhist. His cyclical view of life, a view that implies seeing existence as consisting of circles or spirals where something is repeated and something is developed, also influenced his art to a great extent. A similar approach to the media may be found in Carolina’s works. Negligible movements or changes come into being in something continuous and permanent, and by and by they constitute a spiral-like cyclic pattern. Time is repeated, but always in a somewhat altered shape. The artist creates a kind of chronology by returning to an anticipated point of departure, but this point is not identical, it resembles but it is a new point, a distortion of the last one. Distortion are images of nature and landscapes and they make me think of Theo Angelopoulos, who has a similar aesthetic perfectionism in his films. In the twilight hour, clouds move across the sky in the last rays of sun and are reflected in an open window, pear tree flower petals dance in the wind, and a mystical machine moves majestically in a misty, melancholy landscape. It looks manipulated and possibly is not, and the manipulations are done so well that one is completely taken in. Small manipulations are found in the images, in the rendering of time and on the soundtrack. Carolina always adds the sound afterwards, but the sound track might as well have been authentic. Time creates a monotonous movement which becomes a kind of rhythm. The doubled reality of the video creates a space. A space for silence and reflection. Reflection on anything, says Carolina.