Made up of 17 pieces by 13 different international artists, the short videos presented challenge themes portrayed in the mainstream cinema such as gender roles and fan-idol relationships.,”Cinema meets art at the Haggerty Museum of Art this season with the exhibit of "stop.look.listen: an exhibition of video works." It's similar to a short film screening, except a bit more intense for the gallery-goer.
Made up of 17 pieces by 13 different international artists, the short videos presented challenge themes portrayed in the mainstream cinema such as gender roles and fan-idol relationships.
"stop.look.listen." was organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University and curated by Andrea Inselmann, curator of modern and contemporary art. The exhibit runs until Feb. 22.
Inselmann stressed the importance of seeing the exhibit in person. The videos are looped and projected in individual viewing rooms in the Haggerty. Rooms are either dark or lit, and films are shown either without sound, with headphones for audio or complete with sound playing in the room. To view each piece in its entirety would take about an hour and 45 minutes.
While "stop.look.listen." may sound similar to a short film festival, it takes much more control with the installation of the exhibits. Artists may request the walls be painted a certain color, or a bench be removed, or a number of other requests to create a more immersed environment for the viewer in the museum, Inselmann said.
Controls can be manipulated to place more emphasis on either art or the cinema. Loops also add to viewer manipulation. Upon walking into a viewing room, it is difficult to determine at which point the video is playing. Beginnings and endings become ambiguous, and the viewing experience may be different depending when you catch a film.
Artist Mircea Cantor's video called "Deeparture" is two minutes and 30 seconds long, featuring a deer and a wolf stranded alone in a gallery room. Viewers get so entrenched by the film's tension that they will stand and watch for much longer than the film's actual length.
"The first time I saw it I was standing there watching for 15 minutes," Inselmann said.
Films often spark emotional or physical responses from viewers, packing in intense content in a short amount of time. The film "Lasso" by Salla Tykka is particularly powerful.
The video is one of three that touches upon the traditional Hollywood themes of the western, horror and sci-fi. The video shows a young woman looking in the home of a self-involved young man as he twirls a lasso, with escalating classical music playing in the background. Although the content is very straightforward, the simplicity makes it all the more effective.
"The first time I saw Lasso, I was moved to tears," Inselmann said.
Inselmann interpreted the video as commentary on gender roles, which is a frequent underlying theme in many of the films.
In Burt Barr's film "Roz," a young woman's face is shown as she lip-syncs in the shower to Otis Clay's "The Banks of Ohio." The song tells the story of a man who murdered the woman he loved, making the film portray the woman as both a murderer and a victim. The film is similar to a music video, yet is more manipulative since it really appears as though this woman is singing the song – the viewer forgets she is only lip-syncing.
Another film, titled "Bliss and Heaven," by Jesper Just, explores the gender roles and traditional mainstream characters in Hollywood. By incorporating popular music, in this case Olivia Newton John's "Please Don't Keep Me Waiting," Just lends the audience the opportunity to reconsider masculinity as a man dressed in drag sings the song on a stage to another man in the audience. There is no spoken dialogue, and the video actually has the man's voice singing.
The sound in the exhibit, however, creates the only drawback in the museum. You can overhear the music and audio from the film being shown in the room next door, which creates a bizarre viewing experience at times.
Artist Salla Tykka uses the theme song of "Halloween" in one of her films, which can be overheard in both rooms next door – and clashes with the other films. Same goes for "The Banks of Ohio" and "Please Don't Keep Me Waiting," which reverberate through the Haggerty and can be heard in neighboring rooms clouding the viewing experience of other artists' works.
Overall, the exhibit displays a complex stance towards Hollywood and the cinema. The literature in the viewing rooms helps viewers grasp the concepts the videos are aiming to explore. It is a unique experience to view videos in the galleries rather than paintings, and offers a more interactive experience for viewers as they can contemplate in front of a moving picture.