International Herald Tribune
August 6th, 1999
Successful Video Takes Big Leap
By Ferdinand Protzman
Washington – Video art is a hot medium in Manhattan and elsewhere. Some important galleries show videos, and some important museums and private individuals have begun collecting them. So Troyer Gallery’s inclusion of videos in its edgy group show titled “Momentum,” through Aug. 21, is most welcome.
It is a remarkable phenomenon because a great deal of video art is awful — boring, incoherent, visually uninteresting, technically weak and overly long — like a cross between bad TV, bad art and bad home video.
But when a video succeeds, like Michael Joseph’s “Above and Beyond,” which is the strongest piece in this terrific show, the viewer gets hooked into an experience that is unique, powerful and unlike any other art form.
Joseph, 32, a sculptor, photographer and video artist from New York shot the short piece which takes place on the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this year. In deceptively simple style, “Above and Beyond” documents a walk from Brooklyn toward Manhattan that takes a bizarre twist.
The hand-held camera bounces from side to side in step with Joseph’s stride as he trudges up the shadowed stairs to the bridge’s pedestrian walkway and heads toward the backdrop of skyscrapers punctuating the horizon.
Joggers and other pedestrians flow past in both directions as the bridges symmetry, grace and solidity frame the scene, which is set to a mix of music and ambient sound. Then, with a jump-cut, the everyday rhythms and vistas vanish. The camera looks out toward the harbor as Joseph walks along one of the bridge’ s mammoth supporting girders. He reaches the end, aims the lens straight down at the East River, then lets the camera fall. It tumbles through space but continues functioning after splashdown, bobbing gently in the current, rising and falling in the same cadence as the artist’s stride. Then the screen goes black.
While suicide is the obvious reference, Joseph’s video, which runs about five minutes, is so packed with beautiful evocative imagery on so many levels that it can’t be characterized as being just about taking one’s own life. It can, for example also be seen as an allegory for a young artist’s struggle to make the transition from Brooklyn to the big time.
There’s a certain dark humor in watching the real-life New Yorkers on the bridge, so utterly self-absorbed that they don’t even notice the man with the video camera, let alone the glorious interplay of light and shadow that is all around them. And in the end, there’s a hint of resurrection. Just before the camera goes overboard, a small boat can he seen below the bridge. In it are friends of the artist. That camera lives on.
Also on display is fine work from the five other artists. All are relatively young. and their work is promising.
Luisa Kazanas is a sculptor who uses a variety of industrial materials, including cast urethane, paint, wax, Plexiglas and gel caps to produce glossy works that look like biological mutations based on American life in the late 1990s.
Rhona Bitner’s color photographs from her series titled “Circus” revolve around the alienation of the individual in a mass society. Fragility can be seen in Kim Hunter’s manipulated, black-and-white photographs of children. Systems, both technical and aesthetic, are the driving force in Haegeen Kim’s beautiful drawings on steel. The most overtly natural sculpture in the show is by Andrew Moe, who produces lively pieces full of energy and motion from wood, wire, reeds and steel.