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Conceptual and Digital Art in Online-Only Times

August 25, 2020 | Ahead of a digital group exhibition this Fall, I'm sharing a new short piece of video art.

Since May, sculptor and interdisciplinary artist Elizabeth Demaray has introduced me to new tools and encouraged me to make art for digital presentation - from still images to animation, stop motion to video. Our group of Arts Students League artists gathers weekly - and virtually - to discuss pioneers of conceptual and generative art, share critiques and develop projects.

Uncry, Uncrash, Unrain (2020)

digital video, black and white, 720 x 720, stereo, shot on iPhone 6 and Sony a7 III

Length: 22.23 seconds

Within a black square three different black and white video clips appear. The first, which runs for the entirety of the video, is a square about a quarter of the size of the full frame and sits towards the top left corner of the screen. A woman’s eye (the artist’s) gazes out and blinks repeatedly; a tear rolls back into the eye; the final frame is a tearless eye gazing straight into the camera/out at us. A second clip appears within less than a second of the video’s start showing a wave in reverse, retreating back into the ocean. About 4 seconds in a third clip spans across the bottom third of the frame showing raindrops falling “out of” a puddle (a puddle and rain captured from above and played back in reverse). The ocean view disappears shortly after, reappearing at around 11 seconds. Around 17 seconds the last two clips disappear and only the first one of the eye remains.

The soundtrack is made up of three layered tracks which have been reversed and play at different speeds than they were recorded at. Hummed melodies create dissonant harmonies. Whispers and breaths produce unintelligible words though reversed they would include the phrases “I can take it back” and “undone”.

Both the visual and audio are subtly surreal and disorienting. We can tell something is a bit off, but it may take a moment to identify that things are playing in reverse or at “unnatural” speeds.

This is an intentional effort to draw attention to the impossibility of our thoughts or wishes to undo something that has happened. We can’t take it back. Not a tear that has been shed, nor a word that’s been said. A rain drop once fallen merges with the puddle. A wave cannot uncrash.

The piece also speaks to the ubiquity of water. The unusual way it is presented does not allow us to overlook it and take it for granted. Is water the element most closely associated with life? Not only does it make up the ocean. But it forms in the air above and falls down as rain. It may crash onto sand and absorb into the earth. And our bodies consume and expel it.


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