TEMPLE BAR -- You cannot help but question the reach of creativity and the artistic merit of some new media projects that hang in exhibition space with the label "art" wrapped around them. Judged against the by-product of Sunday painters or even art in Starbucks, you have to wonder if effort, craftsmanship or attention to detail matter anymore. At least those issues bother me, partly because I'm halfway through an MA in Visual Arts Practises and partly because I've the Darklight Film Festival on my radar scope in the Dublin Digital District next week. As television commercials and literature printed in Cantonese suggest, the Darklight Film Festival promises to be more diverse than its predecessors. The four-day event continues through the weekend in Dublin’s Digital Hub in Thomas Street. A full programme sits online at darklight-filmfestival.com and as might be expected, the most popular offerings this year could be the music videos.
Darklight’s curators, well-seasoned after several years of culling the best for viewing in Ireland, included a guest appearance from the Lynn Fox creative team, the one responsible for several memorable Bjork videos. Anyone contemplating a degree in film production or studying contemporary art should pay the €10 and enjoy a full day of activities.
The festival organisers are showing work from Desperate Optimists, an Irish group currently exhibiting in the Brazil Biennale. They will be part of a double bill with David Phillips and Paul Rowley, visual artists with a flair for after effects.
For all of my formative years, my father the decorator and grandfather the florist hammered home that it was alright to draw inspiration from a fleeting sunset, reading allegorical meanings and allusions in its delightful play of colours but if you derived from that inspiration, you had to work at it. It was a message steeped in the Protestant work ethic and laced in nineteenth-century Romanticism, where creativity in the visual realm was a near-religious event. Your creative genius could enjoy endless flights of imaginative fancy but the work had to polished up and ready to hang for the main event.
Anyone with a passing interest in a DV camera, video editing suites, and a DVD burner might put in the same effort, craftsmanship and attention to detail as the video work exhibited in major Irish galleries. Yet it is important to see what’s being projected as art and to inform a personal aesthetic.
Five centuries ago, few distinctions existed between art and technology. Leonardo da Vinci crafted both armaments and artwork. The skills in making a bronze statue of a horse were not much different than the skills in making a bronze cannon. It was normal for a technologist to be an artist.
In fact, the word “technologist” does not appear in print until the 1830s. Only then did we begin to separate art from technology. This resulted in the growth of a specific domain—-the fine arts. As commercial galleries tell collectors, spend your money in paintings and the art world will reward your aesthetic choice. Good paintings always grow in value faster than savings accounts. They generate the greatest interest at auction around the world.
Contrast that with collectors of video art, a practise often scorned by insurance agents.
Nonetheless, video art forms an important part of our culture. Writers, scripters, storyboard artists, film makers, and musicians create some of the most compelling short videos. They play as music videos or as installation pieces. Temple Bar Gallery and Studios currently showcases two DVD videos by Jesper Just and both should be required viewing for detractors of digital art culture.
Young video artists have an easy first step into the art production realm today since they can purchase portable DV cameras for less than a Nokia 9500 or a 60 GB iPod. If your college goal involves film production, your friends will know where there’s a three-year old computer available for less than EUR 600, complete with film and still editing suites. Once you can tweak your work to play as QuickTime movies and you can rip your backing tracks from a CD collection, you have art on your hard drive.
Most art critics agree that where technology has been successful, it sits in the background, subordinated to art. Few people watching “The Incredibles” next month will think of the Renderman animation package that created the imagery of the superheroes. Instead, they identify with the characters that evolve on screen in much the same way as they would with characters in a book or in a live-action film.
Make mine an animated film. Darklight has several of those that are sure to please even the most acerbic critics.
Image of "Crossfire Cow" by William Conger.
Darklight Film Festival runs from 17 November through 21 November 2004 in 10-13 Thomas Street, Dublin, Ireland.
Cynthia Freeland -- But is it art? ISBN 0192100556
Hermann Nitsch -- Catharsis through a combination of music, painting, wine-pressing, and ceremonial pouring of animal blood and entrails.
ABC Chicago -- "Starbucks and MCA present avant-garde art exhibit"
Starbucks Blog -- "When they're not whipping up drinks they're cranking out art"
Lena Lencek -- Pilgrimage ISBN 0811834735
Evelyn Rodriguez -- "Big Sky Mind: The Origin of Ideas, Part I" is an essay filled with reminders that I have to tick off several books on my Amazon Wish List.
Open Media Classroom -- "Darklight Film Festival 2004"