30 July 2008
Blinded by the light
When I asked a member of Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery staff where I’d find the Advanced Beauty exhibition of digital video art, he politely confessed to having no idea what I was talking about, writes David Thompson.
At the time I didn’t realise just how symbolicthis blank spot in knowledge would prove to be.
Thankfully, a second member of staff directed me to the entrance of the downstairs café, where three medium-sized monitors are suspended at roughly head height. Two comfortless benches are fixed securely opposite, so as to suggest an optimal viewing and listening point. This turned out to be a cruel, if admittedly funny, joke. A low electronic murmuring could he heard – just – but no imagery could be discerned. None at all. The monitors were functional – I checked – and something was obviously being shown, if not seen.
Thanks to the positioning of the monitors facing a wall made entirely of glass – through which the morning sun was glaring – the screens had been reduced to a featureless grey with only the occasional, ghostly suggestion of activity thereon. I sat there dutifully for several minutes, straining to see. I tilted my head and shifted along the bench to no great effect. I walked over to the central monitor, then its companions, shading a small part of each screen with my hand so as to glimpse what might be happening. It soon dawned on me that I didn’t have nearly enough hands to cover all three monitors simultaneously. Finally, the absurdity of the situation became too obvious to disregard. I laughed, then left.
Returning home, I tracked down a trailer for the exhibition via YouTube which seems a much more effective means of exposure. Potential web traffic by far outstrips gallery attendance and the Millennium exhibition, such as it is, is perhaps best understood as a pretext for publicising material best viewed online. I was, via the Web, familiar with the work of several Advanced Beauty contributors and had previously featured the work of two – Robert Seidel (see his phyletic museum projections, above, and two frames of his AB piece, below) and Robert Hodgin – on my own website.
If you want to actually see and hear Advanced Beauty, I suggest you avoid the Millennium Gallery, at least during sunny weather. Instead, pay a visit to the AB website, and that of the curator, Universal Everything. (See ‘Grow your own’, the feature about Processing in Eye no. 65.) Additional related works can be found via the online video art ‘channel’ – ROJO TV – at www.rojo-magazine.com/tv/.
See the Advanced Beauty trailer on the Apple site.
Curated by Universal Everything
Millennium Gallery, Sheffield
9 May–8 August 2008
Reviewed by David Thompson
Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.