Foreign correspondence

Central European videos and more at URI
By GREG COOK  |  February 5, 2008
Morrison’s paper doll.

If the University of Rhode Island’s exhibit “Close Encounters: Central European Video Art” is any indication, artists from that region are feeling forlorn. But the predominance of this mood may just be a coincidence in the sampler of nine videos by five artists here, plus an additional artist and video at the Kingston train station.
Guest curator Viera Levitt, a native Slovak who has lived in Rhode Island for two years, avoids the usual scenes of dreary apartment blocks and industrial sites of Europe’s former communist countries. Instead, she writes in the exhibit brochure, she chooses videos “that concentrate on human stories, of vulnerability and fragility, emotions I believe that we all share.”
Hungary-born, Berlin-based Hajnal Nemeth’s NataSsa (2000) shows a woman in black striding across an empty green field, walking into trees, and arriving at a tall cross standing on a pedestal, which seems to be a grave marker. She leaps backward into the air and lands on the pedestal, straddling the cross, like a crucified specter. It’s probably just a trick of reversing the footage, but it feels uncanny.
In Czech artist Milena Dopitova’s 2003 video Green Plateaus I, two older women alternately dance together in the puddles of a paved park or sit side by side playing a piano. They move a bit gingerly, as if leaning on each other for support, but the women look so alike that they could be the same woman. (They are in fact the artist and her 40-year-old twin sister made up to look old.) It prompts thoughts of isolation, dependence, and loneliness in old age.
Czech artist Katerina Seda’s It Doesn’t Matter (2005-07) shows an elderly woman drawing a light fixture. The video is mundane, but an accompanying book explains that the woman is the artist’s grandmother who mostly stopped cooking, cleaning, shopping, or going out for walks after she retired. Instead she stays in bed late and watches TV. “I was up to things my whole life,” she says in the book. “Now I’m resting.” The artist finds her grandmother’s idleness disconcerting, and tries to draw her out by having her draw items sold at a home supplies store where she formerly worked. Is there any more dreadful way to be drawn back into the world?

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Communism, Photography, Visual Arts,  More more >
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