Video Art or New Cinema?

When will video art step outside the bounds of modern art museums and become mainstream?

Editing in the mind - Ragnar Kjartansson's The Visitors

Editing in the mind – Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors

I’m very concerned with the future of cinema and what new and different forms it will take compared to how we know it today. There are so many ideas floating about, so many experiments and exciting changes, like crowdsourcing and digital collaborations on the production side, but more should be done about the actual cinemagoing experience.

There are a few passionate initiatives that try to revive or at least document the importance of celluloid film and classic projection, but I tend to think nostalgia will not win over digital practicality. This unfortunately tends to disregard the true benefits and initial magic of the original cinema experience, the higher preservation quality of film and the reason why we should pay to get out of our couches instead of watching films at our convenience. We are losing ourselves in singular spaces, immersing inside our minds and homes, away from real society and towards a virtual one. While this could be a symbol of our growth or spiritual development as a quest for self-discovery and introversion, we tend to forget how to get lost inside the magic of the big screen next to strangers.

The first screening I witnessed that felt like a true development of film exhibition turned an old movie into a theatrical event that expanded the narrative outside of the screen and into your personal space. It’s called Secret Cinema and it is mindblowing. It is similar to the concept of ‘the death of the author’ in which audiences get to experience the film outside of the creator’s original work which takes on a life of its own, because the spectators’ enjoyment depends on their own choices inside this world. Social media’s creative memes and jokes that are born out of popular TV shows also prove that audiences are much more involved in the creative process and give new meanings and life to media creations.

Another form of what I believe is the future of film is currently at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the work of Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson called The Visitors. Not unlike Youtube’s virtual choir, 9 screens are spread across a room where each features a singer or instrument player isolated in a room of a mansion. While each camera covers the real time of the performance, we, as museum audience edit the shots in our mind, according to our physical position.

It is as if we were upgraded from a mindless and passive audience to the likes of live TV editors, whose distributive attention manages to capture so much visual information and organise it accordingly. This approach can also be found in the work of another Scandinavian artist, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, who blends fiction and reality in similar installations which exceed the possibilities of a cinema space, but which pose such interesting questions.

These solutions feel more attractive than the underwhelming sensation of multiplexes and their carbon-copy experiences. There is a need for a true revival that would shake us all up and remind us that cinema is always open to innovation – early Hollywood was very entrepreneurial and Silicon Valley-like – and that we as practitioners need to up our game. Ideas like Ragnar’s and Elja’s and so many other video artists that I haven’t discovered yet shouldn’t be isolated in museums, but experienced in cinema spaces built especially for this type of experiments. This is what modern audiences need and want but don’t know it yet. What I wouldn’t give to own such a space and play with the possibilities!

And here a little extra inspiration about storytelling evolution, if you like the topic:


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