by Struan Kennedy
Exceptions are nice things. Whether positive or negative, they stand for a world not always ruled by monotony. When they occur in that tricky matter of personal taste, then – well, they can awaken you to a new self.
I had such an awakening when I saw the animation, A Reciprocal Process of Becoming (2006), by Krisdy Shindler. If someone were to describe this work to me, they would probably start off by saying, “It’s video art…” and at that point, ordinarily, I would be sure to feel a sigh rising up from inside me. That was then, though – pre-exception thinking. Shindler’s animation has offered me an alternative way of thinking, and I am thankful for it.
So, what was it about this work that changed my stance towards video art? Well, there’s a few reasons, but first let’s turn our attention to the question of time. Both in and out of the world of art, time is a precious thing. Everyone is their own keeper of it, so the saying goes, and this is no less the case when viewing art. We have the luxury of choosing how long we stay with a painting, or how long we stare at a sculpture or a photograph. We are in control of our own time and are able to determine when it is we’ve had enough and want to break off our relationship with the artwork before us.
Video art, on the other hand, comes with a sneaky string attached to it. Unlike other media, it suggests an enforced encroachment upon our time – a time that had previously been ours to do with as we pleased. This encroachment, this little string attached, is the work’s duration itself, a detail usually stated alongside the work’s title and the name of its creator(s). Perhaps I am not alone in thinking that this factor of duration feels like a condition necessary for the enjoyment and understanding of the work of art. If you don’t watch it all, you’ve given up, failed in the relationship between viewer and artwork, and ultimately not reaped the benefits you may have gained from it. A lack of patience, uncomfortable seating (or, indeed, no seating at all), a humid room, the misfortune of walking in half-way through – or at the very end of – a video installation: these are just some examples of scenarios that would normally persuade me it’s time to move on from a piece of video art.
Until, that is, I saw Shindler’s efforts; I was struck by how much it was her work, rather than myself, that did the moving. On first seeing it, there was so much action contained in her animation that I did not wish to be distracted by anything else. Of course, the fact that her animation made a reasonably modest demand on my time, lasting just over three minutes, helped. (Having said that, three minutes can seem an awfully long time when faced with tedious material.)
One reason why I was so charmed by Shindler’s work was that, for me, it brought out an emotional core in the medium of animation itself. Not only is the work simply a record of animated images, but the particular way in which it is animated resonates with our own sense of imagination. This, like the short film itself, is manifested as a gradual ebb and flow of forms leading out to an exotic sprawl. The transformations that occur throughout the film do not happen in any predictable sequence. Rather, they consist of a variety of developments, from slow and steady image changes to what look like complete stops, before the animation seems to rush ahead of itself in a spurt of progress. In a moment, these first models for understanding her work leapt out at me: the sporadic nature of feeling, historical changes and developments in technology and our perception of time – time that is at once racing ahead in our consciousness and grinding on and on mechanically.
The idea came into my head to stage an exhibition where the only work displayed would be Shindler’s piece. The images and events that make up the animation would be fitting for the rudimentary curatorial model I was thinking up. Rather than dazzling an audience with room upon room of art, the exhibition would streamline an audience’s attention towards a single piece. The model hinges on exploiting the varying conceptual appearances of a work and, by this account, entirely justifies exhibiting the animation on its own.
Shindler’s use of the word ‘reciprocal’ in the title of her animation would become central to the exhibition model. Just what exactly is being reciprocated, and to whom? I believe it is the unfolding complexity of our relationship to art. For both ourselves and a work of art undergo multiple manifestations, especially when they confront one another. It is possible for us to grow and learn just as art grows and becomes ever more informed from the moment of its inception onwards, advancing through its conceptual journey. Though physically separated, we are joined to art by our shared occupancy, residing as we do in the state of Becoming. It is this searing synergy that would have propelled the exhibition on and on.
It was exciting to think what Shindler and I could have done with her animation, to think of where we could have taken it – literally. I wanted this exhibition to be a touring exhibition, a show to be stumbled across in a number of galleries, but also in many ‘non-art’ spaces. The work refuses to settle as one thing; instead, it wriggles and squirms – a motility also clearly seen in the animation’s palette of line, shape and colour. A curatorial restlessness, therefore, mirrors the work’s own capricious stance. “Unable to be held down for too long”: this is a phrase that adequately describes both of the reciprocating partners in this relationship. The show and the work move and develop, both conceptually and physically, sometimes together and sometimes apart.
For more of Krisdy Shindler’s work, or to view her recent and current exhibitions, see: www.krisdyshindler.com