Must-See TV?

The problem with video art is that video artists sometimes forget that other people are going to be watching their work.

Unlike painting and sculpture, where viewers feel they can get the gist of what’s going on in a few seconds, time-based media require, um, time to understand what’s going on. Something as simple as a place to sit could encourage audiences to view an entire work.

Oz McGuire’s video installation Uber-Nationalism, at the Opie Gallery in the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, got a lot of exposure on its First Friday opening night. Unfortunately, most of that was due to foot traffic: People had to walk in front of the screen on their way to the next gallery — hardly an ideal environment for watching a 4-minute video. Even if viewers stayed to watch the entire thing, chances are they weren’t able to absorb what McGuire was attempting to convey.

ber-Nationalism combines slowed-down TV footage of the gold-medal-winning men’s basketball “Dream Team” that the United States sent to compete in the 1992 Olympics and its cheering audience. Interspersed are abstract bursts of color erupting against a plain background, what McGuire’s artist’s statement calls aestheticized bombing footage from the first Gulf War.

“I was having some 1990s nostalgia and wanted to create a piece that reflected Generation X and Y’s first war experience and how it was very similar yet so different than the current Gulf War,” McGuire tells the Pitch.

“It seemed Magic [Johnson], [Michael] Jordan, [Larry] Bird and the rest were a parable with the first war and of our standing in the world 13 years ago compared to now. The rest of the world was nearly happy to witness the strength and greatness of unsurpassed talent in American sport and military might back then; now, of course, things have changed. We can’t win the gold or the war.”

That explanation is helpful for whoever decides to actually watch the video, because his references to warfare and bombings are too obscure to register, and McGuire never makes the connection between the ’92 Dream Team and the current state of basketball. He mixes samples of Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” and John Williams’ “The Mission Theme” for the soundtrack, and the music lends a feeling of suspense to the slow-motion video. But nothing happens. McGuire never makes a concrete point or provides viewers with enough information to draw their own conclusions.

Categories: Art, News