Nan Hoover and Nina Könnemann

Sex, Art and Videotape

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Alexander Kennedy introduces the work of Nan Hoover and Nina Könnemann, who will exhibit a selection of their video-based work at the CCA

Early experiments in film by artists remind us that the birth of psychoanalysis and cinema happened at almost exactly the same time, with surrealists adding hermetically sealed packages of poetic and suggestive images to narrative cinema.

The mid to late 60s opened the door for serious structuralist explorations of film and video, minimalism and performance art to be spliced together with high theory in the cutting room. Recently, the recorded, repeated anti-narrative actions of earlier video artists have spun out into baroque narratives, expanding the medium unimaginably further.

In Spectrum at the CCA, the developments that have occurred in the last 40 years are examined through the work of Nan Hoover and Nina Könnemann. The CCA media lounge plays host to work from 40YEARSVIDEOART.DE, a project initiated by the German Federal Cultural Foundation that focuses on the films of Hoover and Könnemann, who both now work in Germany. The exhibition is also a part of TIMELOOP (a cross-venue project devoted to video art, presented in association with Goethe-Institute Glasgow), and will be supported by talks across Glasgow, in the Street Level, Gallery of Modern Art, Tramway and Glasgow School of Art.

Both women are pioneers in the development of video art, and continue to show internationally acclaimed work. Initially using video as an extension of her practice as a painter, American-born Hoover expanded into the documentary medium, and continues to record in real-time, creating linear, unedited films. Psychoanalytic theories of how subjectivity is formed in relation to visibility forms the core of her practice, with woman relocated as the subject rather than the object of the gaze. The ‘traditional’ scopophilic drive is thwarted, and the artist’s body and the surrounding environment intermingle. She is equally interested in creating a seductive aesthetic. Objects that are held by, on or near her body become extensions of this aesthetic, creating macrocosmic landscapes out of the microcosmic bodyscape.

Könnemann is more concerned with the action that takes place at the periphery of our vision and consciousness, the almost nonsensical and unconscious movements that we make when leaving a scene. In some examples her eye and camera follow unaware social actors; she plays with ideas of surveillance and spectatorship but only manages to capture everyday faces in nondescript places. Exhausted figures skip to and fro, running away and towards unknown destinations. Have these non-events been staged? Some figures stop and stare right at the camera, others hobble about in the background then fall to the floor, obviously intoxicated. Or are they just play acting?

Both artists use film to demonstrate that our subjectivity at times seems permeable, expanding into the environments around us, only limited by our self awareness or other people’s fleeting perception of us. And film seems to almost capture these moments of confusion, moments of escape, demonstrating that the non-space between the frames, the cut between this and that is the place of our emergence as subjects.

Spectrum, CCA, Glasgow, until Sat 12 May.

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