Curation in Galleries and Theaters

By Chloe Perez

Considering how video artists had to fight in order to reach gallery spaces because these artists wanted their work to be engaged with in the way that people look at sculptures and paintings instead of as a film, it was interesting to see how our class engaged with the art form from the screening last Wednesday. Much like the works from the reading, the films we watched dealt with storytelling through loops. The speed, length, and movement of these loops all came together to tell these stories. Despite how often we encounter these loops in our daily lives through the various forms of media we consume, like music and social media, the lengths of the films were excruciatingly long and painful to watch to the point the majority of people walked out during the screening. This made me think about what may be the problem with the screening since the class is for people who are more inclined to explore this type of art than most people and how people would have felt or reacted to them if they had watched them somewhere else.

Artists like Robert Breer refused to have their work in the theater. The mysticism of the environment takes away from art or at least his own. Not to mention, a theater is more of a space designed for enjoyment(no offense) and not one where people think critically about art. At least for me, I like to sit at home and process what I watch, not as I see it. Simply put, a theater is more of a place where I take the content as it is. Especially since in the theater, the viewer sees everything once. It limits the viewer/audience’s understanding of the film and elevates every moment because it can only be seen once. The viewer cannot leave because they cannot miss something. If viewers miss something, they cannot simply go back. They must watch it all over again in the theater. Something I find interesting about this is since each time you rewatch a film, although it is the same, the previous context from the last viewing builds on to your engagement and experience with the film. The viewer notices smaller details and is less focused on the mystery of the unfolding plot. 

I think this is the most major advantage gallery spaces have over theater spaces. It is less so the mystery of the theater itself but the curation of films in theaters that are actually distracting to the viewer. In gallery spaces, although there is pleasure in art, people are given as much time as they want with a piece. There is no rush and no mystery. Art is presented as it is, and viewers are not forced to see everything exactly once for a second. Although, of course, the curation of art in a gallery is somewhat a mystery in itself where the exhibit guides you through each piece to give you some sort of greater connection or meaning to the art all together. The curation of the exhibit also changes the outlook a viewer may have on a piece of art. However, I still think that since the viewer is given as much time to explore as they like, it is nowhere near the same as the mystery of the theater.

When it specifically comes to video art in galleries, they are often put in darker, theater-like rooms. To an extent, the darkness of the room is distracting because it is different from the light of other rooms. However, the ability to walk in and out of the exhibit and stay for different periods of time completely alters how the films are taken. Not to mention, the darkness of the room is part of the artist’s vision as to how their film should be shown, and they may want to have a mystical theater atmosphere. Unlike theaters, the viewers come in at different times of the film, which creates more individual personalized experiences with the art since the plethora of art creates a much more relaxed environment. Not everybody sees the same scenes. Not everybody stays as long as others. In works such as Breer’s Recreation, not everybody remembers the same images. Although people have personal connections with films in the theater, everybody sees the same thing at the same time. The personalization through the randomness of videos in galleries allows for different types of conversations than those of ones in theaters, mostly about loops. 

If the films we watched in the screening last week were in an art gallery, not a single person in the class would have sat through the whole thing. They may not even watch the same videos or the same parts of them. Videos in gallery spaces are important, but so are those in theater spaces. They matter most when considering the interpretation of art in the space it is in. That’s why I think art should not be in spaces outside of how the artist chooses. It completely changes the message of the art and evolves into the art of the art because it is no longer in the control of the artist and becomes removed from them. Art spaces are much more important than the art itself since the spaces mediate the way the art is absorbed.

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