aspect : ratio

20 June – 6 July 2019
Cape Town

Aspect ratio typically refers to the proportional relationship between an image and a two-dimensional plane. But, as computer screens superseded TVs, and computer screens are themselves being abandoned for increasingly immersive mediums, ‘aspect ratio’ runs the risk of becoming archaic, irrelevant to its medium. The artists in this video exhibition propose a revision of the term and, by extension, the terms of video art generally. Is it still a video if it’s made on a computer program and not a camera? Who is the author of a video that splices or distorts video content made readily available on the internet? Who can claim an interactive work, which requires not a passive audience but viewers who become participants, performers, technicians? These artists are also highlighting problems that arise in a highly videoed world, such as surveillance and consent, commodification and reproduction, exploitation and censorship.

Katharien de Villiers’s Fellas, not cause all you can steer that don’t mean all you can drive boy/ #siesjong is an autonomous video sculpture piece. Five tablet screens are fixed to a mechanically driven structure, each screen showing a different angle of a drifting BMW. Simultaneously exhilarating and nauseating, the work flirts with the boundaries between video, sculpture, and virtual reality. Drifting, or gusheshe, is the process of spinning and over-steering – a sport that has become an integral part of identity in South Africa. It is however frowned upon as a ‘lower-class cultural activity.’By de/re-contextualizing a stigmatized act, de Villiers allow for a re-evaluation of taboos and our judgment of what is beautiful, cultural or acceptable. Clouds of smoke, engine roaring, the dancing vehicle spins from screen to screen, leading the viewer to a space where the boundaries between game and illusion are blurred and preconceived conceptions of ‘truth’ prove themselves insufficient.

Luvuyo Equiano Nyawose presents Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the most oppressive of them all? Have you ever noticed how in almost every Disney princess film, the princess always cries? To cry is human, but this depiction holds deeper embedded meaning. Do the tears of black womxn hold value? In almost all Disney films, the damsel in distress is never black. This subtle yet insidious violence has conditioned black womxn from early development to hold back displays of vulnerability, anger, and disappointment. The pink tent, cushions, and box TV create a nostalgic, yet disorientating, experience, inviting the viewer to reconsider the gendered and racialised norms that years of indoctrination have upheld. The title of this piece is taken from an article by Luvvie Ajayi, intersectional feminist activist and author of the best-selling book ‘I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual’ (2016). This iteration was created in collaboration with black woman artists, art practitioners, cultural knowledge producers Mmakhotso Lamola, Chaze Matakala, Bulumko Mbete, Duduza Mchunu, Kyla Phil, and Mmabatho Thobejane.

Emmanuelle is a series of some of the porn videos that Meghan Daniels watched when coming to terms with their sexuality. Through an act of nostalgia, this work feeds snippets of these porn videos through multiple, free iPhone apps until the image and sound become an abstract glitch. The work is both a digital confession and a digital secret, using outdated and contemporary digital tools and applications to distort the confession. Daniels asks the questions, what am I allowed to share in the public space in terms of my own gender and sexuality? How can I self express without public scrutiny? What is palatable and what isn’t? Where do the borders lie between permissible and censored sexual media content? Emmanuelle was the lead character in a series of French softcore porn erotic movies. These movies were frequently aired on eTV late night television in the early 2000s before being removed from air speaking to issues of how, when, and where pleasure is permissible.

Scum Boy’s 3D rendered art reflect on the artist’s vivid memories of the gaming world and its domination by masculine figures. Playing off representations of cowboys in western-themed games, this work reappropriates these masculine figures in queer ways, producing juxtapositions and reclaiming ‘video gaming’ spaces. I was thinking about gay porn when I got my first T-Shot. My girlfriend watched explores masculinity in a fluid, rather than toxic, sense, depicting figures who are robust, yet scantily clad; virile, yet effeminate; pristine, yet vulgar.

M Thesen Law’s Screencrawler Montage is a supercut of clips from various films showing entities moving through the world via screens. Many of these films were made in the 1980s, a period in which fear regarding burgeoning digital technology’s impact on everyday human interactions and the integrity of the physical world seeped into pop-cultural imagery. The screencrawlers themselves are mostly semi-human – ghosts, aliens, demons – giving them the capacity to move freely between simulated and corporeal worlds. The screen is no longer an image, but a portal through which to travel. The result is a metacognitive video in which the television screen becomes a permeable world, disturbing the viewer/image dialectic and disrupting any kind of linear gaze.

Inside Out – a collaboration between Thom Dreyer, Ross Eyre, and Adam Oosthuizen – overlooks a morphing 3D digital terrain. A vast, high-definition landscape, metamorphosing in real time, simulates the sensation of flying across a strange geographical terrain. The experience is both visceral and ethereal, familiar and surreal. Landscape becomes mindscape, upon which the viewer projects their own memories, experiences, sensations, thoughts and intuitions. Narratives build and dissolve, engendering reflection on our inner worlds, enabling an experience unique to each individual.

EMERGENCE AFRI’ VIOLA is a performance art piece in VR, merging the conceptual visual language of art and the innovative technology of augmented reality. In this multi-sensory digital art installation, MAGOLIDE pushes the boundaries what an artist can be and do within this new forms of digital practice. Archetypal symbols, theatrical sound, and cultural imagery blend to create an immersive, transcendental experience, commenting on spectacle, popular culture, and identity. This performance is immersed in visual cues retell forgotten and omitted histories of African people and the landscape through re-imaged colourful, comical, and animated world. The work brings video art and performance into 4-dimensional (4D) platform through the transmutation of 2D animation and photography, thus pushing augmented reality media into new, unexplored dimensions. The viewer becomes both active component and central point, creating new possibilities to exist, evolve, and consolidate narrative into digital material landscapes.

Cellphones have, in a short space of time, worked themselves intimately into our physical and mental lives. Phantom pings – a collaboration between Cary Small, Jonathan Goschen, and Steph Anderson – brings awareness to this in a playful manner by exploiting ‘phantom vibration/ringing syndrome,’ a hallucination experienced by the vast number of cell phone users. In this study, subjects are prompted by a dismembered notification. Their actions are then recorded and replayed on a programmed loop, exploring themes of addiction, surveillance, and self-awareness.

give/take, by Louise Coetzer and Oscar O’Ryan, uses movement language to express the fleeting nature of modern communication. In this instance, the body is used not to create the message, but to erase it, swipe it away, resign it to a mass grave of insta-stories. The work places the artist within a computer-altered environment, created by feeding digital imagery through an AI image altering programme. give/take makes the medium of movement language its subject, while seeking a completely new and contemporary representation of physicality. The notion of using the body for mark-making gets reimagined, to using the body for mark – altering and mark-erasing instead. At once dreamlike and real, binary and analog, true and altered, give/take illustrates the physical drowning in the artificial.

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