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Check It Out

video art

Numerous young local video-art makers took a keen interest in a mind-boggling video art exhibition (not to be confused with TV or experimental cinema) held at Goethe Institute recently. Dhaka University Film Society also took part in this event, which continued for three days, as the exhibition had to travel elsewhere, outside Bangladesh.

What is video art? It is a form of art that depends on moving pictures. It comprises of video data and is often not "site specific". This comprises of films that do not form a part of television or cinema. Video art contains footages that may extend from one minute to two hours, going by what one saw at the video exhibition.

The display was an attempt to preserve 40 years of video art in Europe and other international scenarios, such as Germany and Japan. Almost 60 current, remarkable videos such as that of Nam June Paik and Joesph Beuys' works of the late 50s and 60s, won approval of innumerable critics. Among the more recent works, were those of Anika Eriksson and Jan Verbeek. Video art is responsible for "blurring the boundaries" between traditional art practices like sculpture, painting and dance.

To watch the earlier video pieces brought in nostalgia and helped in the study of art history. Video art has yet to be very popular in Bangladesh but it has caught up enthusiasts in the recent years. Through watching the videos one developed a fair sense of the past and present video art, especially those in Europe, says Shaheen Rasheed, Programme Officer of the Goethe-Institute. She adds that earlier viewers got impatient with life as projected by the television, and experimental camera lovers turned to video art which reflected contemporary life, specially as regards political issues and the realities of everyday life, viewed closely.

Syeda Farhana, an eager maker of video art based in Dhaka, has interesting observations about the display. She has made three remarkable video art items, one based on the Bihari refugees , now in camps in Karachi, on refugees from across the border, residing in New Delhi, and another on the contemporary life patterns at Gowhati, Assam. Summing up the exhibition at Goethe-Institute, distributed over three floors, spanning three days, Farhana -- who began her academic studies as a fine arts student at the Institut of Fine Arts, DU, but who later found camera images more thought-provoking, in-vogue and experimental --says, " One learnt how video art developed in various stages from the origin. One gathered what the older styles and techniques were. One moved on from late 40s to early 50s creations. There was focus on life during the World Wars in Europe in particular. Even today life during and after that turbulent time creates enormous interest.

" The makers of video art during the 60s and early 70s dealt with political and social subjects. Striking feminist issues also came into focus during the two decades. Man seen against nature was also, sometimes included. " Video films of that time sometimes continued even for two hours. More recently video art tends to be brief, even sometimes lasting for a minute only." There is a marked difference in not only the topics but also the treatment of subjects," says Farhana.

There are only a few successful video makers in Bangladesh today, going by the latest Asian Biennale held at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy recently. Also seen at various cultural centres, have been the works of Mahbubur Rahman, Tayyaba Begum Lipi, (of Britto Arts Trust repute), Nupur, Rokeya Sultana, and the one jointly done by Ronnie Ahmad and Lipi. The ones from Japan, some form the Middle East were also eye-catching, going by Farhana's account. These have sometimes been presented along with installation works.

Modern existence has been analysed through symbols and parodies in video art today. Humour and satire along with some slapstick go to drive home the messages. Concentration and imagination go a long way to help one appreciate this particular genre of nouveau art.

By Fayza Haq



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