If Matthew Barney had made this, it would have been hailed as "important."
Matthew Barney makes painfully boring videos, but at least he's an interesting sculptor (in my opinion; seems like whenever I say this to aspiring artists they act as if I just said I'm a nazi sympathizer. Is is wrong to appreciate an artist's work if he's too successful?) Bill Viola, on the other hand, has based most of his career on filming stuff and slowing it down. This ozone video wouldn't look out of place if it were projected 15 feet high in a pitch-black gallery with Viola's name outside of it.
I agree that some of Barney's sculptures and props are interesting, but the films are unwatchable. I've thought about this a lot, and I think it comes down to two reasons why that is. First, they are generally presented as a kind of narrative form on the same screen (a movie screen or a television screen) upon which you might see something like The Beast Master or The Brady Bunch. And second, despite all the props and outrageous sets, they consistently fail to deliver any genuine sense of awe or wonder. I end up feeling nothing but revulsion toward EVERYTHING and EVERYONE involved. And if that's his intention, then hooray, he succeeded, but I don't like feeling like that.On the other hand, the thing I like about Bill Viola's stuff is that he basically creates video lava lamps. They set a mood and don't require your full attention. Is he over-praised? Yeah, probably. I'd much rather make my own 15-foot-tall slow-motion projection, but I find Viola's stuff way, WAY more tolerable than one of Barney's overblown video/film circle jerks.The good news is that video art doesn't age very well.
"The good news is that video art doesn't age very well."...neither does cast tapioca, wrestling mat foam and petroleum jelly.Viola's trick is to slather some half-baked spiritualism over the techno-fetish of video installation. You'd have to add fire or water somehow to your 15 foot high Ozone projection to convince the viewer they were "experiencing" something other than a repurposed home theatre system. Barney's greatest achievement as an artist is convincing a large swath of the art world that anything coming from his imagination is somehow both worthy of attention and generous funding.
I agree with both of those sentiments. But still, speaking as a sculptor, I think Barney's pieces often demonstrate an innovative use of materials. No one else was using those components in those ways before him; not just frozen petroleum jelly and tapioca, but also industrial/medical plastics, rock salt, injection molding, and lots of other things most people hadn't thought to use in a sculptural context. But yeah, the whole "artist as rock star" deal is very annoying, and his videos are pure torture. They should be used at Guantanamo Bay: "Okay, we could put these electrical wires on your genitals, OR you can choose to sit through the entirety of 'Drawing Restraint 9'"
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