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The Communism of Forms: Video Art Killed the Radio Star

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POSTED: MAY 14, 2009

The subtitle of the Art Gallery of York University’s current group exhibition—“Sound + Image + Time – The Strategy of Music Videos”—might suggest that the show is a densely theoretical musing on space and time. But in reality, the massive two-venue exhibition (a co-presentation at Red Bull 381 Projects closes today), which examines the connection between music videos and contemporary video art, is as catchy, engaging and memorable as the pop tunes that inform it.

Divided into thematic screenings, “The Communism of Forms” offers a thorough survey of more than 40 artists’ relationships with the music video format. Though music videos and video art projects might be aimed at drastically different audiences, the exhibition ably proves that they share certain features: both are performances staged for the camera and both use tropes established by their predecessors. Sometimes, both pull out the aesthetic stops to grab viewers’ attention and sustain it for a brief but concentrated period of time.

From Tasman Richardson’s DIY mash-ups of music videos to Peaches’ satire of a Black Eyed Peas song to Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s restagings of iconic performance art pieces in karaoke style, the show underscores the political implications of manipulating and responding to music video’s well-tread cultural conventions. As the curators write in their exhibition brochure, while early music video formats offered artists the perfect vehicle for addressing the “fragmentation and supersonic speed of hypercapitalism,” the ongoing connection between these two seemingly divergent media continues to offer rich territory for aesthetic and political interventions. (4700 Keele St, Toronto ON)

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