|Kathy Rae Huffman on Wed, 22 Jan 1997 16:24:47 +0100|
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|Novi Sad - VideoMedeja, Dec.1996 2/4|
Overall Impressions: The work was drawn from several East European countries, and was new, and for the most part provocative. Tapes were projected onto a very large cinema screen, and by most standards, would be considered quite poor. Information was minimal, we never saw a program until we arrived, but that proved very adequate. The schedule played extremely punctual! Most events listed were shown, only the late night performance on opening night by Milica Mrdja Kuzmanov (Rites of Body and Soil) had to be canceled due to illness. Representation from some of the Eastern countries where video production is well known, was only fair. For example, no work from Russia or the former Soviet Union was received. But, as they explained, it was the first attempt, and they had only a couple of months to prepare everything once they learned they would receive funding. The communication and connection to outside organizations and groups proved to be very young, as is their knowledge of the international festival scene. But this also provided a fresh approach, and the organizers worked closely with three local advisors who had traveled more extensively, and who were willing to help them with program planning. This advisory Art Board consisted of Biljana Tomic, Editor (curator) of the Arts Program at the Student's Culture Centre, Belgrade; Lidija Srebotnjak, Assistant Professor at the Department of Multimedia Research at the Academy of Arts, Novi Sad; and Aleksandar Davic, Director, video artist, and Teaching Assistant at the Drama Dept., Academy Arts, Novi Sad. They participated visibly in the program and the discussion. My communication with the VideoMedeja organizers was entirely done via email. In fact, Adele Eisenstein (Budapest), found out about the program in Slovenia, during The City of Women festival last October, and sent a notice to a number of video specialists she knew. The mails were answered quite promptly, but I didn't realize I arrived in Novi Sad that my emails were not going directly to the festival, but rather were being passed along (probably printed like a FAX) from a neighboring office in the same building. It is extremely expensive for individuals to buy modems in Yugoslavia, dial-up accounts are costly, and the telephone lines are poor. Internet browsing, if it is attempted at all, is usually restricted to late night sessions at the Universitys computer center. The festival organizers are aware that a great deal of creative work is being done online, but as yet they can only anticipate a future, where the telephone system functions reliably to support private connectivity. Program Highlites: A large majority of the selection was performance work, with new pieces by Jasna Hribernik (Ljubljana), Natasa Prosenc (Ljubljana), and Olivera Milos Todorovic (Belgrade). Very little video using special effects or computer graphics was seen, only the Slovenian authors had access to advanced technology. The body was the unifying and main instrument of expression among the Eastern women who sent their works to VideoMedeja. One outstanding piece was shown by Alicja Zebrovska (Cracow, Poland), called The Original Sin (Part 1) and The Mistery is Looking On (part II), a 5 min. video made in 1994, in which a glass eye is inserted into the vaginal opening, disguised with eye makeup and fake eyelashes. It takes a minute or two before the glass eye is pushed out....revealing the true character of the source. A performance by Miroslava Mima Orlovic, Dodirni Me (Touch Me) united the audience on opening night. It utilized electrical current and Video. Dodirni Me was first presented in 1995, but it was a fresh and exciting experience for all. A personal work, it utilizes a devise that Miroslava was given by her grandmother, a medical instrument that generates a current of 20 watts, 30 watts, 40 watts, 50 watts, or 80 watts (similar to what STELARC uses to stimulate the large muscle groups in his performance Fractel Flesh). As Miroslava explained --the following morning at the symposium-- electrical energy was thought to have beneficial qualities, back in 1931, and it was a common treatment her grandmother frrequently practiced against arthritis. The performance itself used Miroslava as the conductor of electrical current, which emanated directly from her body. She concealed herself in a small curtained dressing room, and extended her hands from behind the curtain. The outstretched hands invited members of the audience to touch them, as does a videotape playing a loop with the words touch me repeated in various languages. Upon touching the artists finger, a spark (and shock) is generated. After numerous people took their turn to get this sensation, all watching the others from the que, somebody had the idea to just grab onto Miroslavas hand, whereas then, no shock could be felt. Very quickly, the primarily female audience self-organized into a large circle, breaking occasionally to admit a new member. The chain of hands held together firmly. A very generous feeling of camaraderie developed, and the circle stayed in place long past the necessity to try it out.