The Biennale of Moving Images 2015

Image courtesy MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Australia
Heather Phillipson’s ‘Put the Goat in the Boat and Serve it Hot’ Image courtesy MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Australia

Hobart’s own subterranean art fortress, MONA Museum of Old and New Art is currently showcasing ‘Biennale of Moving Images Hobart 2015’ – eighteen new works by twenty emerging international video artists, all aged under forty.  The collection was previously shown in Geneva as part of a world tour, and was relaunched last year by Le Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève (CAC).

Each work, though powerful in its own right, is utterly enhanced by the cavernous sandstone enclave that is Mona.  Mona founder David Walsh himself describes the interior design as ‘deliberately underwhelming’, thus cleverly encouraging viewers to become lost in the action of shuffling across jarrah floors, as each display emerges out of the labyrinthine darkness.

‘Biennale of Moving Images’ features an assemblage of image projections, multi-screen dialogues, television sets and other electronic displays. Among the contributing artists are Londoners Ed Atkins and Heather Phillipson, China’s Li Ran, Vancouver-born Jeremy Shaw, and American Mark Boulos. Each work was specially selected for this round-the-world gallery tour by famous curators and artistic directors Andrea Bellini (Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève) and Hans Ulrich Obrist (Serpentine Gallery, London).

Image courtesy MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Australia
Jeremy Shaw’s ‘Quickeners’. Image courtesy MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Australia

Without any one particular theme, the exhibition is a dynamic exploration of the next generation of video artists. Jeremy Shaw’s short film ‘Quickeners’ (2014) uses reworked footage from an original 1967 documentary Holy Ghost People, which centred upon the practices of an American Pentecostal Christian sect.  Shaw has cleverly appropriated the audio so that language is chopped and changed, and each character now speaks in gibberish, akin to an altered state.  By doing this he has created a new and vaguely eerie science-fiction narrative featuring Quantum Humans who are neurologically linked to the hive mind.

Li Ran’s ‘Escape from the Scene‘ shows life in China, in a variety of settings, in a multi-channel video installation of short scenes played on loop, using a small succession of screens.  The required use of noise-cancelling headphones ensures full engagement with images and (subtitled) dialogue in each episode.

Artist Mark Boulos also successfully demonstrates how video installation, as an art form, makes considered use of the surrounding environment to affect the viewer.  ‘Antigone‘ is a triangular configuration of floating screens, around which one can simply lurk as voyeur, or stand inside the triangle at the centre of the piece.  Inspired by Sophocles’ interpretation of the mythical character, three actors in turn recount a distinct, three-act story.  Each actor speaks to camera candidly, spontaneously and with raw emotion.  The three performances, which play out in unison, result in an overwhelming viewing experience within the dark surrounding space.

Ed Atkins’ ‘Happy Birthday!!!’ Image courtesy MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Australia

In his exploration of the qualities of HD digital moving images, Ed Atkins’ video ‘Happy Birthday!!!’ stands out as a particularly compelling work.  Although technically a computer-generated performance, it is suitably confronting in asking existential questions about mortality, love and intimacy.  Atkins’ use of talking head (face and voice – artist’s own), fragmented music and sharp editing, creates a melancholic and thought-provoking narrative on the effect of our increasingly virtual world on the reality of our embodied lives.

On July 6, 2015, the ‘Biennale of Moving Images’ world tour will continue on to Shanghai, Paris and Venice.

Watch a preview here:

Mona’s Dark Mofo is on NOW until 22 June, 2015 with highlights including Maria Abrémovic’s Private Archaeology exhibition and the City of Hobart Dark Mofo Winter Feast.

Click here to read our Q+A with Mona / Dark Mofo Creative Director, Leigh Carmichael

Click here to read The Garb Wire’s TGW5: Five Things Scene/Loved in Hobart, TAS

Images used with permission from MONA, with special thanks to Bec Fitzgibbon.