Mirror, mirror: Lisson Gallery reflects on the history of video art
Finding interesting ways of presenting video-art is never easy. Lisson Gallery’s summer exhibition, ’Performance/Audience/Mirror’, aims to step away from the ’uncomfortable chairs in a dark screening room’ concept by reaching outside the walls of the London gallery through a programme of live, online screenings designed to provoke world-wide debate. This virtual element ’not only allows global access to the exhibition but also highlights the democratic nature of film while calling into question issues facing artists who work in this discipline’, explains curator Emma Gifford-Mead.
The show’s title is drawn from Dan Graham’s 1977 performance of the same name, at De Appel Arts Centre in Amsterdam. Contrasting the web screenings, the exhibition also makes use of an intensely intimate, gallery-bound viewing installation, in the form of Graham’s 2001 work, Greek Meander Pavilion, Open Shōji Screen Version, where the ’audience’ third of the exhibition is held. The pavilion shows a range of films from the 1960s to the present day on a screen encased between two-way mirrors and Japanese-inspired shōji panels. Films can be viewed from inside or outside of the pavilion, along with any gallery-goers who might be exploring inside – so audience members become an integral part of the viewing experience, as opposed to those who might be watching at home on their laptops.
The latter two sections, ’performance’ and ’mirror’ are more traditional in layout, but they feature some of the exhibition’s real gems. These include the UK debut of a darkly comic claymation, Worship (2016), by Swedish duo Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, and the rarely seen SPEAK. by British conceptualist John Latham – a psychedelic, ten-minute snapshot of the 1960s.
The show contributes to London’s recent love-affair with technological, performative art (think of Whitechapel Gallery’s ’Techtonic Superhighway’ or ’Performing for the Camera’ at Tate Modern), but also follows an increasing number of exhibitions that include a virtual element, like Bruno Ceschel’s app-based photography interactions, and The Supermarket’s online gallery space. The result is a winning mix of personal, intimate performances and web-friendly progression.