Two decades ago a film history professor complained to me that his students were now making videos. Videotape is much cheaper than film, so instead of viewing three-minute films of the forest he now had to view hour-long unedited videos that panned around dorm rooms. But artists had been using long takes since the beginning of video art in the 60s. “Reel One,” the first program in a four-night video series, is quite gripping. Just don’t expect to be easily entertained by these early explorations of video boredom. These artists use long takes to focus on their own bodies; the often masochistic edge in their videos is unnerving enough to be thought provoking. The first program, “Reel One,” includes work by Bruce Nauman, who, in a 10-minute excerpt from a 60-minute tape called Revolving Upside Down, is seen balancing on one foot in a series of repeated revolutions. It’s the camera that’s upside down, creating an additional sense of a body trapped in space as well as time. Vito Acconci’s lips and hand are seen in extreme close-up in his Waterways: 4 Saliva Studies. Studies may be a bit optimistic for these oddly intimate, slow views of drool. Also on the program is Gilbert and George’s The Singing Sculpture (they sing), Geoffrey Hendricks’s Body/Hair (his nude body is shaved), and Dennis Oppenheim’s genuinely masochistic Material Interchange and Nail Sharpening. These austere tapes seek to blur the distinction between the viewer and the artist’s body in a way that reflects the spirit of the chaotic 60s. Randolph Street Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee, Friday, March 8, 8:00, 666-7737. –Fred Camper
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.