This is Ou
Here’s Ou. Ou is special because usually only children can see it.
Where does Ou live?
Ou lives in an art museum called Amos Rex. Nobody knows for sure where exactly Ou lives, but sometimes during the day, Ou has been seen sleeping in the window of the museum’s smallest skylight mound. Museums are places where people store, show and take care of artwork and other things.
Ou watches video art
Some videos are art, and those kinds of videos are called video art. But what kind of video is art then? And how do you look at a moving picture? Video works can be exciting, difficult, boring, lovely, or all of the above – just like any art! Let’s find out together if Ou has ideas about how to look at video art.
Sticky video art
Sometimes when you stop and watch video art, you might feel like you’ve gotten stuck. Videos might have strange sounds and they’re spread out on the wall like in a cinema, but you aren’t allowed to eat popcorn! They can be veeeeery slow or full of quickly changing pictures.
Ou might also scoot right past a video work to a painting, which are usually easier to focus on. But on the other hand, video art can be delightfully exciting. Ou has come up with a few tips on how to watch video art. Welcome along!
An endless story – or is it a story at all?
Often Ou stops randomly in front of a video and wonders if it’s in the middle of some story. A video might have a beginning and an end, or it might be an endless loop. Sometimes videos are (mega) long or (teensy-weensy) short.
Ou is trying this out! The experiment proves that at an art exhibition, you can stay at a video for as long as you like, whether it’s just a quick peek or an hour!
If the video doesn’t have a story, you can make one up yourself. Or you can try to look at the video in a different way. Imagine that the next video is actually a painting that moves. What kinds of colours or shapes can you see in it?
Enso is Japanese and means a “circle”
Painting an enso, or a circle with a single brushstroke, is an old Japanese way of practicing peace of mind and concentration. The circle isn’t even supposed to be perfectly round, but to look like the painter’s own style.
The video is made by a international art group called teamLab. There are hundreds of people in the group – pretty wild, huh? Some paint or make music, some come up with ideas, and some are really good with computers. Together they think about how to show familiar things in a new way, like for example in this work, Enso.
In Enso, a brushstroke which is normally painted on paper has moved into a video. If the circle were on paper, you couldn’t dive into it in the same way. The circle is turning in the video, so you can see it from many different directions. You can also see the brushstroke more closely and more precisely than on paper.
In the spirit of an old practice, Ou decides to try relaxing by Enso. Ou breathes in deeply and out slowly. You breathe too. You can also paint an imaginary circle in the air or follow the shape of the circle appearing in the video with your hands. What does your Enso look like? Is it colourful or spiky?
Ou wonders what their own ink circle would look like… But realizes that they already are a circle!
Enso is a video artwork which you can see in the lobby of the museum.
teamLab: 2017, Digital Work, Single channel, 18min 30sec (loop). © teamLab, courtesy Pace Gallery
From above, underneath, close, afar
Ou notices that video art can look different if you watch it sitting down or standing up. Art exhibitions don’t necessarily have the same kinds of chairs, or sometimes even benches, as at a movie theatre, for example. Ou changes places, first to the right and then to the left. You watch video art close up (wow) or then maybe from faaaar away around the corner. Or even lying on the floor or upside down (yes, you can even do this in a museum, as long as you’re careful).
Try different angles and distances!
Transportable altar for a divinity
Artist Anna Estarriola’s work Transportable altar for a divinity is smaller than a cardboard moving box. Ou thought that you were always supposed to watch video art on a large screen. But that’s not true! Some are very tiny.
The artist has made a practical-sized travel altar that can be carried along if need be. Altars are different sorts of tables or podiums that people use for religious ceremonies, for example praying. Even a rock can serve as an altar, too!
There’s a small person inside this video altar. She’s cleaning, peeling potatoes, and seems to be wiping the video glass itself, like a window from inside. A small door and small stairs can be seen behind the altar. Is that where she gets in and out? Ou wonders where she goes at night when you can’t see her! Ou has gone to check.
In this work, the video is a part of the wooden travel altar, so the work can’t really be viewed without it. Sometimes in an exhibition, several videos that are supposed to be presented together can be next to each other, or even on top of each other. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter that much how the video is presented or what’s next to it. You can keep this in mind next time you visit an art gallery.
Anna Estarriola: Transportable altar for a divinity,2015
installation / single-channel video, carved wood, pedestal, 45 × 50 × 45 cm
Video document: camera: Jukka Kiistala, video edit: Anna Estarriola
Use your senses
A lot can happen in a video artwork, so much that you can’t figure out what’s going on. Often video art has some kind of sound in addition to the picture. Then you can try to close your eyes and experience the video work only by sound. What sounds do you hear coming from the work? Or maybe you hear the tapping shoes or swishing pants of a nearby museum visitor? What do they tell you?
How about when you’re at home, in a park or schoolyard? Or if you play your favourite song? Shut your eyes for a moment and imagine – what kind of video would the sound belong to? Can you think of a world that’s a different colour, or even super-accelerated? Would it have a story or not?
If the video doesn’t have sound, Ou might make up dialogue, as if playing with friends.
Sometimes Ou likes a work, really enjoys it. Sometimes not. It’s good to remember that you don’t have to understand video art or consider it beautiful. Like with all art, you’re allowed to have your own opinion! Sometimes artists also do things that they hope will confuse people a bit.
Ou notices that a video work might stay in your mind for a long time after you’ve seen it, whether it’s nice or not. Maybe then art has done what it’s supposed to do?