Review of Martyrs 1
One of the less explored avenues of influence into videographic criticism has been that of museum installation video. Engaging with the work of Bill Viola or Doug Aiken can provide fruitful inspiration to artists who wish to utilize a comparative formal devices like a split-screen more poetically. Similarly, Christian Marclay’s 24 hour long super-sized supercut The Clock always surprises in how far straight cuts and eye-line matches can go in keeping the viewer’s attention. In short, this mode of production and exhibition provides a well spring of stimulus to those videographic critics looking to push their works towards the poetic end of the spectrum. This being said, you can imagine my surprise when I came across Kevin Lee and Kriss Ravetto’s “Martyrs for the Mass,” one of the first (perhaps the first) work of videographic criticism about one of Viola’s video installations.
There are some obvious and inherent challenges that the critics took on to produce this piece. First, the creators needed to capture and repurpose their footage through second-hand means, using cameras instead of a direct rip from a digital source. Secondly, the effectiveness and uniqueness of Viola’s works are not just defined by their audiovisual compositions, but by such pragmatic variables as a Museum’s (or Cathedral’s) space, lighting, benches, and the audience. The primary gift of “Martyrs for the Mass” is the weight it places on just how fragile and subjective the experience of watching installation videos can be - especially when so much of the meaning of a work like Viola’s depends on the last painting, sculpture, illuminated manuscript, or stained glass work you encountered in close proximity.