Some might argue that the reaction video art triggers in the viewer is the closest thing to a human connection. With an expansive body of work from 15 different local Seattle artists, Hedreen Gallery’s new installment, VIDEO LIBRARY (vol. 1), is rich with personal expression, illustrating the resonating power of this artistic medium.
One of the 15 currently featured at Hedreen, artist Ellie Dicola’s respect for the foundations of life is encompassed in her art through what she calls a “transformative visual ritual.” Throughout her career, Dicola has reflected on humanity’s will to create and destroy. She depicts this through a range of light and dark visual imagery as well through thematic content. When asked specifically about the inclusion of darker imagery, “it feels more honest to me. I know what loss is. I know what heaviness is.”
Now at Hedreen, VIDEO LIBRARY (vol 1) showcases the work of 15 local Seattle artists; the grand opening and reception will take place in the gallery on March 13, beginning at 7 p.m.
Dicola speaks to these feelings most through “fantastical narrative.” In late 2010, Dicola found herself immersed in an apparent never-ending flow of inexplicable natural events, that theorists linked to the end of the world. With news reports of entire species of fish suddenly dead or never-before-seen flight patterns of birds, Dicola seized this state of uncertainty as an opportunity to depict its poetic story.
Dicola explains that her videos, “Ellipsis” and “Swan Song,” are “two channels of the same piece.” Using her phone camera, Dicola filmed her computer screen directly to capture the footage featured in “Ellipsis.” Sourced from Creative Commons, the clip depicts a flock of sparrows, swirling in a blank sky that Dicola digitally manipulated to gradually evolve from peach to violet. Dicola calls the ambiance of the video to be “like twilight.” Its pace is slow, rhythmic and ritualistic as the bird formation takes on a variety of shapes that are reminiscent of Rorschach test.
Dicola filmed her second video, “Swan Song,” while visiting to her parents in Boom, North Carolina. She explains her aesthetic decision to film in black-and-white as “keeping the focus on the love story.”
“Swan Song” highlights the communication between a swan and goose in what Dicola calls an “inverted world.” With heavy contrast and a gradual progression to completely inverted coloring, the video is ethereal, mystically beautiful and even evokes a vintage quality.
Another featured artist is Erin Elyse Burns, whose video art is an excerpt from one of her full-scale installations. Her work is titled “Litany,” based on John Cage’s 1981 “Litany for the Whale” score, the inspiration for her video. After being approached by local singer Jeremiah Cawley, composer and trombone player Burns agreed to work collaboratively, creating a corresponding video that complemented Cawley’s acoustics.
Burns began by immersing herself completely in the piece, in part by sprawling out on the floor of her studio with the piece playing on repeat for hours. She charted her mental images as she let music seep into her, then later determined the arrangement of the imagery.
“This idea of the litany and the call and response around and repetition around a really tight set of literally like five sounds was really inspiring for the imagery,” Burns said. “I was trying to think of call and response within the images. So there are motifs that repeat and parallel each other… We were thinking a lot about visual pairings where they would kind of almost echo each other in the same way that the two voices echo each other.”
Much of the visual imagery Burns included in the excerpt seems to be emotionally charged. One particularly resonating vignette features Burns, cloaked in black garb, screaming directly into the camera. Cawley’s soundtrack silences any sound of her screams, but her anguished expression alone stirs an emotional response.
“Even the most comfortable, happy or sane of us want to scream sometimes… It’s a universal impulse,” Burns said.
She incorporates the concept of emotional release in subtle ways too. One of her more haunting vignettes features an open window with lace curtains swaying listlessly in a breeze. As the scene develops, we see an ever-growing rise of thick, white steam, which eventually permeates the frame in a cloud of white nothingness. Burns relates this imagery to a “pot about to boil” and “something just below the surface that’s bubbling up.”
VIDEO LIBRARY (vol. 1) is currently open to the public. Its opening reception will take place in the Hedreen on March 13, beginning at 7 p.m.