The Recovery Channels, 2005
Television, laptop, remote control, remote sensor, 16 hours of footage transferred from ribbons of videotape found on the street
Continuous loop; dimensions variable
This configuration approximately 48 x 75 x 100 inches
Image courtesy of the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco
Fugitive, Some Maps, Cute Animals and a Shark
Catherine Clark Gallery
By Nicole Cromartie
Catherine Clark Gallery, of former 49 Geary fame, showed two concurrent solo exhibitions: Nina Katchadourian’s Fugitive, Some Maps, Cute Animals and a Shark and The Word, a solo show by Ray Beldner. Each show is exactly what it sounds like, Katchadourian’s title lists four of the five works she had on display, and Ray Beldner’s show consisted entirely text based work. It is unclear why the two artists were shown together, as the works shared little in common apart from their shows’ literal titles.
I walked in through the Minna Street entrance and was immediately confronted by Ray Beldner’s Nobody’s Coming
, two shiny silver leaf concrete towers that spell out the title of the work. I quickly glanced around the gallery and thought, nobody’s here. Tipping Point
, spelled out in multi-colored tinsel hung on the wall behind the sculpture, made me think of that pop sociology book that was displayed on the front table of bookstores for months. Underwhelmed, I made a dash for the video project room.
Inside the project room I found a television, two chairs and a side table. An episode of Beavis and Butt-head,
the MTV cartoon duo from the 90s, was playing. But in place of the MTV logo in the corner of the screen, “Recovery Channels” was printed. The entire screen was covered in the sort of dirty VHS tape static, and the two teens were chopped in half and flashing across the screen. The Recovery Channels
is a project Nina Katchadourian began in 1997 when she started to collect loose video tapes found in and around New York. She continued to collect tapes for the following eight years and by 2005 had 16 hours of footage. She transferred the tapes to DVD and organized them into television channels for people to watch and surf through. Katchadourian also created a guide, which provides the viewer with a list of each of the channels, as well as the date and location that each of the tapes was found. After one Beavis joke, I changed the channel and got a poorly produced sex tape of a couple, changed it again, got a ballet I couldn’t place, a black and white French film, another amateur sex video, an episode of Days of Our Lives, and yes, another sex scene.
In the back gallery there was another Katchadourian video work, Fugitive
. It’s comprised of six television sets on the floor, situated in a circle, facing outwards. The first screen I approached showed footage of an orangutan walking across what looked like a telephone wire. The ape moved across the wire from right to left until it made it to the edge of the screen. On cue, the television to the left turned on, and the ape made the same right to left trek. Like the orangutan, I moved to the left, following it on its precarious walk. I followed, screen to screen, walking in a circle hoping and waiting for the animal to get to a landing.
These two videos by Katchadourian were standouts next to her own work and especially set against Ray Beldner’s work. Both works were engaging in sort of an effortless way. I couldn’t say how much time I spent in this room, clicking through the channels alone, looking at where each of the tapes were found and imagining the circumstances under which they were discarded. Even though some of the previous owners of the videos were actively trying to destroy their tapes by pulling them out of their casing, the artist denies their destruction. Even though I knew the title of the orangutan piece was Fugitive,
I walked around it in spite of myself, waiting for something I assumed wouldn’t happen. Ray Beldner’s one-liners on the other hand don’t ask for more than a glance.