migration by Laura Dutton

It is rare to see a video installation at Xchanges, but probably anywhere really.  I can only think of a few shows in Victoria during the last year that have incorporated video art. And most of the examples that I can think of right now, off the top of my sleepy old head were along the veins of a video loop on a tv screen.  Although at Dios Nunca Meure there was a piece using a slide projector and the wall which could be included in the genre.  Maybe.  Unfortunately video installation is not one of my specialties.  Probably I haven’t seen enough of it.

What a difference though between a video installation and a show of paintings or a show of any kind of objects.  Last night’s gallery was stripped of lighting.  The door and window were tightly sealed against any and all natural sunset seepage.   The art produced it’s own light.  The art did not require perfectly situated pot lights to bring forth lustre and colour.  The work was it’s own light.

Yes, Migration has a concept, but you must forgive me for my simplistic approach to the work.  I have already explained, haven’t I?, that I am unfamiliar with wall sized video installation.  For me the video was enough.  The light moving on the dark.  Glowing and shifting.  All neatly fitted between wall and ceiling. 

Of course, Laura Dutton had several pieces of work installed.  Three videos and a number of photographs as well.  For me the main interest was the largest of the three videos.  This was essentially a video collage.  A light quilt.  A crazy quilt made from images of people walking.  The artist, Laura, stood on a street corner in Vancouver and filmed people walking in a skytrain station.  Their movements are directed, not as they would be in a less structured street scene where people could move in a multitude of directions for a multitude of reasons.  These people are moving towards another source of transport, the train.

Next to the people walking is a smaller video of a blue sky.  Every once in a while a bird or several birds fly across the screen.  Alone perhaps one wonders how the bird video would stand.  It is so subtle.  It requires something like time and patience and care.  A lot of us are too damned busy running for the train for that kind of quiet contemplation.  We are happier to have our attention directed for us.  We fall to gazing at light/dark/light/dark/light/dark and listening to the sound loop, the engine the wheels the engine the wheels.  When we get home we turn on the TV.  But what about just sitting and waiting for a blurry black spot to pass in front of us?  No direction, no control.  Just waiting. 

I almost wish that Laura had presented her work a little differently.  In fact, instead of multiple videos and photographs, I think the show would have been perfect as a single piece.  Perhaps just the people walking and the birds flying out of one projector, switching back and forth between those two moving images every few minutes.  A thoughtful visitor wouldn’t have needed more.  Who ever said that you had to literally fill the gallery? 

For those of you reading who wish to see this show, and I do recommend it, you must go on Saturday or Sunday, otherwise the show will actually be in a state of dismantle.  Xchanges is a working gallery which means that when it isn’t in the throes of an opening or in the quietude of the weekend, the gallery space is instead a workshop filled up with folks learning to paint or else working on their life drawing skills.  In my estimation this is the great drawback of an otherwise wonderful institution.  The gallery exists only momentarily and at odd moments, like on Saturdays and Sundays.  But don’t let that stop you.  Go and see Migration and if you see Laura, tell her that the sled dog sent you. 

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