State of the Arts

A light bulb goes on: Still from Jefferson Pinder's Invisible Man, 2005, digital video. Image courtesy of the artist
A light bulb goes on: Still from Jefferson Pinder's Invisible Man, 2005, digital video. Image courtesy of the artist


Jefferson Pinder: Work

A video installation at Warren Wilson College has left the Elizabeth Holden Gallery shrouded in total darkness. That darkness, though, is intermittently broken by Jefferson Pinder: Work, a series of flickering and quick-witted performance-videos that illuminate an artist’s physical-turned-social struggle against a working-class backdrop.

In each piece, Pinder, an artist and associate professor at the Art Institute of Chicago, appears as a business-class archetypal hero, clad in a white shirt, black necktie and gray woolen suit. He’s set in motion by beat-driven, pop and hip-hop soundtracks.

“Pinder's performances often depict the body at work and in completing tasks that demand extreme physical exertion,” says Julie Levin Caro, a WWC art history professor and the exhibition’s curator. For instance, in “Mule,” he drags a chunk of telephone pole bound to his back. The works, she says, “usually produces no tangible results.” Many leave off right where they started.

The “work and inertia are metaphors for social struggle and for the inability of many people in our society to be upwardly mobile despite working hard,” Caro says.

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Jefferson Pinder: Work through Sunday, Nov. 17. Pinder will give a talk on Thursday, Nov. 7 at WWC’s Canon Lounge.

COMPRESS FEST

The Media Arts Project (MAP), an Asheville-based media arts advocacy organization, has reformatted the standard-issue film festival to better suit the short-attention-span masses. The organization has taken a would-be days-long event and compressed it into a fast-paced, one-night-only film exhibition. COMPRESS FEST, a digital and new-media film festival organized and juried by MAP and Mechanical Eye Microcinema, opens Thursday, Nov. 14 at the Fine Arts Theatre.

COMPRESS FEST
is tailored to the high-speed digital age. The event features over 20 video works culled from more than 35 entrees by media artists in and around Asheville. These have been packed into an hour-and-a-half-long screening.

The videos range from 14 seconds to a maximum of five minutes. Works vary from those with regional relevance to the manipulated and purely abstract. There are avant-garde and glitch videos, mini-documentaries, abstracted biographies and even a pixelated Super-8 film noir. COMPRESS FEST serves as a collective outlet for these works, one that highlights innovative expressions of art and technology in Western North Carolina, according to Ursula Gullow, MAP’s board chair.

In the past decade, video and digital-media artworks have steadily found their way into the the fine-arts limelight. As arts-based digital technology has become more available, its use has become more pliable — thus transforming functionality into artistry. The work is becoming more visible and even appearing in exhibition spaces where it’s often found alongside paintings, sculptures and craft. There’s even an entire gallery dedicated to digital media in the Asheville Art Museum.

Yet, there’s still a deficiency in video and digital-media artworks, according to MAP members.

“Technology is making this media more accessible at home,” says Gullow, “but there still aren’t many media-arts opportunities in town.”

Much of that is due to the medium’s still-recent appearance in WNC’s traditionally craft-centric arts scene. But there’s also the issue of space and equipment availability, Gullow notes. While many area galleries and exhibitors are willing and able to accommodate such digital works, there’s typically only space for one or maybe two works at best.

For 10 years, MAP has focused on bolstering growth in the digital arts community through programming, granting opportunities and by organizing events like COMPRESS FEST. The organization has recently begun issuing grants to regional artists working in new media.

And while MAP doesn’t have a permanent gallery or office space, that has yet to hamper its focus or abilities. “We’re a nomadic organization,” says Gullow. “That’s forced us to see what’s going on out there and gives us the opportunity to collaborate with other area organizations.”

MAP uses that mobility to benefit digital media by reaching out and partnering with area arts groups and galleries such as Apothecary, UNC Asheville and, most recently, the Fine Arts Theatre. MAP also has a long-standing partnership with Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. The two organizations recently issued a call to artists for the fifth annual HAPPENING, a fundraiser and evening of arts performance hosted at Camp Rockmont each spring.

COMPRESS FEST takes to the screen on Thursday, Nov. 14 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Fine Arts Theatre in downtown Asheville. Tickets are $10 at the box office or through themap.org. Ticket sales benefit the Media Arts Project.

— Kyle Sherard writes about visual arts for Xpress and can be reached at kyle.sherard@gmail.com.

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About Kyle Sherard
Book lover, arts reporter, passerby…..

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