In 2005, I was a college graduate with ambition but no money. I was mixing cocktails and threading film through the projector at Durango’s Abbey Theatre. I’m an artist, and back then I did whatever I could to make a living in this town. But, what I really wanted to do was make performance and video art.
Some people think that performance artists are just “a bunch of weirdoes who love to get naked and scream about leftist politics,” according to Guillermo Gomez-Pena, a contemporary performance artist. But for me, performance art is simply about using my body as a vehicle for expression. Performance artists innovate and experiment, and are free to explore new ways of communication. Challenging tradition is what performance art is all about. If I can construct a unique experience for audiences, then I know I’m on the right track.
However, performance art is ephemeral. It’s meant to be experienced live, with the audience and artist in the same space at the same time. While performance art allows for much freedom, this live component places constraints and uncertainty on the art form. It’s like virtual particles popping in and out of existence; the art exists for only a moment, making it difficult to handle for everyone.
Video art emerged in the 1960s, when artists operating new video technology developed the moving image as a form of fine art. The advancements and availability of portable video cameras encouraged the development of this new medium. Unlike performance art, video art is much easier to understand; it’s the moving picture medium.
Now, there’s a big difference between video art and traditional film such as movies and documentaries. Movies tell stories with characters and situations, while video art is free of the conventions of traditional cinema.
As an artist, I decided not to document my performance art. Instead, I began creating performance art for video. You see, video art is the perfect companion to performance art because it solves the problem of the art having to be exclusively live, and it also welcomes experimentation. As an artist of these emerging forms, I welcome the challenge of discovering how to express myself in new, uncharted territory; I am not creating within a form, but creating the form itself.
We love all forms of art in Durango. But since 2005, I’ve wondered, where are the immersive installations, the interactive animations and time-based works of art? I want art that is electronic and experimental. Today, instead of driving to Santa Fe or to Denver in search of galleries with monitors or projectors, we can find it here at our own Durango Arts Center. DAC has opened a long-awaited and innovative exhibit dedicated to the moving image. Many thanks to Peter Hay, DAC exhibits director, for embracing these experimental forms of performance and video.
Durango deserves to see the light.
Stacey Sotosky is an assistant professor of journalism and multimedia studies at Fort Lewis College. Her new video/performance piece, “Political Moves,” is on display at the Durango Arts Center’s current exhibition “Vision All Together: Performance Art for Video.”