What's most often challenging about video art is the time that it takes. More often than not, gallery go-ers will stop in front of a screen for just a few seconds before moving on to a more static, less demanding medium. But the video works displayed at Famous Accountants' refreshingly humble basement space shouldn't be denied for the sake of time. The works in Per-son-age (through September 11) are remarkably eloquent, even pithy, for their medium; most don't last for more than five minutes.
Of course, there's more value to them than just their succinctness. Curated by Rico Gatson and linked together loosely by an "artist as protagonist" theme, the artists on display in Per-son-age drive their narratives themselves by taking on the starring roles in their own videos. Using humor, metaphor, and the monotony of routine, the artists at Famous Accountants provide an insight into perception, artistic method, and the underpinnings of social systems that often go unnoticed.
Brittany Prater's extremely quick video "The Bee" (2010) melts grainy footage seamlessly into hand drawings and Disney film footage. A honeybee trapped indoors dreams of freedom, and Prater opens the window so that it can escape. The bee flies away, but Prater faces dire consequences, the details of which go undisclosed. The video is both sweet and tragic, all in a minute and a half.
Laura Parnes takes the superficiality of the art world head on in an episode of her video series "The Real Art World" (2004). In episode 4, Parnes plays an artist making a proposal for a 9/11 memorial. The two slick businessmen to whom she's speaking, however, seem less interested in her method and theories than just dollars. What the video lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in good humor, not to mention its frank portrayal of the imbalance of power between the artist and the buyer.
In "Anatomy Lessons," Lars Kremer addresses formal artistic practice by inserting himself into anatomical sketches. Kremer shows the viewer an anatomical drawing sketched out on paper and then reduces it to white lines against a black curtained background. Then, Kremer himself enters the frame#&8212;in his boxers, no less#&8212;and with mock seriousness contorts himself until he fits snugly within the contours of the lines. It's an interesting, almost absurdist, take on artistic convention. In "Anatomy Lessons," it's the medium that shapes the artist, not the other way around.
(Photo: Dan herschlein, "sounds of hot" (2010, still). Courtesy Famous Accountants.)