Thursday, January 15, 2015

Time-based Media @ THE 2014 JAMAICA BIENNIAL

Courtesy of The National Gallery of Jamaica, Renee Cox – Zulu Man Tree (from Sacred Geometry), digital photograph
I am currently facilitating a course at Edna Manley College called 'Time-based Media'. It is one of three Media Art courses I developed under the guidance of Annie Hamilton, Hope Brooks and Petrona Morrison back in 2006. I had just finished my MA in Interactive Media in the UK and had many ideas about how to integrate the things I had learned as well as the pathway my artistic practice was taking down the road of hybridizing traditional art method and media with new media. I only taught the course for one year before leaving to study in Asia but after returning have been teaching it for the past year.

 Many things have changed. The Jamaica Biennial now has numerous multimedia works on show and in most but not in all cases there is a sense that artists who work with new media are allowed to inhabit the same privileged gallery space as artists using traditional media. I asked my first year students taking the Time-based Media course to visit the Biennial and in particular to engage with the work of artists such as Renee Cox, Petrona Morrison, Sheena Rose, Olivia Mc Gilchrist, Di-Andre C Davis and Storm Saulter as well as other less locally known artists using new media. Often work using new media can feel perplexing to audiences as it may be less familiar as an art medium for them. I asked the students to think about:

- The design of the work (images as well as physical placement of equipment)
- The equipment and physical parts used in actualizing the work
-  The images and technique used in the work
- and finally to ponder what concepts and sensations emerge in the work when they look at it.

You are also invited to visit the Biennial and discuss these and other questions about the new media work on show.



  1. The approximately nine (9) minutes long video animation or film done by Renee Cox was entitled “Sacred Geometry”. The piece was constructed by digitally manipulated images of the body to created beautiful geometric shapes. These shapes bear similarities to the gothic rose windows and also the mandalas. She used radial balance and symmetry throughout the entirety of her piece. Repetition of certain parts of the images also played a key role in the execution of her piece.
    The piece was displayed using a monitor as a medium. It was designed in such a way that a section of the previous shape was used to create a new shape. This made the transitions seamless and easy on the eye. Self-awareness, empowerment and spirituality was some the concepts that I observed throughout the animation or film. On occasions within the piece the manipulated bodies were grouped together to form a shape or image that could be a depiction of the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi. The word “goddess” was also mention on several occasions within the piece. This goes to show that being divine or a “Goddess” was of key importance to this piece .-Achim Clunis

  2. The audiovisual "Otherness" done by Olivia McGilchrist displays two females expressing their emotions by gestures with their upper body and facial expressions. Miss McGilchrist didn't allow the characters to speak, instead she chose a nonverbal approach and used tranquil sound effects as audio. This was displayed in the National Gallery of Jamaica. The video "Otherness" seems to be about race or unifying race. She executed the video in a dark room while the characters were clad in black clothes.
    Miss McGilchrist used live female characters to play the roles in my opinion this is because of the fact that females tend to be more emotional than males especially if it is about having differences, hence better execute the concept. The characters were nonverbal during the entire video that lasted for 7 minutes, this gave me a chance to use my imagination and figure out what the miss McGilchrist is trying to say. In the video the characters were separated at a point they seemed lost, scared and paranoid as hands coming from above seems to taunt them but once they were united they expressed emotions of empathy towards each other sharing whispers and touching each others face showing affection and finally raising their heads and hands to the skies.
    -Stephanie James

  3. The work of art that I’ve decided to write about at the National Gallery is a video by Olivia McGilchrist called Otherness. The colored video consists of edited live action footage of two women; one white and one black. For the entirety of the video, the women are only viewed from above the waist in the center of the screen and they’re surrounded by a black background that blend into their clothing as it is also black, taking the attention away from what the women were wearing and placing it at on the women’s faces. Sometimes only of the women will be on the screen in the video, while they’ll be together in other parts of the video but, they’re a theme throughout the whole video. Most of the times when the two women are on the screen together, they’ll be communicating with each other with movement like a dance. Some parts of the video featured two dancing pair of arms and since one of the pair of arms is white while the other is black, one can assume that they belong to the women and they were recorded separately from.
    When these dancing pair of hands appeared on the screen, they overlap in front of the recorded images of the women. However, the dark side on the arms seems transparent as they didn’t block out the women. This video was projected on to white surfaces opposite to each other in a dark room in an exhibition at the National Gallery with a video projector. Since the video only consist of edited live action footage in color that ran at a frame rate one can assume is at list 40 to 60 frames per second and had decent resolution, it probably is a contemporary piece. I think that the video is about racial unity. Gender seems to be a theme but, I can’t come up with any gender-related message from the video so I’m not sure if it’s relevant.
    -Marlon Minott

  4. While viewing Renee’s piece the intricate arrangement of the human body parts actually caught my attention. In her piece she incorporated limbs from the human body to create symbols of sacrifice etc. Each symbol was surrounded by a dark background which was used to create an illusion; the symbols appeared to be coming out of the screen. Some of these symbols can be associated with different religions. The piece was created digitally and was presented on a monitor to the artworld public.
    Renee Cox uses limbs from the human body (both male & female). These limbs are from people from different socio-backgrounds/Race each of which plays its own individual roles. Some of the symbols of produced movement. In creating her work she used repetitive overlapping techniques to form a wide range of religious symbols she also used sound in the background to create mood among the viewers so that they can better able relate/understand what the piece is representing and also for tranquillity. Renee used the digital medium to express her religious beliefs and in which create art. Jordan Harrison

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  6. The National Gallery's 2014 Jamaica Biennial featured the work of Sheena Rose as a video installation called "Town". There were 2 videos being projected onto the white walls, directly across from each other. Both had a town theme but they were different. The artist used a frame by frame approach that seemed almost stitched together to tell different stories, at times of someone waking up, making a phone call and then taking the bus into town, meeting up with friends, walking on the street and weaving between still images of persons. The second video focused on shop merchandise, buildings and electric wires, and was more about inanimate objects in town and not so much about people.
    In both videos the main images were brought into focus by removing some areas of the picture and replacing those parts with ink lines and ink or watercolour washes. As a viewer you were always interested because of the different techniques used, including filling talking or walking people with text, this could be a way of communicating things that were happening to them, it seemed that the words were describing them or the way they were thinking or what they were saying. She sometimes started a scene with a very busy image filled with detail, and as each frame passed she removed lines to create a simple image, then did an ink wash. At other times the images were built until a whole picture developed from what started as very simple lines showing a street scene or a store window display. Negative images were created by having darker surroundings. The combination of negative and positive people and things, along with the medium tone of the word-filled figures gave different dimensions and helped with creating perspective in the film. - Christopher Denton

  7. After a visit to The National Art Gallery i found interest in the works of Renee Cox. Her work was designed in a geometric kind of way, using people as her main instruments to show her views n life. Renee is said to do her work based on what she believes in such as the upliftment of the human race, of females and such. Her work was displayed in a dark room onto a wall by use of a projector.

    The work contained shrincked images of a male arranged in such a way as to give a feel of empowerment and as such grabs an onlookers eyes. At first glance one would not know that the piece was made of such but during the presentation it began getting clearer each time. The main concept in her work as stated before is human upliftment, although no two pieces are the same, she always finds a way to incorporate this into what she does.
    -Kimora Woolery

  8. Sacred Geometry – Renee Cox

    This biennial show for 2014 featured an artist by the name of Renee Cox. Renee Cox is a photographer and a mix media artist. She was born on October 16, 1960. She was born in Jamaica, later settled in New York. She had a passion for photography despite she wanted to do film making. Hence led to Sacred Geometry.
    Sacred Geometry was created based on certain topics like identity politics, empowerment, race and issues with women. Sacred Geometry was a part of her way of art which would take people out of their comfort zone. This piece consist of black and white images displaying self-similar patterns. She was inspired by mathematical concept that was used by ancient and now Africans. The work was projected unto a white wall.
    - Yashique Clarke


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