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Is video art the same as film? Not really, points out a new festival

The second edition of the festival of Video art by Indian Contemporary Artists allows for a platform for these works that don’t fall under pre-existing categories

Sajid Wajid Shaikh's ‘Limbo’ 
Sajid Wajid Shaikh's ‘Limbo’ 

From a psychotherapist and Ayurveda physician to a performance artist and game designer, the second edition of the festival of Video art by Indian Contemporary Artists (VAICA) has representation of people from all walks of life. According to architect Anuj Daga, who has co-curated the public platform, the team didn’t want to limit itself only to trained artists. Rather, it reached out to any practitioner, who was engaging with video art in a novel manner. “As a result, we have art by engineers, psychologists, and more. This has truly become a pan-India fest, on the scale of a video art biennial, with 121 works by 79 artists. There are some very senior ones along with young artists, thus breaking parochial hierarchies in a way,” he says.

The first edition of VAICA was held in 2019 to take a closer look at artful and critical engagement with video and moving images. The idea was also to create a documentation and a public archive, of sorts, to serve as a source of research and reference for artists, scholars, historians and students from allied disciplines as well. The 2021 leg carries these threads forward and is themed around ‘Fields of Vision’. It has been curated by visual artist Bharati Kapadia, filmmaker Chandita Mukherjee and Daga. Featuring works by practitioners like Abhishek Hazra, Baiju Parthan, Gigi Scaria, Moonis Ahmad, Anjana Kothamachu, Chaithanya and Gayatri Kodikal, the festival will be streamed online over four weeks, free of cost on the VAICA website,  allowing viewers to watch the films at their own pace.

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Presented by the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in association with Comet Media Foundation, the works have been divided into four broad themes to be presented in four weeks. These include, Cartographies of Sensation (21-27 November), Orbits of Desire (28 November-4 December), Peripheries of the Real (5-11 December) and Urban Heterotopias (12-18 December). “The pluralising of the singular ‘field’ into the multiple ‘fields’ has a number of implications. It proposes widening of perspectives, multiplying vectors of viewing, and discovering new directions for wandering, pause and inhabitation,” mentions the curatorial note about the rationale behind the overarching theme, ‘Fields of Vision’. Each week will conclude with a discussion featuring some of the artists, a critical commentator and the co-curators, with the videos being replaced by a new set each time.

While awareness about video art is slowly seeping into public consciousness, there is still a grey area between films and video works. According to Daga, one of the ideas this year is to recognise and keep that distinction. “Video art can not be categorised as a film—long or short—or an advertisement film. For all of those categories, there are platforms and legitimation channels. But even among artists, there is a huge confusion about where their video work falls. I think this kind of festival allows for a platform for these works that don’t fall under pre-existing categories,” he says.

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Over the past couple of years, while screen time has gone up for most people, visuals often end up acting as white noise, with people only passively engaging with what is playing on their gadgets. In such a scenario, video art could act as a disruptor, compelling people to engage with the visuals differently. “A lot of work in the festival calls for active and interpretative engagement. The form of storytelling is sometimes abstract and often experimental. Today, we all record our precious moments in a video format, later stitching them together in different ways to travel through our memories. Video art harnesses these new kinds of formats, which might not be entered into by traditional film structures,” elaborates Daga. Also, one sees different forms of art come alive in video works—painting is mixed with sculpture, and digital art with performance art. “What happens when a painting begins to move or a drawing starts to have a life of its own. Those are the kind of things that this festival brings out,” he adds.

Fields of Vision will be presented online till 18 December on

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