Riffing on Film Totems

Riffing on Film Totems

Burt Barr’s work represents the engaging potential of video art

Burt Barr’s work is, in many ways, unique in the field of video art. His work is technically polished and full of wit and reference to film arts of all types. Three recent pieces make up his current show at Brent Sikkema.

Two screened pieces—“Roz”, and “The Mile: Running Time 7:25”—are featured in the main gallery. “The Fan,” in the back gallery, is not, strictly speaking, a video piece, though it does incorporate a video DVD.

“Roz” seems to be a pretty straightforward color video. Roz—Roz Leblanc, a beautiful African American performer—stands in the shower and begins to lip sync to a soundtrack of Otis Clay singing a soulful version of “The Banks of the Ohio.”

The classic film and film genre references the piece evokes quickly become complicated. Hitchcock springs to mind at the sight of the tiles in the shower and Roz’s wet hair. The framing of the shot is reminiscent of Warhol “Screen Tests.” Something in the camera’s steadiness and the crisp color recall Godard.

The fact the Roz is lip-synching—it looks as though she’s following instructions—to a man’s very deep voice becomes remarkable as the song unspools. It is downright spooky that she’s singing a song about the murder of an unwilling lover.

“The Mile: Running Time 7:25” is just that. A woman jogs on a foggy dune road. The soundtrack is her breathing and her footfall. The time is counted down in the corner of the screen.

“The Fan” consists of a shiny oscillating fan on a wooden pedestal, onto which a video of the same fan, in operation, is projected. This produces a shadow-and-film double image. Sometimes the oscillations of the real fan and the projection coincide and sometimes they don’t. In addition, the projector light on the real fan creates a spinning reflection on the walls as the fan moves back and forth. This is a really beautiful post-minimalist installation sculpture.

The three works by Burt Barr make quite a provocative stop-off on a hot afternoon.

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