Project Space: Austin Video Bee

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      Austin Video Bee formed last summer as the result of a conversation a group of us had about the relative lack of "nontraditional"—be it female, queer, etc—video artists in Austin and our need to be supported by a group of peers. Kate Watson got the ball rolling and recruited other underrepresented video and performance artists.

      The nexus of the group is the notion of the "bee," that lovely antiquated word that refers to “a social gathering with a goal.” Although "bee" may bring to mind a "spelling bee," a competition, we prefer the tradition of the quilting bee or a husking bee, a gathering of people to accomplish a difficult task. Our task, although far from the tedium of husking corn or raising a barn, still relies on the voices of a group to complete work that no individual should have to do alone. This act is both individual and collective; each voice remains its own, yet its strength multiplies when heard with many others.

      When we started talking about "Failure"—the title of our first DVD (February 2008)—we all agreed that the decision to make art— especially video or performance art—puts us at a much higher risk for failure. Being a video or performance artist isn't a conventionally prestigious profession. During that scary jumping-off moment of creating our first big project, “failure” seemed to be a theme that fit everyone's mood. Jill Pangallo designed the cover of the DVD to resemble a self-help kit. She brought in an actual self-help video set she had found at a thrift store, and we loved the aesthetic of it—totally low-budget (which we, of course, were drawn to), silly and bold, yet poignant. The image of us on the front feels like it's full of hope, and it exists in contrast to the videos themselves, all of which ring with a quiet melancholy.

      Ultimately, Failure should be approached as a mix-tape or a patchwork quilt of different voices, ideas, works, approaches etc. We’re challenging the viewer to think about how immersed we all are in failure, how it emerges in subtle, everyday moments (Anna, Laura) or in larger than life “monstrous failures” (Jamie). There is so much that exists in between, however. Jill is playing with a literal failure of translation (in language) that causes the pathetic, misunderstood central character (who is trying desperately to connect) to fail because she can't see beyond her own nose. Lee and Kate are playing with transcendence over failure, the mightiest moment of invention (after countless failures) when the characters know that they have altered the course of history forever.

      For this Artist's Space, we decided that each member would create a video loop. Video loops are quick and dirty. They capture the viewer's attention quickly. At the same time, a series of loops is the perfect way to create a sense of "visual cacophony"—to give viewers an overview of the incredible array of styles and techniques in AVB. The loop is also a form of hypnosis. We’re interested in the idea that repetition and looping might transcend the original short video and turn it into something else.

      Right now we are working on two projects. We will be doing an installation for Fuse Box that will run throughout the duration of the festival. For this project, we will transform an Eastside bar into a multimedia wonderland. We are accepting submissions for this project and would love to have anyone in Austin or elsewhere submit their short (under 30 minutes) videos to us at austinvideobee@gmail.com. We will be compiling all submissions, along with our work, onto a DVD and showing the work via projection and monitors throughout the bar. There will be two special evenings of performance in conjunction with the installation on April 25th and May 2nd. We, along with others, will also be participating in a large video installation for Women and Their Work's 30th anniversary benefit party on April 19th (at the top of the Frost Tower!). These projects are great experiments for us—and hopefully they will get Austin excited about the Bee.

      Austin Video Bee is a multimedia collective based in Austin, Texas. The founding members are: Elizabeth Abrams, Anna Krachey, Ivan Lozano, Rell Ohlson, Jill Pangallo, Corkey Sinks, Laura Turner, Kate Watson, Lee Webster and Jamie Wentz.

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