Not every work of video art is a work of sound art — not even every video work that takes music as its subject, such as a piece in medium-agnostic artist Bozidar Brazda’s current exhibit, titled Beat Meat Table Eat, at the gallery Bortolami in Manhattan.
What suggests this Brazda video, titled “Line Jerk-Off” (2007), is worth considering as sound art isn’t just that it presents a brief (maybe one-minute) loop of a fish-eye view of a close-up of a tattooed pair of arms rapidly picking a black-and-white electric bass, one of whose strings is missing (the second one from the bottom).
It’s how it’s installed, how it’s situated, and how it makes one choose between one’s senses.
A monitor is set on one blank wooden cube, a single speaker on another. You stand between them and watch a musician’s hands rapidly work at that bass while the sound rumbles behind you. When I did so earlier this week, I felt the bottom of my thick winter overcoat ruffle in the artificial breeze created by the music. I also found myself wondering whether the video had been sped up, and why the speaker was mixing a rough layer of glitchy static in with the funky bass playing. Looking at the video didn’t answer these questions, so I turned to face the speaker, which reversed the usual functions of audio and video, and which I imagine — or, certainly, I like to imagine — was part of what Brazda had in mind in the first place.
From Raymond Pettibon’s illustrations for the band Black Flag to the gothic-industrial explorations of Banks Violette, the imagery and sounds of heavy metal, punk and industrial music has long since infiltrated art galleries. Brazda’s “Line Jerk-Off” is a welcome addition to that growing catalog, even if I did experience empathy for the gallery employees who have to listen to that brief loop, which fills the room each day from opening to closing. One of them told me that they do occasionally opt to lower the volume.
“Line Jerk-Off” is the sole sound-emitting work in the Bortolami show, which is otherwise purely static and sculptural, including a table hung from the ceiling, a clear suit made of vinyl, and a stack of newsprint zines, which are free for the taking. The name of the zine, Morgensen, reportedly refers both to Danish furniture maker Borge Mogensen (the furniture in the show is all modern Scandinavian stuff) and to Niels Mogensen, a Danish punk musician. (More info at bortolamigallery.com. The exhibit runs from October 25 through November 24.)