The third International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala has a section devoted to video art.

In 1960, as Korean born American Nam June Paik videotaped the Pope's procession through New York City and then showed it in a small cafe close by, most believers agree, video art was born. What developed out of the anti-art movements of the 1950's and 60's soon came to become one of the most important aspects of contemporary art in a post modern (art) world.

Paik's quest, he has stated, is 'to combine the expressive capacity and conceptual power of performance with the new technological possibilities of the moving image'. Pushing the limits of our visual vocabulary, video art is now a defining concept in contemporary art all over the world. India is no exception.

The movement of video into the white cube of the gallery was an important step in the recognition and establishment of video as an important art form. Today the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy is imbuing it with a new significance by presenting 'The Black Cube: Video Art Zone'. The third International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala, will, for the first time, provide a unique opportunity for the exhibition of video art in the space of a film festival. Limiting itself to single channel video art, this package adds a fresh, new dimension to the film festival's focus.

On day one, the Black Cube will present 'Video', a package previously curated by Johny M.L. Featuring 10 different Indian video artistes; this package is an exploration of how these different artistes respond to the single theme that is 'a thinking individual's die hard struggle for equal rights and justice'. Says Johny: “These videos in ‘Video' could be a cross section of contemporary lives that are critically and aesthetically lived…. They don't play with the mesmerising effects of mechanics. They don't make claims of being ‘interactive.' But they make the viewers ‘active' in thinking; about the works they watch, if not at least about themselves.”

Malayali artistes

Gigi Scaria and K.M. Madhusudhanan, are Malayali artists who have made a significant impact on the video art scene, within the country and internationally. Day two, will feature a collection of short works by Scaria and by Madhusudanan.

With their distinct engagement with video art form and approach to content, the juxtaposition of the works of the two artistes will provide the viewer with an interesting opportunity to get a sense of the various possibilities within the genre.

Gallery Espace, New Delhi, is largely responsible for the promotion of video art in the capital by way of its programme ‘Video Wednesdays,' which provides a solid platform for a regular exhibition of video art. Day three of the Black Cube will feature a selection of works from this ‘Video Adda' along with a series of works made by students from the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram, during a workshop with Gigi Scaria.

Day four will provide us with a recap of the previous three days of exhibition. The space that The Black Cube occupies in the festival, within the Kairali theatre complex, the main venue for the other screenings, is an interesting departure from normal screening protocol. By its very nature, video art is something that needs to be engaged with almost like a chance encounter – a loop that you can wander in and out of or spend hours watching at one go.

Fluid boundaries

The Black Cube provides this flexibility to the viewer and therefore also draws attention to the fact that video art is not cinema. As Deeksha Nath, curator of Still Moving Image puts it, ‘video art confuses all arguments with its attempt to undermine the characteristics of photography and cinema, destabilising both the defining moment and narrative story telling.'

In fact, more than cinema, it is performance, conceptual art and Dada that seem to hold the seeds to the beginnings of the art form. Fluid boundaries and the intervention of technology has taken visual art away from static compartmentalisation as painting or sculpture. As Nam June Paik says: “Skin has become inadequate in interfacing with reality. Technology has become the body's new membrane of existence.” Then why should art be left behind?"

The Third IDSFFK is promising to be a great site to raise these questions and more importantly, watch some quality video art!