Austin Video Bee: Daring to fail
This sampler of video art being made in Austin could not have come at a better time
Formed in late summer 2007 as "a multimedia video collective" that "seeks to promote experimental and innovative artworks," the Austin Video Bee wishes to be an integral part of the vital Austin arts community and has come out with its first DVD. Founding members Elizabeth Abrams, Anna Krachey, Ivan Lozano, Rell Ohlson, Jill Pangallo, Corkey Sinks, Laura Turner, Kate Watson, Lee Webster, and Jamie Wentz came together to make a compilation DVD of shorts they had made, ironically titled Failure. The DVD cover looks like a self-help instructional tape that you would find at a thrift store, the title in big, bold yellow letters communicating that maybe this tape could help you overcome your own failures.
Like any mixtape, Failure contains pieces that you want to keep rewinding and ones you want to fast-forward through. Each video has a tinge of loneliness in it, with characters who are presented as removed from the rest of their environment or in their own constructed narrative/reality. Most of the videos actually have the maker as the main performer, which allows the shorts to be read as part documentation of a performance and part video short.
Lozano's "21st Century Machines: A Technodrama for Future Generations" happens to be the most cinematic of the group and is much more a surreal narrative construction about what the planet would be like with male-bodied machines. The voice-over and space-age sound transport your imagination into Lozano's proposed future. Pangallo's kitschy video/performance was filmed in Paris, where she wanders the streets trying to give out "free hugs" – although her T-shirt could also be translated as "free intercourse." The performance really reads like an SNL skit, except the sincerity of her outfit and expression makes you really feel bad for the character. Pangallo doesn't receive any hugs from strangers, and most people give her the look of some awkward individual they are somewhat afraid to go near. I found Watson and Webster's collaboration combining animation, performance, and narrative to be one of the most compelling. The two, dressed up as men with large mustaches, narrate the story of two men going down the river on a steamboat. The use of sound and paper animation creates a well-crafted video short. In the spirit of saving the best for last, Wentz films herself as an American Idol contestant who gets rejected and proceeds to cry after she hears the news. Shot against a green screen, Wentz superimposes herself over the contestant re-enacting her awful performance. How fitting that the final video shows such a literal failure.
As a cohesive themed DVD, Failure falls a little flat. While some of the videos are rather intriguing in their exploration of failure, others don't really fit into the theme. However, it's a valiant first effort for the Video Bee, and as a sampler of video art being made in Austin and an idea for a collective, this could not have come at a better time. AVB has the potential to become an integral part of Austin's growing arts community.
Failure is available for purchase at www.austinvideobee.blogspot.com.