David Gryn blog

Playing with Reel Life – David Gryn interview on ArtInfo

In ABMB, Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach, Art Fair, Art Video, Artprojx Cinema, Miami, Miami Beach, New World Center on 28/11/2014 at 11:32 pm

Takeshi Murata and Robert Beatty, OM Rider, 2013, 11’39”, Salon 94, Ratio 3

The creative harvest at Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) is so colossal that picking one stand-out event is an exercise in impossibility. However, despite the enormity of the art showcase, certain sectors of the ABMB — from nine that it has been sectioned into — always reap more audience mindshare than most others. The film sector is one of those hallowed events.

The film program of the ABMB 2014 is expectedly humungous in scale with over 80 films and videos to be screened. The films and video works have been selected by David Gryn, director of London’s Artprojx, who has culled out work from ABMB’s participating galleries. The showcase also includes a tribute to Harun Farocki, the Indian-origin German filmmaker who passed away recently.

Gryn speaks to Blouin Artinfo about the films being screened at ABMB 2014.

BA. Why did you choose ‘Playfulness’ as the theme of the film section for ABMB 2014?

DG: This year, my selection for the 4th edition of Film section has been driven by the notion of ‘Playfulness’: the playfulness of Internet gaming, online action, art making, dance and performing, color, sound and music. Most art making is playful by its very nature, however I have always designed the film program to consider audience engagement; the films selected reflect an exciting range of artist works that stimulate, enliven and rivet the audience, with captivating color, sound and process. This is not about showing art that is just easy to digest, but about showing art that is inherently engaging and encourages audiences to stay for an hour or three.

BA. Could you explain the selection process in detail?

DG: We have approximately 200 artist submissions from about 150 galleries at the fair. I work closely with many galleries to encourage their submissions of their artists. Galleries are usually the experts in their artists’ outputs. I see my role as a facilitator and enabler. Some galleries submit many entries and others, very few. My challenges are the galleries who do not submit at all, although some just do not represent any artists who use moving image. But my pleasure is the galleries who send me plenty.

Usually galleries who have seen the vast scale, brilliant sound and huge and receptive crowds are very happy to reapply each year. There are some galleries that I request artists from and some emerging artists that I introduce into the program.

BA. What are the most popular subjects that artists today are making films on?

DG: The internet and the multifarious worlds it intersects is an obvious subject. Art making remains at best when it is about making art but speaks to us about the essence of the human condition, without using a sledgehammer to make its point. True artists are constantly striving for a newness in their work and with the ever growing demands of making commodities, seek to turn to areas of art practice which have a difficult relationship with finance and demand an audience that actually looks, interrogates and digests their artworks.

BA. Is there a fundamental difference in the way artists approach the art of filmmaking today than it was about two decades back?

DG: The big change is the evolution over the last 20 years of digital technology. But the great artists remain few. There is a language of the internet that didn’t exist, but it is inherently about communication and it obsessively feeds our innate appetite for information and that is all about our need to co-exist with each other. Artists are now growing up with the online world as their natural language.

BA. Somehow, films by artists largely remain in the realm of documentary. Why is it so?

DG: Film and video by artists are another distinct artist medium like painting and sculpture. Filmmakers have often other concerns, however filmmakers like John Waters, Sophia Coppola, Ingmar Bergman are great artists whose art is film.

BA. At ABMB 2014, you are also going to give the talk — ‘Playfulness: Artists as Online Gamers, Surfers, and Armchair Digital Revolutionaries’. Could you explain?

DG: The title of the talk was central to my initial thinking for this year’s film programming, with a goal to have Tabor Robak speak, as he was one of my starting points. He curated the program that includes his work and that of Oliver Laric and Jon Rafman, they are leading lights amongst artists working in the digital art making sphere. I included Harun Farocki — whom I would have added anyway, but he sadly died in the process, so his inclusion is now a tribute to such a great artist, whom I spent much time with recently at the Loop Video Art Fair in Barcelona. Rachel Rose is the other artist on the panel, and her work had been introduced to me by Chrissie Iles, the brilliant curator of ‘Film and Beyond’ at the Whitney, and I am delighted she had agreed to be the moderator.

BA. Do films by artists find patrons with deep pockets just as visual arts do or is there still a financial divide between the two? 

DG: The positive financial world of artists’ films is still an evolving process. My role in doing this work with Art Basel evolved from the belief by the art fair that we still need to encourage galleries to show artists’ moving image, even if the market is very limited. It is an ever growing practice by artists — which has yet to fully find its commercial feet. This is indeed work in progress.

BA. What films would you suggest to a lay admirer of art who wants to educate himself on the subject? What is your personal all-time favourite film in the genre?


RACHEL ROSE, Palisades in Palisades, 2014

DG: There is a shot in a recent Rachel Rose film ‘Palisades in Palisades’, where the camera pans in on the flesh and v-neck part of a sweater, and you see the goosebumps next to the weave and texture of the sweater, and it is just a brilliant moment of human encounter in an artists’ work. That is currently my favourite moment by an artist film.

My advice is to regard us art organisers, curators, galleries as generally a good level of quality assurance, decision making conduits and filters to often really great work. To name any one artist would be disingenuous to others. However, to give you an answer, if Philip Guston was alive and could make films like his paintings then I would be truly happy with that, perhaps with the additional choreography of dancer Michael Clark and the melancholic balletic piano sounds of Chopin.




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