artcore journal

artcore journal

Victoria Fu: Blurring Lines Between Visual Arts and Cinema by Rana Edgar

Women have played a pivotal role throughout the history of experimental film genre. In the 1940s and 1950s celebrated filmmaker Maya Deren shaped American avant-garde cinema and in the 1970s Belgian-born Chantal Akerman defied the norm of conventional narrative cinema with pivotal works like La Chambre (1972) and News from Home (1976). Today, Victoria Fu follows along the same path of extraordinary experimental film making, by continuing to push the boundaries of her artistic practice in films and installations. Fu’s looped film projects, which have recently been featured in solo exhibitions at Samsøn, Boston, M.A., Marginal Utility in Philadelphia, P.A., and Flashpoint Gallery in Washington, D.C., among many others, shift between the digital and real world. Blurring lines between the visual arts and cinema, Fu’s ability to fuse digital and analog imagery results in scenes that collectively explore fantasy, horror, and science fiction movie genres within a spectrum that is all her own. Her adept use of film—8mm, 16mm, and digital, along with photography—results in uncanny, sublime and seemingly subliminal scenes. Generated by light and alluring imagery Fu develops shadowed figures, shapes, and hues that flash and flicker, expand and draw inward, and build momentum in the conscious and unconscious mind of the viewer.

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Fu’s most recent film-based works Milk of the Eye (2012), Three Breaths (2012), Lorem Ipsum I (2013), and Lorem Ipsum II (2013) engage her audience’s optical sensory fields through the use of repetition, alteration, memory, and displacement. Ultimately, challenging one’s capacity to piece together fragments of a narrative. In Milk of the Eye, a black and white, 16mm film projection, viewers are confronted with a peaceful pastoral scene where an ambiguous figure appears in the distance walking toward the camera. While holding a small mirror the figure moves down a dirt pathway; sunlight reflects off of the mirror’s surface and flickers wildly in front of the camera’s lens (in front of the viewer), rendering the screen white at intervals synched with the figure’s movements. To achieve this effect of blinding white light, Fu’s manipulates the film negative, purposefully exposing it, and allowing for pure light to flow from the 16 mm projector. The light spasmodically obscures the viewer’s ability to follow an uninterrupted narrative scene. Anticipation of a resolved ending to the film is abruptly cut short when the film quickly loops back to the beginning before we are able to attain the identity of the figure. Fu’s seemingly anti-climacteric ending in Milk of the Eye creates a non-event similar to one in Akerman’s film Saute ma ville (1968). Both Fu and Akerman’s female characters move about their respective spaces—one inside, the other outside; one completing domestic chores, the other walking along a path—both evoking a sense of the uncanny and instilling a sense of longing on the part of the viewer in their abrupt and unresolved endpoints.

Three Breaths, a color 16mm film, requires the viewer to further rely on their observational skills—particularly that of focusing on the work from beginning to end—in order to construct meaning from the images presented. The film opens with a white screen, reminiscent of a blank canvas. Slowly translucent hues—blue, purple, red, orange, and yellow—appear and create overlapping abstracted forms. The colors almost seem as though they are being spray-painted onto the surface, line-by-line before the viewer’s eyes. The hues eventually consume the space, generating a sense of tranquility. Staring into the layers of warm chromatic tones, visions of vibrant sunsets are conjured with colors growing darker in tonality over a short period of time. Suddenly, an image of a desert landscape flashes on the screen and in an instant the viewer is visually transported to a different place; and the film loops to begin again. As in Milk of the Eye, the viewer’s perception of events is jarred by a sudden shift in the visual inflection of the film.

Victoria Fu, in collaboration with Ester Partegas, Three Breaths, 2012, 16mm film projection. Image courtesy of the artist.

Victoria Fu, in collaboration with Ester Partegas, Three Breaths, 2012, 16mm film projection.
Image courtesy of the artist.

In many ways Three Breaths is suggestive of the sensorial experiences generated by artist James Turrell’s phenomenological colored light installations; their simulation of sublime experiences are both invigorating and disturbing. While Turrell’s color-based works are all encompassing environments that are spatially disorienting, Fu’s work is more intimate, meditative, and concentrated. However, like Turrell, Fu’s works are enlivened by the brain’s capacity to ‘fill in the blanks’ of what cannot be seen by drawing on previous experiences.

Victoria Fu, Lorem ipsum I and II, 2013, 16mm film transferred to digital video projection and photographs. Image courtesy of the artist.

Victoria Fu, Lorem ipsum I and II, 2013, 16mm film transferred to digital video projection and photographs. Image courtesy of the artist.

In Fu’s most recent works, Lorem Ipsum I and Lorem Ipsum II, recorded on16mm color film and then digitally manipulated, she further develops her use of linear narratives. Lorem Ipsum I and Lorem Ipsum II push the viewer’s active role of examining and processing imagery; through the use of multiple layers depicting geometric forms and bursts of warm and cool colors, reminiscent of a computer desktop screensaver, paired with mysterious flashes of multiple young blonde female “protagonists” whose faces and figures flash in and out of decipherable suburban settings. In both films a series of layered picture boxes prevent the viewer from seeing the character’s face. Each of the film’s titles contains the term “lorem ipsum” which by definition refers to the placeholder text used in graphic design and publishing to fill the space where important text would fit into a document; leading us to wonder if the female figures here is a stand-in for someone else, perhaps the viewer or even the artist.

Victoria Fu, Lorem ipsum I and II, 2013, 16mm film transferred to digital video projection and photographs. Image courtesy of the artist.

Victoria Fu, Lorem ipsum I and II, 2013, 16mm film transferred to digital video projection and photographs. Image courtesy of the artist.

This is not the first work in which Fu has employed the use of a title to provide additional information to the viewer. In her 2009 film Portmanteau—a word signifying the combining of two or more separable aspects or qualities—Fu evoked notions of a sensorial experience with the term by doubling scenes and figures and joining them to create one cinematic piece. Like Portmanteau, the title used in Lorem Ipsum I and Lorem Ipsum II, along with the sequencing of images create an uncanny experience, where the viewer is ultimately left fascinated and perplexed by the film.

Fu’s sensorial works prompt us to rely on our own conscious or subconscious memories to decipher the film’s content—in effect making each experience with Fu’s films unique to the viewer. Fu’s works encapsulate Kant’s philosophy, exerted in his text The Critique of Judgment, which explores one’s ability to judge and be imaginative and one’s ability to be rational and cognitive. To comprehend Fu’s work fully we have to put these two capacities of our mind– the imaginative and the cognitive—into play. Fu’s films succeed because of their ability to elicit a human response and to test the human mind.

Rana Edgar holds an M.A. in art history from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, G.A. and a B.F.A in photography from the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, M.I.

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2013 by in Volume 2, Issue 1: Women and tagged , .
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