The Collegian
Tuesday, December 01, 2020

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Common violence in a common room

Blood spurted and dripped down the projection screen in the University of Richmond's International Commons Feb. 2.

Witnesses half-laughed, half-grimaced and gnawed on their nails to a soundtrack of screams and beasts ripping from body cavities.

The faces of predator and prey were distorted and paint-smeared by digital manipulation.

The terror started just after 7 p.m. when the lights dimmed on the small audience of students and community members during the Feedback: Video by Artists screening in the Carole Weinstein International Center.

The carnage- and airbrushed gore-melding of scenes from such recognizable horror films as "The Shining" and "American Psycho" was titled "Long Live the New Flesh," by Belgian artist Nicolas Provost, according to the program.

The 14-minute film fit into the genre of found footage, which entails an artist lifting clips from existing videos and incorporating them into a new piece, according to the Feedback website.

Freshman Madison Gongaware sat calmly in her chair during the second event of Feedback's five-part screening program on campus.

Gongaware said she was required to attend for her figure-painting class. Her art professor, Erling Sjovold, cautioned students who might find the clips disturbing to choose an alternate exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, she said.

Gongaware said she did not consider such violence in art, as in Provost's piece, to be controversial, but that society had seemed to ignore violence at times.

"I think it needs to be out there, that it does happen, so that people are aware," she said.

Head curator of the screening, professor of studio art Jeremy Drummond, also commented on the absence of controversy.

"That piece in particular might on the surface seem to be the most controversial, but if you pull out of it and you think about it, all of the source material is stuff that people pay money to go to see already in theaters," he said. "That's mainstream media.

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"That's regular culture in a certain sense. So what this artist has done is he's worked with it and it's become much more amped up through the digitization process from scene to scene."

The films are chosen based on time allotment, topics and budget, said student curator, senior Ralitza Dionissieva.

"We try to make it relevant and kind of mix up some of the heavier stuff with some of the funnier stuff," she said.

Dionissieva said she had helped select the films shown at the screening with the help of Drummond and fellow senior Bertrand Morin.

The films in the evening's screening did not follow a particular theme, she said.

The films did fit into the exhibition as a whole, which highlights the independent media genres of performance, documentary, appropriation and narrative, according to the Feedback website.

"We did our best to try to make them have some logical connection," Dionissieva said.

In reference to Provost's film, Dionissieva said finding a message within depended solely upon a person's perception.

"There are a lot of things that are just left for the viewer and are open-ended," she said. "It depends how you see it through your own eyes."

The intended shock effect of this film, and of any film, "depends on what the artist is trying to say," she said. "It could be a way to get people's attention."

Drummond said Program Four would include a controversial film titled "A Meditation of Violence" by Israeli artist Sagi Groner, which would focus on society's desensitization to the issue of mass murder in Iraq.

"It's controversial because it's dealing with a topic that we're all very much aware of," Drummond said. "But it's dealing with it in a very different way than we're used to seeing in modern news media."

Yet the controversy will not be related to violence so much as to perspective, he said.

Three video screenings remain to be seen. Program Three will be shown at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16, Program Four at 7 p.m. on March 12, and Program Five at 7 p.m. on March 23, in the International Commons.

All screenings are sponsored by the University of Richmond Museums.

Contact staff writer Katie Toussaint at katie.toussaint@richmond.edu

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