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The Right Footage in "Remixed & Reloaded"

The CAMH screens video works — lots of them — by black women artists

The show is filled with other powerfully evocative works. In María Magdalena ­Campos-Pons's video History of a People Who Were Not Heroes (1994), a haunting Cuban lullaby is sung while a sheet-draped rocking chair moves back and forth. Old photographs of people and places are projected onto the sheet in ghostly images; the lullaby becomes a lament.

In Cut, a video by Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry, the artists, a couple, cut each other's hair with a straight razor. McCallum is white and Tarry is black, and the seemingly straightforward mutual act evokes power, submission, loss and sensuality. The sound of the razor sawing through hair creates a palpable tension.

A screening room presents around two hours of video on its own. Unfortunately, every time I went in, the only thing I saw was Camille Billop's 26-minute 1987 documentary Older Women and Love. The 20-year-old film comes across as dated and quaint as it tries to present relationships between older women and younger men. No doubt there are stronger offerings, but the room seems like a catchall for works the organizers didn't want to leave out.

Cut evokes power, submission, loss and sensuality.
Courtesy of CAMH
Cut evokes power, submission, loss and sensuality.

Details

Through January 4, 2009.
The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250.

A whole show of video is tremendously difficult to present in a gallery environment. Audio is a problem; the works shown in their own rooms fare well, but when pieces are grouped in an open room, many of them become impossible to understand. Even seating becomes an issue. Stark, aesthetically unobtrusive wooden benches are okay for brief videos, but sitting down to watch lengthy offerings shouldn't feel like an act of penance, as it did in the screening room. How 'bout some couches, people?

Video is a powerful medium, but it's a medium that requires a level of commitment from the viewer. One study found that museum viewers, on average, spend less that 30 seconds viewing an artwork, so presenting this much video is a tough task. But expand your attention span, and your patience will be rewarded. Showing up with a lawnchair and a snack isn't a bad idea either.

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