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Culture Report: Immersive Video Installation Tackles Tik-Tok Attention Span

Brunno Silva Porto Vista Hotel
Porto Vista Hotel’s first curatorial resident Brunno Silva. / Photo by Holly Jane Sutor

A new video exhibition, “Parallel Screens,” aims to grab — and challenge — audiences’ attention. The project, developed during Brunno Silva’s three-month curatorial residency at Porto Vista Hotel, features work from 24 individuals across the world, including local San Diegans like Nick Lesley, Lissa Corona, Allison Beaudry, Flavia D’Urso, Jessica Ling Findley, Meredith Sward and Justin McHugh.

The São Paulo-born Silva, who curated and developed the project on-site at 1805 Gallery and Porto Vista Hotel, also visited local artists’ studios and held an eight-part lecture series delving into the video medium.

Two large screens, situated parallel to each other, will show a two-hour video of two pieces showing at the same time on opposite screens, with a single audio feed. The videos that play concurrently are intentionally paired, submitted as complementary works by the same artist, or as extra or split footage of a single project. It’s a challenge to the viewer’s attention span, navigating which screen to watch, when and for how long. “This exhibition is very much the celebration of the medium, and how people are using the medium now,” Silva said.

Brunno Silva
Brunno Silva at work during his residency, preparing videos for “Parallel Screens.” / Photo by Julia Dixon Evans]

The installation starts with a simpler piece, by renowned Brazilian artist Carla Chaim, who plays around with stark white moveable walls in a gallery, using two video feeds of varying angles. “It’s a visual cat and mouse game, isn’t it?” said Silva. When the subject leaves the field of vision on one screen, audiences are compelled to check the parallel screen, expecting her to emerge there next. The flow of videos ramps up to chaotic, then returns to calmer videos to finish. Each video ranges from a minute to upward of 20 minutes.

“People feel that they don’t have that vocabulary to enter into a conversation about video art,” said Lauren Siry, who coordinates the arts program at Porto Vista Hotel and runs 1805 Gallery. She added that Silva’s lectures and studio visits have helped build an open-minded, engaged audience and community. “We’re in a feedback loop locally,” she said of Silva’s critical insight.

San Diego artist, arts administrator and educator Lissa Corona’s contribution is a two-channel piece consisting of simultaneous footage from reality shows: Bravo’s “Real Housewives,” and Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club,” shows she regularly watches.

The well-dressed housewives are shown crying without context, whereas the footage from “Bad Girls Club” — a show that glamorizes the fighting, violence and destructive behaviors of so-called “bad girls” — shows the girls smiling, embracing and bonding. This contrast and subversion is just the first layer of Corona’s piece; the “Bad Girls Club” “happy” footage is taken moments before or after the girls bullied someone else, which reveals “the menacing truth of camaraderie discovered through bullying,” said Corona.

Corona is no stranger to video and experimental art. “I think viewing video art in exhibition spaces is more about the experience of dedicating time to really embrace the work and its content. It requires patience and allowing one’s self to be present with the work,” Corona said.

Silva agreed. “There is a massive distance between how we consume video in the gallery and how we consume video in our lives,” he said. Even with TV or viral clips, we view on demand, binge watch, mute or skip ahead, always in total control. For his exhibit, he wanted to better approximate that in the gallery – each piece begins with a title and its duration, so audiences know where they are in the two-hour project and can feel free to leave or walk in at any time.

But Silva doesn’t want to sequester all control to a viewer, and still wants audiences to experience the video in an immersive environment where he — and his equipment — can guarantee sound, quality and attention, like movie theaters continue to do with film. “I just want to bring people to the gallery to see it,” he said. “Just like cinemas. Why do we still have cinemas?”

Parallel Screens [1]” launches with a rooftop viewing on oversized screens at Porto Vista Hotel on Wednesday, and will continue with viewings inside 1805 Gallery through Aug. 11.

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