Christina Battle and Adán De La Garza on video art and the quasi-imperialistic nature of sound

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Several years ago, when Adán De La Garza and Christina Battle moved to Denver from cities with vibrant media arts communities, they sought out the same thing here. They did not find it. As video artists, they craved an artistic network, a local scene where they could bounce off ideas and find a home for their projects. Colorado has an amazing array of experimental film- and video-makers working outside mainstream traditions, but too often people find themselves isolated. De La Garza and Battle opted to correct that and launched Nothing to See Here, an organization devoted to showcasing a variety of underrepresented media arts: sound, film, video and performance. Tomorrow they'll host the second edition of Loud!!!, with several short films and a performance exploring the political and aesthetic power of sound at the Sidewinder. In advance of that event, Westword spoke with De La Garza and Battle about their plans.

See also: Suranjan Ganguly on experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage

Westword: Talk about the screening.

Adán De La Garza: It's a series of clips and small artists' videos where sound is the driving force. The content varies, but the selections we made are based on sound as the dominant aspect of the videos.

Can you break that down?

De La Garza: We're thinking about these things in terms of what it means to be loud and how sound is a quasi-imperialistic art medium. It's a non-optional sort of experience.

Christina Battle: I think often in video works, it's so image-based that because there is a focus on something happening, artists often delegate sound and music to the background, as an afterthought. All of these works bring sound to the foreground, so they are conceptually about sound, and they're also aesthetically and visually about sound as well.

These short videos were made by a number of different artists around the world. When we curate things for Nothing to See Here, we try not to make judgments about whether or not a work is developed for an artistic space or audience. There are a number of works that we found on Youtube that conceptually fit with this idea that we have about sound and its relationship with video. Some of these people might not think that they were making an artwork specifically.

Can you unpack this notion that sound is quasi-imperialistic? Where are you coming from?

De La Garza: When things are visual you can close your eyes and remove yourself from that space; whereas, you can't really eliminate sound. The person who is emitting the sound is in control of the space that they're in. Be it speaking or utilizing an amplification system, sound dominates the space and delegates what happens within that space.

Battle: We're interested in looking at artists who are not taking sound for granted and reminding us that we should be thinking about this not only in artistic works, but on a daily level as well. Not all of the works take on the issue in this politicized sense, but this is how we're coming at these ideas and these issues in sound. We sought out works that are highlighting sound and allowing us to think through this greater idea.

Sound is something that we don't think about. Both of us also teach. One thing that I always say to my students at the beginning of the semester is that if you're looking at something you don't feel comfortable looking at, you can remove yourself from the situation. With visuals, it's so simple. You can just close your eyes. With sound you have to remove yourself from the space entirely.

Continue reading for more about Loud!!!

When you talk about imperialism, are you referring to an international or nationalistic context sound operates in?

Battle: Sound is very much used in weaponization strategies as a tool for war, literally. Conceptually, we are terrified by this notion that we take sound for granted when it does have these destructive and political elements. We're really not mincing words.

It's funny; even as we talk conceptually about where these ideas come from, the program itself is actually really humorous and fun. A lot of artists, in our minds, are embracing this idea of sound and using their work as an opportunity to be loud or to make a personal statement. That's something in society that we don't ever allow ourselves to do. We don't allow ourselves to go out onto the street corner and scream, even though a lot of times it's incredibly therapeutic to do that, and we all want to do that or break things.

Talk about the screening series?

De La Garza: This is the second screening that we've done. It's basically out of necessity for both of us in seeing the sorts of works that we want to see in this city and going about it in the most immediate way we know how, which is building a community based on video screenings. It doesn't happen too often in Denver. In the most immediate sense, that's one of our goals here. It's just the two of us. We're trying to bring some new content to Denver.

Battle: I think one thing that is different about Nothing to See Here is that we're trying to bridge gaps between a number of different communities. Our screenings have both been at the Sidewinder which has a space that predominantly operates as a music venue. Something that tends to happen, for whatever reasons, is that video screenings and film screenings are really separated from a music crowd or a sound-performance crowd and even sometimes from the art community itself. We operate individually and as artists within a lot of different communities. We do this as a way to talk about how our own interests span beyond this specific genre or discipline and how we might be able to generate things that a number of different people would be interested in seeing who have never thought about the links between the history of video art and performance. Loud!!! will start at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at the Sidewinder, 4485 Logan Street; there is a $5 suggested donation.

Follow me on Twitter: @kyle_a_harris


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