LOOP Barcelona

Read our blogpost from this year's LOOP moving image art fair and festival

By Matthew Bremner

Heather Phillipson: immediately and for a short  time balloons weapons to  too-tight clothing worries of all kinds (2013), 15’ 23’’  Presented by Rowing, London

After an expletive fuelled taxi ride of 10 minutes, (courtesy of the driver), I arrive outside Barcelona’s Hotel Catalonia Ramblas, the hosting venue of this year’s Loop Fair. Inaugurated in 2003 in Barcelona as the first fair exclusively devoted to video art, LOOP’s festival programme consists of a showcase of selected artists’ videos and films, combined with a series of interactive seminars and round table discussions. Similar to this year's Sequences Real Time Art Festival in Reykjavik, LOOP uses hotel rooms to stage each of the individual films (46 in total this year), with the focus being on the artworks rather than the gallery or the artist.

Having collected my pass I’m guided to the to the POOL area, not an expanse of water but the meeting ground and special projects space, in fact a large hall scattered with artists, gallerists and journalists who, in spite of the early hour, happily encircle the free bar at its heart. I pass up the opportunity of a 10 o’clock beer and head straight to the lecture room.

The first talk (which is about how to be an artist today, how to interact with the gallery system and so forth) comes too wrapped in executive metaphors and business jargon. The second, however, presented by the Chinese collective and Gallery, Vitamin Creative Space, is an introduction to virtual world art, and specifically to RMB City (2008), the online metropolis created by Chinese artist Cao Fei on the social platform Second Life. In this alternative city fantastic and improbable social settings are built to critique and parody the reality of our world where, for example, Karl Marx and the CEO of Lehmann Brothers meet in a fabricated scenario to discuss the global economic crisis. There are elected mayors, internal city documentaries and immediate city reaction to reality’s breaking news. Live and ongoing, this type of art acts as a commentary on the major events in our societies and a conscience through which we can assess the morality of our choices in the real world.

We, like the music in the film, are striving to create drama and momentum out of life

After three more talks, and buoyed by these ideas, I head to the fair itself. Making my way through each exhibit, entering into each of the dark hotel rooms I sit, lie or perch, whatever the installation dictates. In general the works are good, with an air of nostalgia and playfulness, but of the 18 seen so far none  really stands out.

On entering the nineteenth room I am struck by a change of mood. This work is by French artist Cédrick Eymenier and is called Mirissa (2008). It is a 6 minute video shot from the viewpoint of a car on a moving ferris wheel that looks out onto a fairground parking lot as the sun sets. A sombre piece of classical music (by Cédric Pin) accompanies the action. What the camera documents is the emptiness of the scene below, with the events, or lack of, virtually unchanging. In contrast, the music crescendos to a soaring climax as the film ends.

It strikes me as a metaphor of the human condition, in the sense that we, like the music in the film, are striving to create drama and momentum out of life, while the wheel, representative of the world’s rhythm, shows us in its repetitive and consistent course that humanity’s existence, is in fact rather unchanging. Until one day everything just stops.

The next installation by Heather Phillipson called Immediately and for a short time balloons weapons too-tight clothing worries of all kinds (2013), is more cheery. To view this wonderful articulation of frustration, the viewer is encouraged to watch the video lying down (the image being projected on the ceiling), perhaps to imitate the star-gazing angst and dream filled actions of a teenager. It reminds me of the Adrian Mole books I used to read at 13.

The next morning I am up bright and early to explore some of the events outside of the fair that are part of the wider festival. At the Moving Image City Festival, I am delighted by the exhibition Pasolini Roma, which explores the relationship between director Pier Paolo Pasolini and the city of Rome, (and which runs at the CCCB until 15 September) and the topical Cairo Times, which focuses on the relationship between vision and knowledge within the political framework of the recent Egyptian revolution, at the Fundacion Suñol.

Back at the Catalonia Ramblas, in the now familiar surrounds of the POOL, I encounter an interactive group debate by one of the artist collectives. Sitting in on this conversation provides an insight into the different approaches to being an artist, and also how useful these idea exchanges can be in the refinement and production of new work. Impressed, I stay and mingle here for the rest of the afternoon.

As fairs like LOOP demonstrate, moving image works deserve the same status as any other medium. But here it’s the strength of the interchanges of experience, ideas and knowledge, between international artists, galleries and academics, which leaves the most lasting impression.

Loop, 16-25 May 2013.