4 October – 1 December 2002
For his first exhibition at Matt's Gallery, Victor Burgin will show a single-screen video projection work with sound entitled Watergate.
Watergate was commissioned by the Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, D.C., and first shown in the context of the 2000-01 Corcoran Biennial. Burgin shot his material in the American Romantic Painting gallery of the museum, and in a Washington hotel room overlooking the Watergate apartment complex.
The paintings in the gallery in effect summarize a nineteenth-century American cultural history, from the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Last of the Buffalo. A reproduction of one of the paintings, Frederic Church’s Niagara (1857), hangs in the hotel room. In Burgin’s video, a circling of the gallery first gives way to a panorama of the hotel room, and then to a renewed tour of the gallery walls in a title sequence derived from the labels accompanying the paintings.
The woman whose voice is heard over the images of the gallery reads an edited passage from Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, in which the philosopher asks what it means to say that we can ‘see’ that someone is not there. The title sequence is accompanied by an aria from one of Handel’s Italian cantatas, in which the singer repeats a single sentence: Alla salma infedel porga la pena (‘Inflict punishment on a faithless body’).
Technically, as in his previous videos, Burgin constructs his work in a space between still and moving images. For this work, he began by making still images using a digital panoramic camera. He reworked these images in the computer, and then converted the stills to virtual reality movies in order to make the camera movements. The point-of-view given in the final video is therefore that of a virtual, rather than real, camera.