Twice a week for three hours, eight students head to John Pickel’s lab. There are no beakers or Bunsen burners. Instead, art students use high-def video cameras and editing software to experiment with creative ideas.
Through trial and error, students have completed video art installations that will be exhibited Nov. 16-27 at the Wake Forest University Student Art Gallery (START Gallery) in Reynolda Village. The students have combined lessons learned about camera techniques, digital editing and non-camera animation, with an understanding of how to use these tools to create a biographical piece of contemporary art.
The students have a limited amount of time to capture their viewer’s attention — about three seconds — says Pickel, an associate professor of art. He says one of the main differences between video art and photography or painting is that the viewer makes the decision about what they will see. Works need to be designed so a person catching a video in the middle of a loop will want to stay and watch the rest.
Pickel says his students have worked as a team to make each exhibit the best it can be. “I encourage them to work together,” he says. “They give each other constructive criticism and guidance and help each other technically to create the content.”
Senior Richie Loria and sophomore Lauren Martinez, two students in Pickel’s class, say the group is always ready to help flesh out ideas and offer suggestions.
“With my piece,” says Martinez, “the viewer becomes part of the art itself by stepping into the installation. My work involves deconstruction and reconstruction of self. In developing the project I really had to think about what is working in my life versus what I may need to reconsider. One of the most difficult parts of this exhibition is that it’s personal. It’s like having someone read your diary.”
Loria describes his work as a parody. “My piece is about the duality in each of our personalities. I wanted to explore this. The exhibition focuses on biographical material, but what is interesting to me is the question of just how much honesty we really bring to the table when we consider our lives.”
For those coming to the exhibit, Martinez gives this advice. “Don’t come with expectations. Instead, allow yourself to be taken in by the works.”
Pickel, who has been designing and using video in his own work as an artist, says the process of making video art installations is a life lesson in tenacity. “Perseverance is the thing that I most want my students to learn from this course,” he says. “The first attempt at creating something may not look like you expect it to, but things are never like you imagine them. You have to keep re-imagining and looking for different strategies that will help you communicate your ideas.”