Beat Kuert and his art – Ecleticism: videoart, performance and photography
by Novella Prestigiovanni, Milan 2010
Born in the 1960’s and considered a hybrid between movies and television, videoart has shown itself to be a very versatile medium, capable of broadening expressive means and stimulating creativity. It anticipated the interdisciplinarity which has become characteristic of today’s mediatic production.
Nam June Paik longed to create a comprehensive electronic universe where every kind of reality could be rewritten. Although utopic, his vision defines videoart as a creative medium in which we can reconsider and reinvent reality, sometimes even enabling us to see beyond the usual spatiotemporal boundaries.
The aesthetic of Beat Kuert’s work has many parallels with painting: exaltation of motion, the attention to color, light and shadow while apparently neglecting the narrative aspect. However, on a closer look we recognize that narrative has not been ignored, but employed to convey those segments of reality which are usually invisible or hard to perceive.
His art is based on the synergy between live performance, videoart and the selected (and edited) video stills which crystallize into photoprints. His intention is to create events in which the observer isn’t only a spectator but ends up partecipating in the action.
For his events and installations he writes poetry and commissions ad hoc soundtracks, working closely with a group of young artists. His art is complex and not always immediately accessible. We could say it demands a careful elaboration of all visual, textual and acoustic fragments.
Artistic style: technology and color
Beat Kuert proclaims the shot a picture-frame: a frame holding a surreal dimension in which the subject appears tangible but is actually fictitious and abstract. The artist makes ample use of digital technology: cross-fades, superimpositions and cropped frames. Many of his works contain scenes composed from fragments of a single image, or events shown simultaneously from differing points of view.
For Kuert, the editing process is sort of an artifice used to create surprising transformations and through which it’s possible to convey purpose and meaning to human motion. His meticulous probing of movement – frequently iterated – and the portrayal of ordinary actions of daily life could be interpreted as a reference to silent film, a tribute to what Tom Gunning called the “cinema of attractions”.
At first glance, the most striking feature of Beat Kuert’s work is the pervasiveness of color: saturated, seducing and charged with meaning. Color becomes an actor in itself, functionally equivalent to the performer’s body, both being matter to be shaped. The consistent saturation of color imparts the images with symbolism, sometimes by making ordinary details appear surreal.
Light and shadow often assault the images: abstracting, concealing and deforming the subject. Image contrast is used to stylize the human figure and subtle special effects – like smoke and ripples – are used to augment the dreamlike look of the video. Last but not least, music constitutes an invaluable element and dictates the rhythm of the editing. Not only does it express feelings and emotions but it also enhances the charm and elegance of shots.
Themes: Woman and Water, Art and Life
The woman is a constant presence in Beat Kuert’s videoart. A primordial – yet modern – figure, a human as well as artistic archetype. Her body is both object and subject, capable of dominating the world and at the same time destined to endure it. Internal and external universes are joined through her ethereal yet carnal entity.
She communicates mainly using signs and facial expressions, she is defined by her stare – absent, compassionate, longing, – by her grimaces of joy or pain, by her slow and emblematic motion – often iterated by the actress herself or through editing.
Beat Kuert’s protagonists often act within a domestic sphere deformed by color. The kitchen is one of the places where the daily rituals of women take place. Kuert’s woman has a voracious appetite for action and reality, she’s willing to desecrate everything, including herself. His female characters annihilate, demolish and burn with a subtle malice – never abandoning their childlike nature which emerges through a naïve impulsivity. Kuert portrays a modern female figure, constantly seeking her lost balance and her place in the world. She’s passionate, living from emotions and sensations which are counteracted by her potentially being a mother – for the first time freed from male authority. She’s often dissatisfied because she wants to experience the reality that surrounds her – so much that the outcome of her longing risks being her own annihilation.
However, there is a context in which she finds peace: nature. It’s a symbolic and stylized nature, harmonious and pretty, always underscored by captivating and relaxing music. Her soul is revealed through nature – she abandons herself and comes to a halt in order to meditate. She’s comfortable in solitude, satisfied and complete in herself.
The most recurring natural element is water, a motif intimately connected with the female universe. Still, deep blue water – the water of dreams – tantalizing but capable of sweeping away. Water as texture, water on the horizon but also water in the shower which – in a Freudian interpretation – betrays its association with amniotic fluid. Like art and creativity, woman and water appear to exist in symbiosis.
All considered, it’s exactly what Kuert’s woman represents: art. It’s a youthful art: fertile, lively, fierce but at the same time insecure, distressed and anguished. It’s art that – through a synesthetic experience – captures the eyes, drops the jaws and casts its iconographic howl.
It’s art that transcends the canonical boundaries and marks its own course, both on the screen and in live performances through the bodies of the interpreters. Art and life get mixed up in the battle against death, confirming once again the genuine purpose of art: leaving a footprint for eternity.
Beat Kuert depicts the anguish of nothingness and the frenzy of art – embodied by the woman who understands her own decadence and opposes it with all her means.
Kuert appears to have found his personal resolution to the art crisis: creativity should lay between the imitation of nature and the most technologically advanced production means.