VIDEO ART REVIEW : Voyages and Visions at LACE

Wondering what the cultural phenomenon of the 1990s might be? Set your sights on video art.

Video cameras and camcorders (camera-recorders) have become so light, small and easy to use--no developing, just play the tape on your VCR or plug the camcorder into your TV--that they're falling into the hands of more artists. And even people who never thought before about making their own "film." (Would somebody please come up with a handy term to cover both film and video!)

And after camcorders fall well below the present $500 minimum, look out. Everybody you know will want to show you his or her video "home movies," and a growing number of people will be making more ambitious use of this equipment. The result: a lot more video art--the good, the bad and the very ugly.

Of course, video artists have been around for at least a couple of decades, tilling fresh ground with widely varying results. And finding it almost impossible to locate any place to show their work to the public.

Fortunately, for West Coast video artists anyway, there are EZTV and LACE in the L.A. area.

LACE's latest offering is a solo video exhibition by San Diego's Steve Fagin, which runs through Feb. 7. The featured new work is "The Amazing Voyage of Gustave Flaubert and Raymond Roussel," and it's worth a visit for several reasons. (LACE is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. at 1804 Industrial St.; there's no charge.)

For one thing, this work is typical of much video art to date: It doesn't attempt to make "sense" in the way that "normal" TV and movies do--it's non-linear, frequently confusing and occasionally indulgent and annoying (often an intentional feature of video art, as an alternative to and protest against mass-market Pablum). Yet, at the same time, this 74-minute succession of images and voices avoids many of the excesses of the form and is frequently thought-provoking, impressive and impassioned.

What Fagin seems to be up to here (and personal interpretation plays a big part when watching challenging video works like this one) is a statement about the nature of art itself--and about how we experience art. On view are several paradoxical relationships: between artist, artwork and reproduction of artwork; between static art (painting, sculpture) and moving art (film, video, performance); between "real life" and text (various readers--mostly women--provide near-constant quotes from and about the title "voyagers").

But "Voyage" isn't really about Flaubert or Roussel--or any of the other names that appear here--from Bellini to (on a movie poster) Bogart. A better title would be one that keeps cropping up throughout the video: "Museum of Copies." This "museum" is a probing, kinetic, acerbic, gritty, sometimes witty exploration of various art forms (don't miss the terrific pop-up book at the beginning) and how they distance us in degrees from the original visions and feelings of the artists.

Also being shown at LACE is a previous Fagin work, "Virtual Play: the Double Direct Monkey Wrench in Black's Machinery." Information: (213) 624-5650.

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