‘Blind Eye’: Clark Art Institute hosts its first video installation

  • “Blind Eye, 1” by video artist Jennifer Steinkamp was inspired by the woods at the Clark Art Institute. Photo by James Ewing Photography/courtesy Clark Art Institute

Staff Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2018

Along with its three French-related summer exhibitions, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown has opened a fourth show: its first-ever video installation.

“Blind Eye,” by acclaimed California video creator Jennifer Steinkamp, features new and older work by the artist, who uses video and digital projections to examine ideas about architectural space, perception and motion. 

In Steinkamp’s creations, many of them inspired by the natural world, trees, chains of flowers, tumbleweeds and other kinds of foliage sway to an invisible wind; leaves fall from trees and change color in three-dimensional projections that can reveal considerable depth. Coupled with the bright colors Steinkamp employs, the effect can be hypnotic.

The Clark’s senior curator, Esther Bell, said she has long been an admirer of Steinkamp’s work and thought it would be a good fit for the Clark’s Lunder Center, which opened 10 years ago on a wooded slope above the Clark’s main buildings. In fact, Steinkamp’s newest video, “Blind Eye, 1” was inspired by a grove of trees near the center and the general landscape around the Clark.

“This is a new milestone for us, and it’s fitting that Jennifer has used the landscape here as a foundation for her new work,” Bell said.

“Blind Eye, 1,” which takes up an entire wall — about 12 by 43 feet — of the Lunder Center exhibit, presents a deep grove of white and gray birches swaying in a breeze of varying force. The seasons pass as the video runs through its cycle. Light increases, leaves bloom and color and flash with sunlight, then slowly begin to wither and fall as cold weather arrives. The woods become dark and mysterious looking — until spring arrives with light and new leaves begin unfurling from the trees.

More than that, the many knots and scars visible on the trunks of the birch trees — which also feature impressive pealing bark — look just like eyes, giving the title of the video deeper meaning.

The installation includes four other smaller (though still spacious) videos by Steinkamp, dating from 2006 to 2014, all of which, with their moving, colorful images of natural and abstract forms, give the exhibit the feel of an enchanted forest.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.