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Letters to the Editor: Nov. 8-15

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Video Critique Rewound

Gregory M. Knepp's recent article "Mirror, Mirror" was an offensive, and ultimately failed, review of a video-art exhibition, as shallow put-downs rarely qualify as critiques. I would like to point out just a few of Mr. Knepp's shortcomings.

First, describing Eric Fleischauer's "excuses, excuses," he begins with "... what's more off-putting than narcissism and inside jokes." While the show is titled "In To My Self," narcissism is not the theme. To me, this is an opportunity for artists to exploit one of the fundamental elements video employed as an artistic tool. From the outset of video exploration by artists in the 1960s, its ability to instantaneously review recorded material has had implications which still remain a distinction of video art. Of these implications, the issues surrounding artists directly addressing the camera continue to be explored. Are they addressing the audience? Is it a mirror?

Fleischauer's confessional video piques the viewer's interest in these issues with his unflinching admission of "failed" projects for the show. In great detail, he divulges his lost opportunities in a manner which addresses the "time-specific" aspect of capturing images. Mr. Knepp does not offer any description of Fleischauer's use of a variety of footage, from post-Super Bowl XL mayhem [and] sketches of detail-oriented multiple-exposure 16 mm film projects to documenting the hilarious occasion of a party dedicated to eating the "World's Largest Pizza" in McKees Rocks. Fleischauer's piece is an insight into the world of an imagemaker, a rare peek into the workings of an extremely process-oriented art form.

Next, Knepp's paltry attempt at describing Jesse Jamaica McLean's "Fleetings," which he says is "aptly titled," is so flawed it is unforgivable. Using terms like "cut-and-paste" to discuss highly complex digital-video techniques reveals his lack of understanding of the piece, and perhaps the medium as well. And Mr. Knepp's provocation that this work is similar to a semester-end project from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh is simply an outrage. I would speculate that Mr. Knepp could stand to spend a semester with students experimenting with creative tools; it may loosen what seem to be pretty narrow-minded expectations.

Mr. Knepp's misunderstanding is most obvious as he recalls Ayanah Moor's "Baby Got Back" and "I Need Love" as "straightfowardly disappointing." If that phrase is not awkward enough, he admits to not finding "any aesthetic import whatsoever." Briefly, these two video works were precisely straightfoward in aesthetic and concept.

As a black female describing how she loves large women (or their bodies, in particular) in one piece, or expressing her need for embrace from another woman with lyrics that are meant to show a vulnerable LL Cool J in the other, she successfully questions the gender issues inherent in much of popular culture, especially in hip hop.

I urge Mr. Knepp to refrain from petty insults when critiquing any art exhibitions. This advice should be particularly useful when reviewing time-based media: Exhibition of such work is burgeoning in local galleries, and its presence will grow. Perhaps Mr. Knepp will take these opportunities to cultivate a greater understanding of the medium.

-- Ross Nugent

Exhibition Coordinator, Pittsburgh Filmmakers

Age Inappropriate

When Chris Potter put quotation marks around fresh ideas in his Oct. 18 "Political Exorcise" column, one wondered if he was being factual or facetious. It did provoke thought on what has become a somewhat tiresome and misleading focus on the much-heralded issue of generational leadership that has been spun out and milked since the death of Bob O'Connor. Has the mantle been passed? Are the old guard finished?

Seriously, does it really matter if a 27-year-old Ipodder or a 57-year-old WJAS listener is fronting for the Allegheny Conference's corporatist agenda for Pittsburgh? Here are some "fresh ideas" for anyone contemplating a mayoral run in 2007:

-- Launch a Pittsburgh Shop Pittsburgh campaign to encourage neighborhood investment and expand the tax base. Boycott suburban shopping.

-- Recycle and renew old housing stock for affordable living, and not Downtown condos for wealthy suburbanites.

-- Public money for senior and youth recreation centers and not corporate welfare for Canadian billionaire hockey-club owners.

-- Reject North Shore tunnel funding in favor of a people-based transportation model.

-- Begin a benign-neglect policy toward soft drug possession and use. Stop feeding the prison-industrial complex.

-- Appoint a local rainbow government that truly reflects the class, race, gender and sexual diversity of Pittsburgh.

-- Albert Petrarca, Highland Park

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