Nottingham Trent University
East Midlands

The Nottingham Trent University Fine Art Degree Shows repeatedly display a wealth of artistic talent yearly, with media ranging from technological and immersive audio visual pieces to clinical, process driven painting works. The scope in medium and meme is vast, highlighting the fact that this specific course embraces idiosyncrasy and the freedom to work with any medium available to the artists.

This particular review will focus on a strong element of the degree show, Video Art. Moving image is now recognisably as strong as the more tradition art forms, with its immediacy making it accessible to audiences of all kinds. There is an array of moving image works at Trent, with no two pieces the same, and all interrogating various themes and concepts.

Displayed on a large screen in room 002 is a 2-hour long show reel, comprising of five video works by five students. Each film is comparatively different from the other with pieces ranging from the calmness and beauty of watching the sky gradually change over a period of one hour (‘4th May 2011′, Kelly Hopkins) to the starkness and psychologically perverted nature of pornographic imagery (‘A Nottinghamian Dog’, Robert Manners). A piece that stood out within this sequence encapsulated on the show reel was Hayley Simon’s ‘Space-time Continuum’. This video work appropriates scenes from films which are consequently collaged together to interrogate the notion of time. Her piece for the degree show is a film which shows various protagonist’s climbing up stairs; the initial piece only last for a few minutes, but then it is looped continuously for half an hour, thus challenging the spectator’s endurance and own sense of time. It subconsciously makes the viewer lose track of time; from the first loop to the eighth loop, you’re left wondering when did the piece actually start and when does it finish? The artist writes that film is a ‘fictional representation of reality’, of which it is, and her utilisation of film scenes enhances that statement. When watching a film, the immersive nature of it drags you into its fictional time zone, which is often of a faster pace to the one within our reality, however Simon contradicts this notion by engrossing the audience into a trapped time frame, one that is seemingly forever in loop. There’s a strong sense of anticipation, that if you wait for long enough something incongruous will happen. It is definitely a piece that tests the patience of the viewer. It can also be said that it is somewhat a representation of humanity’s perpetual struggle upwards, which each protagonist relentlessly climbing stairs, and a comment on our constant want for something that is higher than ourselves.

Moving on to works that are integrated into the rest of the degree show, another stand out pieces is located in a dark small corner on the lower floor. Upon first impressions, Ross Smith’s six-screen video installation appears to be narcissistic in content, with six monitors displaying six video pieces of himself, although after watching each piece it becomes clear that this artist is interrogating the notion of identity and possibly the capability of being your true, authentic self when captured on screen. The presentation of the work is particularly striking, as it is situated within a black space with six identical black plinths, monitors and head phones. The uniformed aesthetic appearance is then imitated within the film with the protagonist wearing the same simple black outfit in each. The films are separate from one another, each one seemingly showing a facet of his personality, but upon closer inspection you realise that he is not being ‘himself’, as each video starts with an off screen ‘director’ character giving him instructions on how to behave and act, and he is also holding a script. This acquiring of different characters may be a comment on how when we as individuals are put into various situations, we react differently. Naturally, if you’re around someone you can’t stand you are a completely contrasting person to when you are with people that you share a connection with. You look the same, but your words are altered, your mannerisms change, thus a variant of your persona is displayed. Smith portrays a range of traits, from arrogance to general boyish banter, from inebriated carelessness to humorous; he investigates the notion of self in a sophisticated yet comical manner, a highlight being when his character displayed on the third monitor exclaims that the piece of artwork he is discussing on film is ‘the usual shit that pretentious cunts in art class come up with’. Perhaps a little cheeky questioning of art is going on here too.

A piece of work that ups the ante in terms of hilarity is Natalie Mill’s ‘Animals in States of Surprise’. This film work is a multi-screen video installation with audio that adapts popular Youtube videos and enters them into a situation that immediately enhances their status. They go from online video clips to narrated spectacles within an exhibition space. Mills questions what can be considered as art and attempts to, in her own words, ‘blur the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture’, by exhibiting youtube video as if they are high end art. This work is a collection of three moving image pieces, accompanied by a patronising yet amusing narration that describes the ‘complicated’ concepts behind these ‘artistic’ pieces. The three pieces displayed are ‘The Sneezing Baby Panda’, ‘The Dramatic Prairie Dog’ and ‘The Oh My God Cat’. These pieces play on our childish inclination to be captivated by the smallest things, such as a baby animal sneezing and frightening its mother, and of course our modern reliance on social networking and internet sites to entertain us. It is obvious that this piece questions institutional ideals of what art is considered to be. In my opinion this is art; it is engaging, absurd and distinctive; it is what it is, and plays on the hilarious pretence that anything can be art.

Lastly we come to a piece which is melancholic, emotionally charge and beautiful. Ruth Denton’s three screen projection is a video work which is shot using 16mm film and has been transferred into digital media. The combination of analogue and digital is intriguing, as the sound of a 16mm projector can be heard through the headphones, which has notions the viewer watching a film from someone’s past. This is emphasised by its monochromatic and grainy aesthetic, as if the spectator is being taken through someone’s memories that are distorted and unclear. The film is predominantly shot in the first person, so you view it from the perspective of the person filming it. With its immersive presentation via the three screens of suspended frosted glass encompassing the viewer, you feel as if it is you walking through the corridors that the protagonist is walking through, that these are somehow your memories that you’ve forgotten. Matched with the headphones that fill your ears with the haunting, echoing sound of heeled shoes, the distant sound of a piano playing and a narration that is like the thoughts of the person that you are assuming, the whole piece works together to take the viewer to a place away from their reality. Furthermore, the fact that the piece can only be viewed one person at a time to get the full effect of the audio visual experience makes it feel more exclusive and personal. The presentation and execution of this filmic piece is as important and as stunning as the work itself and it is one of the most enthralling pieces within the degree show.

Again, the graduating Fine Art students of Nottingham Trent have curated a spectacular show which is as slick and as professional as any exhibition in a famous contemporary art gallery, and the show fully proves that art is flourishing within Nottingham and the city is fast becoming a centre point for arts and culture, and that you don’t have to be in London to see innovative, modern artworks. With an eclectic mix of art, the show will certainly not disappoint you.