Atlanta Contemporary’s contribution to this exhibition is a long overdue pairing of two old friends. JD Walsh moved to Atlanta at 22 to teach at the Atlanta College of Art. The chair of the video department at the time was Sara Hornbacher, a boundary-buster in the realm of site-specific, environmental video installations. Years earlier when Hornbacher was a student at the Center for Media Study at the State University of New York—Buffalo, she had studied with so many of the first pioneers in video art: Paul Sharits, Woody Vasulka, Gerald O’Grady, Hollis Frampton, and Tony Conrad. For many years all roads on the avant-garde superhighway ping ponged around Upstate. Hornbacher first visited the innovative electronic tools at the esteemed Experimental Television Center (Owego, New York) in 1976 and she returned frequently until the center closed in 2011. With a career spanning four decades, Hornbacher has utilized forever-evolving machines to explore her deep fascination with light and surface. Found and filmed footage is manipulated to tease our conventions of time and space. Nothing sits still, the tempo of sporadically overlaid images float towards us gradually or rapidly flicker like magic bullets. Like a be-bop improviser, her spellbinding videos are intuitive, the screen dancing to its own peak impulses free from any rational or technical constraints.
JD Walsh also keeps us between moments when we stop existing in reality and when fantasy begins. Untitled RPG, 2008, utilizes the language of game-theory, especially Role Playing Games (RPGs). The piece brings together a moving picture within a moving picture, stitching seemingly mundane genuine moments at the beach or having picnic on the grass, birds balancing atop a tree or the M1 bus arriving to the Kmart Pharmacy in NoHo. There is an ambivalence, a blankness to reality, each time we go IRL conjures up associations with a lo-fi, open-ended fictional world. Walsh depicts New York City, only five years in the future, as a desert scape, with a stretched white limo parked between an Ikea superstore and Washington Monument. It is unclear as to our avatar’s mission as we stutter around an assortment of random, disconnected imagery. In Walsh’s dream other people are painfully unnecessary, we solely rely on bland big box chains, conveniences that help us cope with the pressures of daily life.