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Buky Schwartz:   Videoconstructions
Edited by Bill Judson
Illustrated. 147 pp.
Carnegie Museum of Art . US$50.00
ISBN: 0880390239 / ISBN-13: 9780880390231

The work of Buky Schwartz, sculptor and video artist, provides a complex, multifaceted view of the intersection of technology, art, and the place of our own human perspective within that intersection.

Buky Schwartz: Videoconstructions focuses on the artist's video installations and constructions. Installations are works of art where the artist creates a space that the viewer perceives from within. A simple example would be, say, the placement of pillars and posts in a field or room to create the sensation of being in a Roman ruin. Constructions are works of art where the viewer shares a space with an object, such as being in a room that also contains a pyramid. In both installations and constructions, the viewer becomes part of the art, being both in it and observant of it at the same time.

When video becomes part of the artwork, layers upon layers of perspective and complexity are added. The viewer is in the art, observant of it, and through the video, also observant of his or her own self moving about within the the space the piece of art occupies. Schwartz's video perspectives are rarely straightforward. The viewer's perception of the art in the room is different - sometimes radically so -- from the perspective that will be given to him or her through the video camera's reproduction of the work. For example, in a 1988 mini video installation, the viewer places his or her hand among a seemingly random scattering of sticks. When viewed upon the video screen, however, the hand looks like it's inside a hollow box. Another example is Schwartz's 1981 video installation called "Prometheus." Blotches of yellow and orange painted on a wall and then visually passed through a mirror and two video cameras result in video images of the viewer walking through fire.

It is his affinity and talent for multiple perspectives that give his work its depth and lasting appeal. The social, cultural, and scientific evolution (and revolution) of the twentieth century have led us down a challenging path in our understanding of and relationship to external reality. The concept of complete separateness -- between self and other, between self and world, and between physical and non-physical reality -- was swiftly and irrevocably eroded in the twentieth century. It is a process that can only hasten with each passing year. Against this background, we can begin to penetrate the layers of meaning in Schwartz's work.

In Schwartz's pieces, the viewer is part of the art and is reflected back to himself or herself by means of the camera. As soon as we are "in" the piece, we reevaluate our intuitive perspective of spatial orientation, because what we perceive about ourselves within the space of the room is different from the images reflected back to us from the screen. In the artwork, we are cognizant of the reevaluation, and attentive to it.

In the "real" world, however, we are generally unaware that we engage in that reevaluation all the time as we are forced to reconcile the world as we live in it vs. the world as it's beamed back to us via radio, television, and the Internet. As Amnon Barzel writes in his essay in Videoconstructions, "...Buky Schwartz creates a physical model for one of the central characteristics of contemporary reality: the information that we have about the world and our knowledge of it are products of information that is beamed to us by the logistics of the media and not by direct encounters with facts. The eye sees not the thing itself but only the picture of the thing, and principally -- its electronic image." In setting up scenarios where this essential examination of perspective and reality takes place, Schwartz actually brings us to more intimate knowledge of our place in our own world.

Buky Schwartz's creative, provocative blend of technology and art is beautifully and clearly presented in Buky Schwartz: Videoconstructions. The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA has a long history of devotion to visually stunning exhibits, a quality that has been well captured in this printed work. In addition to the finished pieces, Videoconstructions includes studies of the finished works, as well as images of the "reality" in the room and the "other reality" on the screen. In addition to its excellent visual presentation, Videoconstructions includes essays by five critics, each of which provides a different conceptual approach for viewing Schwartz's work. Editor Bill Judson writes, "The field is plowed five ways, like the five axes of the pentagons that recur in Schwartz's work." These critics' essays, accompanied by visual depictions of the art, discuss the video installations and constructions from the perspectives of Schwartz's other work, twentieth-century art, the modern Israeli tradition, independent film and media arts, and finally, modern European sculpture. This book represents an important part of Schwartz's overall oeuvre and fully engages the reader in a thoughtful dialogue about art, perspective, and reality.

Sylvia Breau, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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