David Sanchez Burr’s new gallery, Multiplexer, is the culmination of years spent mining the intersection of art and technology, images and ideas, emotion and intellect. Now, in an elevator-size space that can barely hold a half-dozen people at one time, the artist hopes to legitimize video as an art form in Las Vegas.
“I’ve always been fascinated with technology in the arts,” he says over coffee at The Beat, adjacent to his gallery in Emergency Arts in the Fremont East Entertainment District. “Not just video, but automation, anything mechanical. I started flipping knobs and switches at a very early age.” His fascination goes back to a childhood spent in the outskirts of sunny Madrid, where he was born and raised by his mother (an IBM employee) and American father (a university professor). Weekend mornings, a young, Spanish-speaking Sanchez Burr donned giant, padded Sansui headphones and listened to shortwave radio and American pop stations broadcast from a nearby NATO base.
“I loved hearing different languages,” he says. “It’s how I started to learn English, listening to distant transmissions that technology made possible.”
Later, Sanchez Burr spent his teenage years and early 20s “being angry,” playing guitar in punk bands and touring the U.S. and Canada. But after using a Mac to digitize Super 8 reels shot by his grandfather—in 1999, an arduous project—he got the “video-as-art” bug. Still, video remained only part of his fine-arts education, which he began as an undergrad at Virginia Commonwealth University. Eventually, he decided to move to Las Vegas to earn a master of fine arts degree from UNLV.
“What got me interested in video as far as Multiplexer goes is the fact that in recent years technology has not only advanced but become incredibly affordable,” he says.
Affordability is certainly key for Sanchez Burr. For instance, the 22-inch LED screens that provide Multiplexer’s visual power are today sold for a song. After graduating from UNLV in ’09, he struggled to find work in a bad economy, settling for a job with a company that designed video-broadcasting software for the Mac—back where he started, really. In the course of working for that company, though, he tightened up and expanded his video-related knowledge and skills, which translated into Multiplexer.
“The idea behind Multiplexer is to offer a viewing setting that’s quiet, dark and unique—a contrast with what’s going on outside and around the corner at the Fremont Street Experience canopy, which is a crazy maelstrom of video. And the idea is to invite people in here see something entirely different. Maybe such a high-gear shift will break them away from the stereotypes they have of Vegas.”
Multiplexer’s debut show (The First Show, it’s simply called) unites nine international artists—including Germany’s Anné Klint and South Korea’s Sujin Lee—for a selection strictly culled from a call for videos that went out late last year. (After The First Show, Multiplexer moves toward theme-based curation.) Don’t expect cyber-centered postmodernism for postmodernism’s own sake, or any, as Sanchez Burr describes it, “over-explored, Web-based sensationalism.”
“When technology completely takes over an artist’s idea, the art that inevitably results is a high-minded form of jacking off,” Sanchez Burr says. “Technology isn’t supposed to be discussed; it’s the ideas that should merit a discussion.”
The central challenge with video as an art form is that video remains an eternal boogeyman of visual presentation. Sure, people can distinguish between watching CNN and looking at art. But because the same medium is being employed, confusion sets in. “Ultimately, what’s the difference?” many might ask.
Multiplexer videos will be limited to eight minutes. A catalog of digital links for each video (unless an artist doesn’t want his or her contribution to be viewed online) will be provided at Multiplexer’s website: MultiplexerSpace.wordpress.com.
If The First Show is any indication, the range of style and subject matter is wide, from representational drawings to stop-motion animation to effects manipulations. For example, Lydia Moyer’s three-minute Desert Solitaire serves as an otherworldly meditation on California’s high desert, a fractured landscape of Joshua Trees charged with powerful, psychedelic energies. Klint’s lovely If Only I Were as Beautiful as You uses Mayan myths to explain the creation of the hummingbird and explore animal/human relationships and man’s connection to the natural world.
“I’m not just looking for video artists, though,” Sanchez Burr says. “I’m also seeking out people who use the medium in a different way.”