selected video works / film

A Postcard from the Edge is a one-minute film response to a brief of the near same title (Postcards to the Edge). The film is a close up, visceral almost abstract collage of a cow head being chopped, sliced and hammered to relieve it of every increment of flesh. This is a quotidian ritual that can be witnessed at the Warwick Avenue junction — a formalised market in Durban, South Africa. The film is an edge … an edge of violent brutality; an edge of necessitating an existence; an edge of the third world incited by a history of colonialism. The film is a postcard to the GuthGafa Film Festival in Ireland; a sort of visual sympathy card to the shared histories of colonisation and abuse.

Pieta is a video work by Greg Streak — an interdisciplinary artist from South Africa. The work depicts a couple filmed on a train. The camera moves in and out of focus on the couple. The piece is voyeuristic- as if the intimacy between the two is being observed by the viewer. It feels like an intrusion into the private. What makes the work more compelling and adds to this sense of invasion is that the image being viewed is the reflection of the couple in the window, it is not the physical image of the couple themselves; the viewer becomes complicit in a secretive voyeurism. The work was commissioned by park4d.tv for a large outdoor digital video screen outside the Amsterdam-Zuid train Station. The backdrop to the large scale screen is the station itself and gives the work an additional resonance.

Park4d.tv/pleintv kicked off on october 5th, 2007 in Amsterdam, with new works by Floor Meijers, Zhifei Yang, Nicky Zwaan, Doina Kraal, Alberto de Michele, Semâ Bekirovic, Greg Streak, Kinga Kielczynska & Melanie Bonajo, ookoi, Irina Berger, Sarah Engelhard, Harm van den Dorpel, Peter Vink, Brian McKenna, Katja Mater and Ries Straver, as part of CASZuidas (“Moving Images in Public Spaces”, see the pleintv page@CASZ).

A Fear of Shadows deals with psychological power. It is essentially a dialogue of one individual with everyone. Whoever watches the work is directly implicated in an intimate manner. It begins, on the surface as a gentle acknowledgment of generic closeness, but soon develops into a more psychological entrapment. The work on a broad level deals with the endless possibilities of interactions that occur and will occur without most of us knowing that they will. That intimacy with anyone is possible because we are unaware of the different paths that people are on and when, through a series of interventions, they might cross and become something more concrete. The work is about this, but also about a darkness that pervades with obsession. It is also a metaphor for hierarchical systems of power where a “big brother”, in whatever form, has the ability to know more than what should be permissible. The viewer is “colonised” on both a psychic and emotional level.
“Greg Streak’s ‘Tudo Bem: Don’t worry be happy’ serves up a series of diverse images which juxtapose Brazil’s ‘Carnival Nation’ identity with footage of the city’s marginalised and disenfranchised. Shot in Belo-Horizonte at Carnival time, the film is suffused with the tropical heat and pure physicality of existence that close to the equator. A simple percussive rhythm introduces the piece in which marching bands, cross-dressers and grown men dressed as babies stand in stark contrast to the favelas that creep like a blight up the city’s hillsides, punctuated by a vast array of satellite dishes tilted at the sky. Some of the juxtapositions Streak sets up to explode this myth of a happy-go-lucky nation evoke an involuntary physical and visceral response. Two mud-smeared men dance as they move through a carnival crowd. Nearby a large homeless man, clad only in a ragged loincloth and similarly covered in dirt, stalks around, looking for all the world like a lost giant. Close crops of a bearded homeless man eating scraps are interspersed with two firm-bodied young lovers lightly embracing. Dancing feet with painted nails are contrasted with calloused, horny extremities elsewhere on the hot tarmac. When we hear again the percussion from the film’s opening, we see that it is beaten out on a simple wood and wire instrument in the hands of a tired looking roasted corn seller, threading his weary way through a treed, well-manicured part of the city. The carnival beat, it appears, is more like a desperate cry.” – Paul Edmunds

Beauty and the Beasts is a documentary film by South African visual artist Greg Streak. The film is about the high levels of pollution in the South Durban Basin. The 78′ full feature documentary won a Special Mention Jury Award at the Durban International Film Festival in 2006. The film is without copyright and can be downloaded and distributed for free – only if done in its entirety. The soundtrack by Jon Chappe is copyrighted. There are 6 parts to this film.

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This work is about indoctrination, media manipulation and the loss of innocence.

Greg Streak’s Shadow Boxing with James Gregory Streak presents the artist in conflict with himself. Entering the screen from opposing sides twin semi-transparent figures (ego and alter-ego?) fight each other in front of a face-brick wall. Flailing blows slowly swing through one another in a quietly balletic encounter, coordinating and connecting the two in a tenuous sequence of cause and effect. Apparently a blow hits home and one figure falls, immobilised, against the wall whilst the other continues his punching into thin air. The fallen figure appears to recover, composes himself and, passing through the other, walks off leaving a still fighting self to continue in an potentially interminable battle of poignant inconclusion. Streak’s construction is simple. These battling spirits are literally and figuratively walled in. The brick wall functions not only as a trope of suburban construction but also one of emotional containment and constraint. Shot parallel to the viewing plane the brick is unrelenting in its effective obscuring of any other view. Small, contained, enclosed, the figures are ghosted trapped forever in a man-made, self-made environment. – Virginia Mackenny

Streaks video tackles head on some of the implications of the ‘truth’ of witnessing. Directly entitled Witness, it shows a short but crucial sequence from the Peter Weir movie of the same name (starring Harrison Ford), where a young white boy sees a black man slit a white man’s throat. Videoing the sequence and then videoing the retake again and again, Streak’s piece both depicts violence and affects a ‘violence’ on the original, relentlessly destroying the primary image. Not only is the perpetrator of the crime never revealed, but what is seen continues to degenerate into a jumble of colours and marks, not unlike some modernist abstraction; only here, the ‘essence’ of the image, its pixels and signals on the video screen, serve not to reveal the truth, but further distance us from it, calling into question our memory of the original and our reconstruction of the ‘facts’. – Virginia Mackenny

Streak fed a sequence from the film Witness, depicting a man cutting another man’s throat, witnessed by a young boy, into a edit suite and out again in a continuous process that resulted in the footage losing a generation of quality each time. The progeny of his critically acclaimed video trio Dreams in Red (1999), Leaving (Blue) (2000) and Jaundiced (Yellow) (2000), Witness begins as mimicking reality in a naturalistic if dramatized manner, yet ends as abstract painting in motion, a seething, pulsating field of electronic colour-stains and televisual noise. An indictment of the vagaries of truth and memory, Streak was interested in the process of erosion. Through the dissolution of the image, one is forced to forget whether the men are black or white and whether the man attacked has a hood-like object obscuring his face. These details were uncannily mirrored in the retelling of horror experienced directly and vicariously through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. – Kathryn Smith

 

Streak’s Jaundiced (yellow) is a nod to Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ (1989). The photograph of a crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine was defended by Serrano as neither impious nor blasphemous , but Streak, a lapsed Catholic, is jealous perhaps, of those who have faith, those who believe. His work is marked by ambivalence. Nothing is certain — all remains in flux. A sense of the indeterminate pervades the work. Here the human figure is either prone or inverted. The world upended is turned upside down. Overturned one is upset. . Evoking the delicacy of Renaissance silverpoint drawings it is as if we are witness to the feet of Christ, unbound from his cross, floating through a pale liquid. – Virginia Mackenny

In Leaving (blue) the growing spread of the liquid indigo gradually mirrors the sky on its surface and the departing figure signals separation and its attendant emotional blues. The silhouetted figure in the window evokes the images of German Romantic Casper David Friedrich. The figure facing the light of the void activates the play between inside and out, only in this instance the figure, is not only in shadow but is shadow, a shade ghosted in the mirrored reflection, insubstantial and as ephemeral as the liquid which brought it to our attention. Transience, inversions and endings signal loss. In the face of this Streak’s work questions faith, but displays a resilience of spirit. – Virginia Mackenny

“Streak cites Caravaggio’s The Sacrifice of Isaac (1601-02) as a reference in Dreams in Red (1999).The alizarin crimson that seeps beneath the prone figure is bloody; there is a moment where a hardly perceptible shift occurs, when expiration ceases and a hiatus occurs, a barely discernible instant of transition when outflow returns to inflow and the body appears to draw blood back into itself and the condition we presume is final is reversed. Here the intake of breath heard to resume at the end of the video marks a shift in perception signalling the possibility of rebirth.” – Virginia Mackenny

Dreams in Red, Leaving (blue) and Jaundiced (yellow) were the contributions of Greg Streak to a two person show called Drift (with Ledelle Moe) at the 1708 Gallery in Washington, U.S.A. in 2007. The pdf attachment is a catalogue essay written by Virginia Mackenny on the three video works: Primary Faith.pdf