Dan Reeves (b. 1948)
Smothering Dreams (1985)
(from Alive From Off Center)
From impassioned indictments of America's culture of violence to soulful lamentations of spiritual loss, Daniel Reeves' body of work constitutes an important elaboration of video poetics. Reeves began working in video in 1979. Traumatic combat experiences in Vietnam were the driving force behind his early videotapes. Reeves was in the Marine Corps from 1965 until 1969 and was awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Purple Heart Medal for wounds suffered during the Tet Offensive of 1968. Early work like Body Count 1980 developed from preparatory work in sculpture, photography and film, and culminated in the classic work, Smothering Dreams (1981), which won three Emmy awards.
Subsequent tapes refined this work's use of poetic text and structure, addressing inhumanity, the problems of violence, dispossession and social upheaval with a highly lyrical sensibility, and from an outlook informed by philosophy, poetry and metaphysics. These later works owe much to extensive travels throughout Asia. In outlining Reeves' video poetics, Amida (1983) and A Mosaic for the Kali Yuga (1986) can be seen as forming bookends in the exploration of formal strategies, arriving at their epilogue texts through elegantly precise visualizations that echo the illuminations and exigencies of the world views being addressed. Amida's observations are entirely concrete, while Mosaic's media-weaving employs sophisticated image-processing technology. Since 1988 Reeves has been focusing on new media projects, digital prints, and video installations.
The videotapes Ganapati/A Spirit in the Bush (1986) and Sombra a Sombra (1988), along with Sabda (1984), occupy the central ground in Reeves' body of work. In various ways these tapes were informed by poets like Federico Garcia Lorca, Cesar Vallejo and Kabir. In this way, Reeves helps us to see according to what we hear, creating elegant realizations and rhythms that inspirit the contemplations of this companion poetry.
Reeves was born in 1948 in Washington, D.C. He received a B.A. and an A.S. from Ithaca College where he studied under the Veterans Administration's disabled veterans rehabilitation program. Among his numerous grants are six awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, three awards from the New York State Council on the Arts, a John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship. In 1988, he received a United States/Japan Exchange Fellowship. Reeves has served as artist-in-residence at the Television Laboratory at WNET/Thirteen, New York, and the Experimental Television Center, Owego, New York, among other institutions. His videotapes, installations and digital paintings have been broadcast widely and exhibited internationally, at festivals and institutions including the Tokyo Video Festival, Japan; San Sebastian Video Festival, Spain; American Film Institute National Video Festival, Los Angeles; Documenta 7, Kassel, Germany; Edinburgh International Film Festival, Scotland; the Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, New York; Musee du Louvre, Paris; The Tate Gallery, Liverpool; and The High Museum of Art, Atlanta. Daniel Reeves is currently a research fellow in Digital Art at the Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland