Dominique Zeltzman, Visiting Scholar In Art, Highlights Ordinary Through Video

As security camera footage of nearly empty streets in Baltimore, MD., plays, the voices of three women narrate the lack of excitement in the city. They describe the anticipation of waiting for a crime to occur and yet, in the eight minute video, absolutely nothing happens. This film, entitled “waiting for something to happen” was created by Dominique Zeltzman, Visiting Scholar in Art, and is currently on display in the Gelb Gallery.
“The cameras are looking for something bad to happen, mostly nothing bad happens. It’s just people,” said Zeltzman. “It’s at once an invasion of people’s privacy, rather outrageous I find, but it’s also absurd. So that’s what I was looking at. I thought it was interesting to play it here [at Andover], because I’m assuming most people don’t have that kind of experience – that kind of intensely urban area.”

Ordinary aspects of life that other people tend to overlook typically inspire Zeltzman’s work. She uses these simple things as the centerpiece for her videos.

“I like the irony of taking [the peripheral] and putting it in a high position of art. [Also, I] work out of my house. I don’t go to a studio because what I’m interested in is right around me… A lot of [my inspiration] comes from the domestic space just because that’s where I am,” said Zeltzman.

Prior to working with video, Zeltzman performed and choreographed for her own dance company, Zeltzman and Colburn, for 15 years. Her background in dance has greatly influenced her love of video.

“While I don’t miss the process of rehearsing and I don’t miss the lead-up to a show, I really do miss performing and I miss choreographing with things in space that move… That’s all translated, since I decided not to dance anymore, into video and it’s still choreographing because it’s editing, but it’s really small,” said Zeltzman.
Zeltzman feels that video allows her more freedom in staging and manipulating what a viewer sees. For example, when choreographing a dance, Zeltzman had to consider transitions in order to move a dancer from one side of the stage to the other. Video also allows Zeltman to emphasize small, specific aspects.

“The thing about choreographing is that everything has to make sense, it has to be linear… I didn’t always want to do that. Sometimes I wanted that fast and changing [transition]. Also, I like video because you can focus in on a thing. And in that way, you have more control over what an audience is looking at,” said Zeltzman.

Zeltzman finds video installations most interesting, and deciding where a video is situated within a space. The video is thus designed to play in a specific location and to fit the location’s architecture.

“The way [‘waiting for something to happen’] was originally intended was in a room where you were part of the image. It’s bigger than life. It fills an entire wall. The room is dark and so that way, you were not only viewing the video, it’s almost surrounding you… It’s more of a visceral experience with the audience. I think that interests me because I’m used to having that experience myself as a dancer,” said Zeltzman.
Zeltzman hopes that her artwork will inspire conversation.

“One of my favorite things about making art, and this applies to when I was a dancer, too, is more than what I come to it with but how other people responded,” said Zeltzman. “Normally, people come up to me and they have a completely different take on what I did, and it’s always really fascinating to me and a lot of times, I think it’s more interesting, so I enjoy that.”

At Andover, Zeltzman hopes to encourage more students to participate in the video curriculum. In the Winter Term, Zeltzman will be teaching a video elective in which students create videos based on personal interests. These pieces will then be projected in a variety of non-traditional locations around campus, as opposed to being displayed on a computer screen or TV monitor.

Therese Zemlin, Instructor in Art, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Ms. Zeltzman is energetic, connects with people easily and is particularly interested in installing video projections in non-traditional and unconventional spaces. While she is on campus, we hope that she can energize students, attract a broad range of students to her classes, get them involved with taking their videos out of Elson and into other spaces and places around campus and increase the level of community awareness of the great work that comes out of the video curriculum.”

Nell Fitts contributed reporting.