I’ve recently been drawn to art works that have both a physical presence in conjuction with video or film elements and over the last month I’ve had a chance to see two great installations.
“House depicts the artist’s parents stoically seated at a table in a house, Aitken’s own, in fact. Facing one another, his parents’ gaze locked, debris and fragments of the house fall around them. The two protagonists remain untouched as the house crumbles and disappears, leaving only the demarcation of its shape in an empty lot that fades in the closing scene. Throughout the film, the apparatus of destruction is never shown. These devices become part of the film’s expanded narrative, implicating what happens outside the framed image. House is exhibited as an installation shown on double monitors set in the midst of rubble and detritus. The spectator views the film surrounded by remains, becoming immersed in the fragments of what was once a home. Exploring themes of urban isolation and emotional alienation,House is a slow moving film that plays with memory and temporality.
“Do we stand in the calm center of this hurricane of modern life,” the artist asks, “or do we step into its turbulence? And do we have a choice?” His audience may, but Aitken does not. For him, expanded forms of narrative are less experimental than they are obligatory: a proper engagement with the current moment demands more than a simple tale can provide. At the same time, despite the contemporaneity of his concerns, Aitken’s work shares fully in a classic long-recognized quality of film, its ability to unlock the subconscious into a receptive state.”
The space has a wonderful vaulted ceiling, a well worn converted garage aesthetic and was perfect for containing the debris of the house. The audio quality was excellent, especially the booming subwoofer, that gave a real physical presence to the cracking wood and falling debris. The video screen was well conceived as part of the table where the parents sat and seemed almost too well crafted in contrast to the destruction along the perimeter walls of the room. The actual video left me less inspired. The presence of the parents at the table provided some seemingly tender moments but it initially just struck me as a commentary on foreclosures and current events. I guess viewing with a broader lens or with more universal themes of loss, aging or memory it would be more ambiguous. But that’s what I’m bringing to the table perceptually.
The second a video by Jim Hobbs with a soundtrack by Kinski is currently showing (for a few more days) in the new media gallery at Jack Straw Productions in U District of Seattle. From a review in the Stranger…
“Wallace Stevens, from whom the title A Clear Day and No Memories is taken, used his poetry to make sense of the world in pieces. This show has multiple looping 16mm videos and the simultaneous playing of both sides of an original LP and just might dismantle your world. Video by Jim Hobbs and music by Seattle band Kinski.”
or from the Seattle Times…
“Taken as a whole, ‘Clear Day’ leaves you feeling battered, invigorated, immersed in the glorious howl of the cloud-swept Northwest.”
I’ve been following Kinski since I moved to Seattle in 2000 and have to say that their music is perfect for soundtracks, dynamic instrumental pieces with soaring resonance and grinding abrasive periods of dischord. Having both sides of the LP playing simulaneously along with the loud clicking of the films and equipment was a really dense auditory experience. There is a main film with vignettes of the area around Fort Worden in Port Townsend (a favorite location of some photog friends of mine) shown at eye level and two films of a set of repeating codes or numbers projected almost at the floor. Films looped all the way from the floor to hooks on the ceiling, two turntables sat on the floor playing continuously in a of masterful assemblage of analog technology.
Here’s a link to the video, but seeing in the space with all of the equipment makes it so much better. Hurry it closes January 14, 2011.