Photo by Blaise Adilon
You and I Horizontal II
You and I Horizontal II, 2006 © Anthony McCall
Thirteen artists working with the moving image provide a rich cinematic experience inside the darkened galleries of CaixaForum. From a group of both well-established (and deceased) cinéastes like Andy Warhol and Bruce Conner to a younger generation of artists whose medium is the moving digital image, the show’s organisers have cut out a clean slice of examples from the vast genre of experimental film-makers paying homage to commercial movie-making.
I was shocked to discover on the entry wall text the use of the past tense in describing film as the medium of the 20th century. But it is true: “the cinema WAS the unrivalled art form” of the last century; now we are digital.
The exhibition starts strong with Warhol’s Sleep (1963) in which the film-maker silently observes his lover asleep in a pieced-together montage of 50 minutes (edited down from five hours). It speaks of the other-wordly passage of time experienced by the moviegoer while reality is put on hold. Immediately beyond the Warhol, the visitor becomes the star by passing through a cinematic red curtain on which his own image is beamed in silhouette; the irony is that one cannot view one’s own image while creating it, (Douglas Gordon, Off Screen, 1998).
There is not much narrative in these films, but among the exceptions is the haunting Trailer (Saskia Olde Wolbert, 1995) in which a narrator tells the tale of silent film stars with a tragic demise, who may—or may not—have been the director’s own estranged parents. In Eight (2001) Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler leave a birthday cake out in the rain, creating an endless wet-and-dry scenario for a little girl whose party seems to have been rained out. In Release (1996), Christoph Girardet splices repeated footage of Fay Wray writhing against (or it it toward?) the off-screen presence of the giant ape King Kong in a truly disturbing bit of simulated rape/orgasm, all of which was right there in the 1933 movie.
My own favourite was the haunting room in which the projected beams of magic light that create the image on the screen become like a sculptural presence themselves. Anthony McCall’s You and I (2006) recreates the smoke-filled movie theatre of the mid-20th century by pumping a gallery full of fog from a haze machine. I watched a solitary visitor, unaware of my presence, dance and pose in the midst of the haze, thus becoming a part of the abstracted moving image, as the artist had intended.
Until September 4th, 2011, CaixaForum