Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hirshhorn: The Cinema Effect

I’m not sure what it is about time that makes us anxious or distracted, but after a recent outing for hookah with some friends we decided that to take off the watches, to turn of our cell phones and avoid the time all together would make us that much more free and available to learning. So the next day when we all got up to attend the Cinema Effect at the Hirshhorn, and lazily wandered out the exit four and half hours later without even knowing a whole day had passed, the visit was just that much more worth it.

For me while visiting the museum it was hard to really dislike all aspects of any one of the films. I liked and disliked aspects of almost every film I watched. There were three though that stood out as my favorites:

1. Christian Jantowski – This I Played Tomorrow, 2003

This film was influenced by interviews with random people about what they would like to play in a film and if they thought cinema could offer salvation. Along side the actual movie played three small televisions containing the interviews. I liked that the film was shot in de-saturated tones, lacking vibrant colors which made the dialogue sit more heavy, made the mood more melancholy and in turn made the film seem to mean that much more about how we should learn to live our lives. What was interesting to me was that the interviews were shot of people outside of a bright orange building, contrasting as the only sense of vivid color to exist in the whole design. I liked the design of having the movie be reflected in the interviews that played along side it, believing it was starkly necessary, something I feel that without would have made the piece much less inspiring. The main film also had beautiful narrative and dialogue about life that I appreciated because it made me reconsider certain aspects of how I live my own.

2. Candice Breitz – Mother + Father, 2005

This film had a design that used 6 screens, each for one famous tv/cinema character of a mother or father. The characters had the backgrounds blacked out around them, making their reactions and movements that much more amusing because we don’t what causes them. In a way the artists almost made the characters able to interact with one and other. This was probably my favorite piece based on design and content. It was really well put together and interesting to see how all these different onscreen mothers and fathers have some type of similarity in the way they were filmed or required to act.

3. Isaac Julian – Fantome Creole, 2005

This film was designed to have four, floor to ceiling screens all next to one and other which displayed contrasting images of the barren earth in Africa and tundra in Scandinavia. There was a man in Africa who seemed to explore the ideas of African architecture, a woman from Africa who seemed to float between Africa and Scandinavia and three Eskimo type people who walked the tundra. The variation in images was beautiful and sometimes presented vast waterfalls, handfuls of ice, open dessert, and dusty highways of cars and bikes. The audio on this video was mesmerizing and had heavy bass. The room was very open as well which made the images seem to bleed off the screen and into the audience. I liked how small this film made me feel in comparison to it, in comparison to the rest of the world. I felt like the artist had completed a great feat making the film seem so much larger than it’s audience.


When it came to films that I disliked, again, I can’t say I really disliked any of them. All the films ideas were interesting to me, though there were things about them that I wasn’t sure I liked.

1. Omar Fast - Godville, 2005

This film focused on Colonial Williamsburg, interviewing a housewife, a militia man, and a slave. The artist set up two screens: on one side the projector had a slide show of images that presented the town to the audience and on the other side were his interviews. He spliced almost every other word the people said in their interviews to make them say what he wanted. I didn’t like this film because I’m not sure I agree with that, or even understand what he was trying to convey about these people by doing that, but none-the-less, it was actually interesting. The audio was so fluent, even with the incessant editing, that I had to appreciate the artist’s tediousness. Watching the interviews let you know that their words had been manipulated because you could see them changing with every cut, but if you happened to be sitting on the image projecting side (like I was at first) it fools the audience and you simply hear their voice, taking it as reality, when in fact it has been distorted. The more I write about this, the more I think that perhaps I actually like it, because it embodies the idea of realism that the exhibit was trying to convey.

2. Corinna Schnitt - Living a Beautiful Life, 2003

This piece was about interviews with 14 and 15 year olds in LA about what would constitute “a beautiful life” for them in the future. It was acted out by a man and a women in their 30’s, talking as if it was an interview about their real lives. The set up felt very staged though, and made me wonder if some of the things they said might not have been what the teenagers really said. The portrayals made it feel fake, not real. I would have liked to simply see the real interviews with the teenagers or maybe it would have been better with them being alongside the one film as in “This I Played Tomorrow”. I found it amusing that a 15-year-old boy would already be thinking about having a mistress every few months, even though he loves his wife.

3. Runa Islam – Tuin, 1998

This film showed how in another film the female and male character met, which was filmed in 360 degrees. In the center of the room there was a screen with both sides projecting the original film of them meeting. On the back wall two screens were placed and separated exactly in the middle by the original film, which as Krause talked about, centering your main object isn’t very interesting. The two screens on the back wall denote how the camera was on a circular track that moved around the two as they walked toward each other. I thought the scene in the original film was beautifully shot, but I didn’t think it was necessary to show us how it was created, because then it destroyed the mystique and the surreal qualities it held before(and yes I know the purpose of the exhibit was to make things real, but i liked it the way it was).

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