Friday, February 16, 2007


Subrin's video obsesses over another artist and her work, while showing neither the artist's face nor her work. Instead, it spends maybe 20 minutes circling its difficult (because complex, yet temptingly obvious) subject, using a number of strategies which divide the video into an equal number of independent segments. This gesture feels cerebral rather than arbitrary, carefully measured rather than haphazard. I have a feeling it has to do with the length and pace of each segment, which ultimately require intuition much more than rational thought.

I don't remember The Fancy's exact sequence but I do remember its strategies (or, movements), for what it's worth. The introductory scanning of the late artist's former belongings, a staid archive made voluptuous by the camera's twists and pans. The camera isn't afraid to re-scan objects at only slightly different angles, like it's cross-referencing this information into a temporal weave. And the short-term memories of the objects build up, encrust themselves in our heads: books, mirrors, a bowl of eels. Then there are still shots, which--coming after those first restless movements--seem as effective as pure photographs. We see them as photographs, even though they are motion pictures, because they don't appear to move, because they're rigorously framed. Yet they breathe where photographs suffocate; whereas photographs thrive within sealed borders, the video "stills" have danger: danger of movement, danger of activity, danger of the unexpected, danger of a cut. And yet they're equally ephemeral, one-of-a-kind documents of a place and time (with bonus sounds).

Then there are those deadpan recitations and re-enactments of the late artist's photographs, revived for the video camera and video screen. At their best, they isolate and magnify video's extra limbs, its secret weapons: sound (a lone figure, straitjacketed into a "photographic" frame, speaks with no emotion; you hear the words, then you interpret them, then you notice yourself responding to sound, and realize afterwards that these were sounds made by photographs), and movement (anonymous women posing, twitching, and gyrating eerily in total silence--phenomenal that such minimal, isolated movements could be so shocking). I don't know why film doesn't hold up to basic experiments such as these, but I suppose it makes sense that the more economical and fluid of the two would be the most free.

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