As part of the AV Festival 12 programme in Sunderland, CIRCA Screen presented an exhibition of films focusing on four internationally acclaimed artists whose work celebrates repetition, duration and the long-take. AV Festival 12: As Slow As Possible is a biennial festival in slow motion, with some works running for 31 days, some for fleeting moments only, and others appearing to freeze or extend time. Spanning visual art, music, sound and film, the programme manifests in different places at different paces, speeds and times of day throughout March. At CIRCA Screen, the group exhibition was conceptually elongated so that the four works were presented individually, in sequence, across the one month duration of the Festival, encouraging repeat visits to the show.
As Slow As Possible exhibited John Smith — Frozen War (Hotel Diaries 1), Manon de Boer — Think about Wood, Think about Metal, Martin Arnold — Soft Palate and Ben Russell — Trypps #7 (Badlands).
The first week presented John Smith’s (Hotel Diaries No.1) Frozen War. Frozen War is the first episode in the artist’s Hotel Diaries series, a collection of video recordings made in the world’s hotel rooms, which relate personal experiences and reflections to contemporary conflicts in the Middle East. In Frozen War Smith narrates the TV news frozen in time at 1.41am, just after the U.S and Britain started bombing Afghanistan. The slow pace and rambling form of the narrative become apt communicators of Smith’s own confusion — creating an opportunity for the artist to turn the tables on the news; asking the questions it fails to ask.
Think about Wood, Think about Metal is de Boer’s third cinematic portrait in a trilogy on the 1970s alongside Sylvia Kristel – Paris (2003) and Resonating Surfaces (2005). Fragments of the life and thinking of percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky are situated in the history of avant-garde music during and after the 1970s. Schulkowsky has worked with composers such as John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Derek Bailey, John Zorn, Frederic Rzewski and Christian Wolff. In the film, percussion improvisations by Schulkowsky form a soundtrack, one that resonates with a larger exploration of rhythm and the non-linear structuring of time. Here many of the themes central to de Boer’s practice, including questions of the nature, impact and nuances of memory are explored, as well as aspects of stillness and movement, and the relationship between the two.
Austrian filmmaker Martin Arnold creates intensely cut sequences, in which several seconds of found footage is stretched out into longer works. In Soft Palate Arnold directs his deconstructive impulses to the heritage of Walt Disney to create a neurotic re-animation that comes to life in the darkness between images, where the viewer meets his dreams and demons. How much do we miss when we blink our eyes? Intense repetition and subtle variations evoke surprising nuances from existing film material. Soft Palate makes us feel in the dark, fairly literally.
To conclude the exhibition, Ben Russell’s most recent installment of Trypps was exhibited. Trypps is a series of seven films that the artist describes as “an ongoing study in trance, travel and psychedelic ethnography.” Trypps #7 (Badlands) (2010) charts, through an intimate long-take, a young woman’s LSD trip in the Badlands National Park before descending into a psychedelic, formal abstraction of the expansive desert landscape. Concerned with notions of the romantic sublime, phenomenological experience, and secular spiritualism, the work continues Russell’s unique investigation into the possibilities of the screen as a site for transcendence.
Co-curated by AV Festival and CIRCA Projects. Courtesy of LUX, London; Auguste Orts; Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna; and Light Cone.