Art Field Report

I had the privilege of attending the Biennial exhibit at the Whitney Museum this spring. This was my first visit to the museum, and I was immediately struck by the re-conceptualizations of art and art practice. After having started with the permanent collection, working down towards the Biennial pieces, I soon found solace in a few works that explored the image. The first installation that was quite striking was the work of Luther Price. The installation consisted of slides exhibited by a carousal projector. The slides were images of singular and multiple frames from 16mm film. Some of these slides were hand painted, others dealt with re-contextualizing archival images with Price’s own alterations to the image. Images were projected onto the white wall of the museum’s interior, with only the mechanical sounds of the projector changing to different slides. An interesting aspect regarding the slides is Price’s contributions to the found footage. He creates a decoupage of images using frames of 16mm films, which he would then paint, or color in some of the frames. The images have been given a new context, and new breath. There is a video of Price, on the Whitney Museum website, showing a reel of found footage in a state of decay, where he effectively brings forth new and different juxtapositions.

Another wonderful instillation that was quite intriguing was a contribution by Werner Herzog to the museums’ Biennial entitled, Hearsay of the Soul. On the museum’s second floor, one first notices an instrumental sound resonating throughout the space. Black plastic flaps hang above a doorway as one enters a dark room just off the main floor. Inside, images are projected onto the white walls, displaying six images on three walls of the room. A man playing a five-stringed cello accompanied by an organ is the source of the orchestral sounds emanating through the gallery. The projected images are that of painter Hercules Segers, working around the same time as Rembrandt. Herzog fuses image with the sounds of Ernst Reijseger playing the cello as this installation forms a grand appreciation of auditory response and visual experience. It is an elegant, moving piece, one that serves as Herzog’s personal perception of Segers’ work in a new way of seeing. One is not seeing the paintings, but a projection of the image of the painting. Herzog’s installation asks the viewer to experience paintings differently, but the how one goes about doing this, is a question that is left open to the individual.

The manner in which both of these artists construct their installations takes into consideration the understanding of space as it relates to time. When Price is working with found images he frames the images in new and profound ways. He takes images from 16mm films and creating a decoupage of slides, each one consisting of multiple strips of film. Where there was once movement in these images; the frames become refashioned, reworked in a manner in which was not the original intent. Here, time is changed because the strips of film have been removed from their movement. The movement of the image is subjected to the length of time by the carousal projecting the images on the wall. There is materiality at work in the piece—giving new life to lost moments. Herzog’s installation works with the notion of space and time as well, but the effect is uniquely different. The experience of the piece comes off as slightly less abstract, and more of a tribute to a two lesser-known artists. By combining the projected paintings with footage of Reijseger playing the cello, the viewer is not asked to connect the two artists, but to appreciate the nuances of sound and image. The viewer’s eye skims from one projected image to another as they witness not one, but several unique images accompanied by music. Each individual experiences the installation differently because there are endless possibilities of which projection to follow next—each individual following the projections independently form one another.  If one were to consider Deleuze’s concept of the virtual/ actual, Herzog’s work is essentially left open to what is multiple and dynamic. Viewing the piece several times would produce alternative experiences by the same individual, for it would not be possible to look at the multiple projections in the same order with the same result. What is virtual and what is actual effectively changes with each screening. Deleuze writes, “…there is no virtual which does not become actual in relation to the actual, the latter becoming virtual through the same relation…” (Cinema II, 69). What Herzog’s piece does is put into motion a potential flux of combination images. It is both an appreciation of a musician and a painter, but it is also a new manner in which to encounter and engage their work.

j. lindsey

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One Response to “Art Field Report”

  1. immanentterrain2 Says:

    I like your observations here about both Herzog and Price’s consciousness of space in relation to its framing of time. In general, I think this Whitney Biennial is hyper-conscious of the framing context architecture provides. For instance, the fourth floor that is almost completely left open for performance has played host to residencies for Sarah Michelson, Michael Clark, Charles Atlas, Richard Maxwell, Red Krayola, and others in rehearsals and performances throughout the exhibition. As an exhibition form, I think locating all of these desperate processes and performers within the same architectural space over different periods of time allows visitors to create connections between the pieces in that space. For instance, I saw the Michael Clark Dance Company perform Who’s Zoo? one week, and then the following, in the same space, a projection of a Charles Atlas video of a Merce Cunningham Dance Company performance. Seeing them in the same space, I was greater able to see both the influence of Cunningham on Clark as well as the differences between dance on screen and in the flesh. Oscar Tauzon’s first floor structure is being reconfigured now to be used in a runway performance by K8 Hardy on the fourth floor. I like this too as another example of architectural context. On the first floor, his piece exists as a static sculpture, but when moved to the fourth, it becomes part of performance. Your discussion of Deleuze’s conception of the actual and virtual also makes me think of the fourth floor, and maybe the idea that we can think of the way in which the curators and artists are using a common space for so many different artistic uses and forms as an exploration of virtual potentials in the space that are being made actual. – HB

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