This week I managed to sneak in a bit of art between meals - so much for my diet. Among others I saw Primavera 07 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Matthew Hopkins at Firstdraft Gallery, and Jess MacNeil at Gallery Barry Keldoulis. Actually I probably saw a few other things at the
I had heard from friends that Primavera was crap. I've never really been one for Primavera bashing. It’s an easy target for criticism – sometimes the complaints are valid, but I suspect in most cases they are flavoured with Sour Grape Snapple. The show aside for a second, at least you know the opening night will be a highpoint.
Art by Claire Fisher from Six Feet Under
So I finally made my way to the MCA with an open heart and mind. Usually I'm a cold bitch, so this was a real effort OK. But it wasn't long before my bitch radar made its return from the repressed because most of it was not so great. I generally make it a practice to talk up the good things before I go for the ugly jugular but I’ll make an exception today. For starters, let's talk about the signature marketing image for Primavera of the raised hands. Double V, 2005 by
Courtesy the artist and Gallery Barry Keldoulis
What was good? Amanda Marburg's paintings of famous movie moments but recast with cutesy claymation figures were inspired. The highlight of the show was definitely Jess MacNeil's video Opera House Steps December, 2006. Though I’d already seen it before in other shows, being projected at such a monumental scale gave it renewed resonance. McNeil makes videos that look like paintings and paintings that look like video (paused of course). With Opera House Steps December, MacNeil has filmed people walking up and down the steps but used some fancy-pants special-effects to erase the people. What remains are human shadows that move across the steps like a toy Slinky working overtime.
Courtesy Google Images
Recalled in MacNeil's video is the graphic interplay of form that Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein mastered through his method of 'montage by conflict'. In the famous Odessa Steps sequence of Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925), the actual steps themselves were key to creating the scene's visual drama. The tiered horizontal pattern of the steps would be interrupted by the descending masses, creating a clash of horizontal and vertical form. The composition of Opera House Steps December echoes the same kind of visual drama but with meditative intent. Eisenstein was a master editor whose practice (and theory) of montage revolutionised filmmaking. While he knew where to cut the frame for dynamic impact, MacNeil keeps the camera running in one long take, editing through the digital removal of the body. Like legendary American video artist Bill Viola, MacNeil has a knack for making poetry with a medium not often used to poetic effect. And that’s certainly what MacNeil achieves in her new work on show at GBK. Again her videos The Thaw, Wake (Coniston Water) and Wake (Windermere) are utterly compelling in their quiet contemplation of scenes that in any other circumstance border on the banal.
Of all the other shows I saw this week, a real highlight was Matthew Hopkins' The Future Pt.2: Getting used to the Future. Version 2.2 – A Bogus Infinity at Firstdraft Gallery. Like early Hany Armanious or
"The funny thing about the future is that it is not that different to now, the present. The future is really just a re-arranged version of now, the present. What I mean by re-arranged is that objects, emotions, things we do etc., are all mixed up and around with each other. Drinking a cup of coffee in the future, for example, is actually building a house. Crying in the future is actually sticky-tape."
Like a synesthete who hears taste or sees sound,
Primavera 08 perhaps?