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Slowness and the Still

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 11.23.31 AM

Revisiting Leighton’s Art and the Moving Image for a third time -necessary by all means due to the sheer density of the fantastic work – I have come to discover great value in the last section of the introduction: “Slowness/The Still.”

My interest in the works of the works of video artists such as Thierry Kuntzel, Michael Snow, and David Claerbout fall well into this category. Their experimental techniques for video production introduced “the still” as a powerful embodiment of all that can be achieved from a fixed perspective.

Such a technique creates “an ambiguous stillness, a ‘dynamic stasis’ (as media theorist Thomas Y. Levin characterises it), more commonly associated with photography than with film” (Leighton, 39). In many respects, this technique appears tame compared to the more experimental works of those familiarizing themselves with the medium. One might even see such a lack of interaction as regression to the comforts of traditional photography techniques. In actuality, this is far from the case.

Leighton continues: “These works are static images, yet at the same time they are moving; they create a heightened awareness of time’s passing. In slowing down, halting the image or simply showing it as it is, slowness perhaps becomes a new and vital artistic strategy, one that brings about renewed attention to an ‘archaeology’ of time” (ibid).  In her rhetoric it becomes clear that the masterful effect of such films is that they convey the ceaseless passage of time. Your senses are manipulated as you view the image as simply that – an image – yet are caught off guard by the slight movements and interplay of motion. This is especially true for Claerbout’s Ruurlo, Bocurloscheweg (1910) and Kuntzel’s Venices. 

The technique of fixed perspective to create slowness is not one to be so quickly overlooked. The dialogue  Leighton commences in her writing is absolutely brilliant and has allowed me the chance to foster a new appreciation for the works of video artists wishing to achieve a slow or even still effect in their films.

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Alejandro Cesarco

Alejandro Cesarco genuinely impressed me by the end of his short, but well-versed lecture on his works and experiences as an artist. A native of Uruguay, Cesarco’s works are playful but laced with a dangerous imposition to the user: self-reflection. While exploring additional examples of his works, I couldn’t help but find myself at first smirking at his statement-based pieces such as When I’m Happy (2006) and Picture #8 (2007) – but then immediately feeling a feeling of emptiness. It is as if the piece leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth – purposely though so as to create tension between the viewer and the work.


“Picture #8” (2007)

Other works of Cesarco, such as his Baloise Art Prize-winning The Streets Were Dark With Something More Than Night Or The Closer I Get To The End The More I Rewrite The Beginning (2011) explore a unique narrative of a detective-like story. Playing out in a noir fashion, the installation is astounding for its ability to place the viewer in the role of an investigator propelled along his creation of a storyline thorugh simple prints and projections.

Cesarco deserves the attention and acclaim he has thus far received – I can only hope that he continues on this path of success without forgetting his roots that make him and his work impossible not to love.

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