When you go to see Still Films at the Yukon Arts Centre, bring your imagination. Better yet, bring a friend and tell each other stories there, in the gallery, spinning off the images in front of you like jazz musicians.
Curator Lance Blomgren explores many ideas of story in this show.
Blomgren is a writer himself, so this preoccupation with story and what it is seems like a natural thing for him to explore.
The show explores, among others, the idea that story is not contained in any of the small, individual objects that are used to tell the story. Instead, it’s in the margins, in what’s left out, and especially in the places the viewer’s or listener’s imagination moves into and inhabits.
So there’s room for your riffs.
The photographs in this show use accumulation, series, collage, text and a wide variety of other strategies to draw stories out of the viewers.
The show assembles an incredible range of artists. Two art historical pieces root the show.
Blomgren displays Eadweard Muybridge’s Two Men Wrestling from 1887. Muybridge was interested in human anatomy in motion and used arrays of many cameras to take pictures in rapid sequence. Motion picture technology grew out of his experiments.
Blomgren seems to wonder what other evolutions of image and story might have evolved instead. He has found work in that line, and brought it to us in this show.
A book work, La Jetée ciné roman by Chris Marker, connects the show back to the 1960s. It’s a translation into book format of a movie, La jetée, from 1962. Whether or not you’ve seen the movie before, do read the book – it’s very engaging.
In partnership with the Yukon Film Society, Blomgren screened La jetée at the Old Fire Hall the Monday before the show opened.
The film is an intriguing object, made of shots of still photos with a narrator, with one small exception of about three seconds of moving picture. It tells a romantic, poetic story about memory, time travel and the end of the world.
Back to Still Films, Blomgren included Charles Stankievech’s film installation Zeno’s Phantasies in the show. Stankievech was concerned with film’s illusion of catching movement, when in fact it caught only one moment and then the next, sped up so it seems seamless. What about the moments between frames?
Attending the opening night, Stankievech explained that he created computer software to reconstruct the images between each frame of three short film fragments: Glenn Gould playing piano in the 1950s, train footage shot by the Lumière brothers, and nuclear testing documentation from the US military.
Like La jetée, a number of pieces in Still Films also use text as a kind of narrator. Contrast the white type face used on a black background in Nate Larson’s assembled photographs, Epiphany, for example, with the careful, imperfect and so vulnerable handwritten captions to Duane Michals’ Christ in New York. I hear the stories in different voices because of this.
On the other hand most of the work doesn’t use words at all.
Blomgren referred to the literary idea of the “omniscient narrator” in the reason for his choice of Alain Paiement’s Parages. This enormous photograph gives us an X-ray birds-eye view into a bakery, from the delivery truck out front to the recycling bins out back. It’s chaotic and beautiful and absorbing.
Mario Villeneuve’s Handforms Resurrected fills a wall with an array of fine watercolour paper, four sheets up and ten across. Villeneuve collected lost gloves from the streets of Whitehorse.
Fascinated by the story each of them presents in the human traces left in them by their owner, now lost, Villeneuve photographed each one front and back and printed “gum prints”, a black and white technique that gives the gloves a ghostly, isolated effect.
The loneliness of each orphan glove comes out of this piece. We’re so used to seeing gloves in pairs, that my eye kept trying to match the gloves but, of course, to no avail.
But then I realized – Villeneuve has shot both sides of the gloves. So you can satisfy your urge to match them, if you have it, by finding the front and back of each glove.
Still Films continues at the Yukon Arts Centre until May 21.