A SCHOOL OF SEEINGcinematic perception in museums and galleries
Three Screen Ray
Illustrated lecture; originally presented at the Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Institution (Washington DC), 2012. Lecture made possible by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.
It's one of our culture's great ironies that museums and galleries devoted to the visual arts face backbreaking challenges when presenting cinematic works. Coming from traditions of painting and sculpture, gallery spaces can invite viewers to wander through lit rooms at their own pace, with sounds in abundance. This contradicts the needs of a time-based medium; one which in most instances thrives in an enclosed environment with focused reception. While some institutions and artists have sought solutions to these problems, the fact is that many artists have responded in reverse, by creating works that require neither darkness nor silence; commencement nor conclusion. They make works that exist in time, but don't articulate it as a property. This is of course a potentially valid strategy, but what of works that don't follow those conventions?
This lecture is at once an investigation of cinematic perception and a call for a new kind of cinematic gallery. Through a series of 35mm, 16mm, and digitally projected images and sounds, it guides one through an assortment of perceptual conundrums and raises questions on the nature of cinema. Of particular interest to art conservators and scholars, it addresses methods of duplication, restoration, and presentation. By drawing reference from both avant-garde and independent works, it asks how museums can preserve the cinematic experience in all its forms, including both photochemical and digital technologies.
Image courtesy and copyright: Conner Family Trust. THREE SCREEN RAY. 2006, three-channel digital projection, black and white, sound, 5 min.. Film: Bruce Conner. Multi-channel editing and composition: Michelle Silva . Music: Ray Charles "What'd I Say" (Atlantic Records, 1959, Live from Atlanta.)