when we were in melbourne I spent some time at the national gallery of victoria (NGV)and the australian centre for the moving image (ACMI).The NGV has an installation of bill viola's work 'Ocean without a Shore' running for 12 months. for the uninitiated, bill viola is a world-renowned multimedia, video and installation artist and I plan to reference his work in my PhD thesis.
'ocean without a shore' was created for the 2008 venice bienniale. the piece was originally presented in a centuries old chapel above three altars. at the NGV it is in a darkened room on three walls. each of the three screens features a succession of people who appear and disappear, in ultra-slow motion (as is viola's signature). apparently there are 14 hours of video.
the figures represent ghosts, or the dead, they walk slowly as shadowy figures towards some kind of barrier (which turns out to be a sheet of water - another viola signature). they push through the water and appear in full view, drenched and dripping, gazing in slow motion with varied expression, and then, with individuality, turn and leave.
you have to see this kind of slow motion presentation to appreciate its power. both the starkness and the subtley of difference of the figures is startling. one of the most powerful was the figure of a young woman who put her finger tentatively to the water wall twice, probing it, almost reluctantly, and then turned and walked away from it without coming through.
i could have spent a couple of hours there but had to leave after about half an hour. for a time i imagined the dead coming back to look at our world, and their reaction to what they would see of what we have done with it since their departure. at another time i imagined that this was a chapel, and that this was a glimpse of the communion of saints coming to be present with us - not all known or ancient, but young and old from all nations and all ages, gracing us.
of course, the water entry is also a birth image, and i continue to mull over that one. the figures look as though they are being born as adults, and looking at the world for the first time, yet with a story and history... it sounds like reincarnation, but its not, for they leave us.
i have a dream of one of our city churches hosting a viola exhibition for the adelaide festival.
go see it. it's free!
the ngv also has a stunning photo exhibition of the work of andreas gursky, a german photographer who makes LARGE photos of large, complex and simple scenes, both natural and human-made.
this google image search will give you an idea of his work. quite breathtaking and spectacular. having just done the art gallery tour of the world, i found the opportunity to see this back home quite a privilege. my new year's resolution is to hit the galleries every two weeks.
mind you, there's a strong critique of him here.
go see it! and this one has an entry fee, but its cheaper than flying overseas.
ACMI has an exhibition called "setting the scene", which is a look at the scene development of films old and new. the promotion is a bit over the top - some of the films one warrant one small example. the design sketches, scale models, and designer commentary of some classic films is of interest if you are in theatre or film design. (I'll have to go back and watch 'fanny and alexander' again sometime. some of the recent CGI/3D examples were of interest, although frankly the DVD extras usually have as much info these days.
personally, i found the significant focus on "Australia" the most fascinating (and no, I havent seen the movie yet.) BUT it has a seriously high-end, although odd-to-handle website - go look here.
the presentations showed set design and models, exploratory photos of the outback setting, great video interviews with the directors and designers about the compositing of Darwin and Bowen footage (bowen is the new darwin... i'll have to patent that t-shirt...) and green screen filming, 3D simulation for planning, 3D shot creation, plus what I presume is a recreation of one of the sets as part of the exhibition. i love this stuff. this part was seriously good, if you like the sound of this, go straight to the back, spend an hour there, and then give yourself another hour to see the rest of it.
the ACMI shop has a great collection of hard-to-get DVDs of classic films. somehow i already have a few of them, so i bought the dvd of edward burtynsky's 'manufactured landscapes'. i had never heard of him, but the dvd looked right. burtynsky is a canadian photographer whose works seek to capture the scope of human activity in the way that other photographers capture the natural world. in a sense, its like a koyaanisqatsi, but its a documentary of a photographer's work, rather than a cinescape.
stunning. the opening scene which is simply a seven-minute shot of a camera moving down row after row after row after row after row after row of a chinese factory was remarkable. (on youtube unofficially here.) that was the backdrop to burtynsky setting up a photo of the workers outside the factory. but in-between was footage of the numerous teams of workers assembly outside the factory for the shoot, and a team leader berating her group for being the worst performers in the whole enormous complex.
dvd trailer on youtube (officially) here. burtynsky's site has a website section with video links to interview etc.
like fricke's films, this is a remarkable commentary on humanity and the planet.
sorry this part is about 3 weeks overdue!