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Mutations II/Moving Stills

November 26, 2008

(ArtSlant) If you want to evade the crowds at La Maison Européenne de la Photographie, skip the Louise Weiss exhibition and head downstairs to the all but empty, and highly recommended exhibition in the basement, MutationsII/”Moving Stills”. The series of seven contemporary video works by lesser-known European photographers represent the Maison Européenne’s contribution to “Mois de la Photographie.”

While the works ranged in interest and innovation, they were all worth seeing. Even Olga Chernysheva’s Windows (2007), which was somewhat derivative, tested the narrow distinction between the still and moving image. Chernysheva’s multi-screen one minute “snap shots” of everyday Russians in their living rooms spied through back windows, filmed at night with a steadycam, gives an eerie dimension to what was trademarked by Alfred Hitchcock in Rear Window (1954): spying on people going about their daily business through their back windows. Shot with a portable video camera, at night, in Russia Chernysheva mimicks the surveillance practices and the making public of private life in this country.

Jutta Strohmaier’s Passenger, 2004, continues the reflection on the theme of looking and the making of what is not our business into entertainment. But this time, the objects on the “screen” are not so important, rather what is emphasized are issues such as the transformation of perception as day turn into night, the relationship between interior and exterior space, and how each is defined through shifting intensities of natural and technological light.  The installation finds a camera looking through two apartment windows as the light changes across the course of the day. The windows become like film screens, the room a movie theater, as the light of day shifts. When the sun is extremely bright, the windows are whited out, the interior is isolated, and we are looking at a “blank screen.” And then, as it becomes darker outside and the courtyard and windows opposite are artificially lit, the windows transform into film screens with moving images on them. At least this is how they appear. But unlike the classical cinema we can never really make out what it is we are looking at. In distinction to Chernysheva’s “peeping Tom” videos, Strohmaier denies the pleasures of seeing what is not meant for our eyes. Also unlike the conventional cinema, when the image does appear on and through the windows-as-screens, it reflects back onto the walls of the room: and thus, inside and outside become transformed into a continuous space. All of this is achieved through a series of photographs being taken once every minute over the course of several days using a fix-mounted computer-controlled digital camera. The images are then looped on a video. Thus, Strohmaier demonstrates the fluidity between the still and moving image, again breaking with familiar image-making and watching conventions. (Read full article)

Mutations II / Moving Stills
Maison Européenne de la Photographie
5/7 rue de Fourcy, 75004 Paris, France
05 November 2008 – 25 January 2009

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