MYOPIA SPARKLES Jennifer West | Edith Dekyndt | Shana Moulton Curated by Harriet B Mitchell part of PAMI 19 - 23 September 2012
Around the same time I happened upon these three films for the first time, I'd been reading an essay by Helene Cixous recounting her experience of recovered sight after a lifetime of severe myopia, ending with an unexpected twist in which she finds herself grieving for her former semi-blind self. I enjoyed the way Cixous mythologised her myopic state as a positive, and it made me think about the process of myth-making, the pseudo-magical, and dreamy visions. Almost automatically I began to browse articles related to vision online, uncovering forums full of people discussing the finer details of their visual ailments. Reportedly, myopia sparkles are a phenomenon occasionally experienced by people suffering from nearsightedness, resulting in the perception of twinkly glints or flashes on the periphery of their vision. These flashes are often associated with headache, nausea, or dizziness, but more often occur without such symptoms. In this case, they are commonly called an ophthalmic migraine, or a migraine without the other accompanying symptoms. Perhaps somewhat naively, I allowed myself to imagine the possibility that seeing stars in the corner of the eye could make for a pleasurable trip, much in the same way that Cixous became attached to her myopia. All of the works in this show feature abstract, shimmering, colourful shapes that move mesmerisingly within the visual field. Each carries its own mythology and is imbued with a sense of the mystical.
JENNIFER WEST (lives and works in LA) Jennifer West belongs to a long tradition of experimental filmmakers who have worked with "direct film,"or films realized without the use of camera. Direct films are created by manipulating the celluloid strip through physical actions and processes. West treats her films by exposing them to a variety of substances such as coffee, mascara, lipstick, and habanero sauce, or by staging interactive events where people are invited to perform actions to the film strips, like snowboarding or skateboarding directly on them. The resulting footage is then transferred to digital format, and projected and often accelerated, which heightens its abstract and tactile qualities. The title of each work bears the memory of the process of making: extensive and detailed in their descriptions, the titles list all elements, substances and actions that incurred in the production of the final artwork.
EDITH DEKYNT (lives and works in Tournai, Belgium) For over two decades, Edith Dekyndt has created a large repertoire of single channel video projections, slide projections, sculptures and sound works, all of which are characterized by a sparse but playful aesthetic. The three works that make up Edith Dekyndt’s Provisory Object series focus, in fixed shots, on a sequence of experiments she conducted in different atmospheric conditions with a bubble of soapy water collected in two hands. In each instance, the ephemerality of the soapy water determines the length of the work. The first work in the series, Provisory Object 01 (1997), was filmed in Belgium at 16°C (61°F). Here, the soapy water forms a dazzling, colourful membrane of light that occupies the diamond shape formed by the thumbs and index fingers of both hands. The imagery is reminiscent of childhood and the dazzling surface of a breath-blown bubble against the summer sun. In Provisory Object 02 (2000), filmed in Canada at -20 °C (-4°F), the bubble's membrane becomes transparent and shrinks after a few moments of contact with the cold. In the third and final experiment, Provisory Object 03 (2004) filmed in the Congo at 25°C (77°F), the soapy water takes on a more visceral appearance and survives for the shortest length of time.
SHANA MOULTON (lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) Shana Moulton creates evocatively oblique narratives in her video and performance works. Combining an unsettling, wry humour with a low-tech pop sensibility, Moulton plays a character whose interactions with the everyday world are both mundane and surreal, in a domestic sphere just slightly askew. In Sand Saga (2008), Moulton's alter ego Cynthia gains access to a parallel universe via the transformative powers of New Age body treatments and domestic objects. After applying a facial beauty mask, she moves through an environment energized with Southwestern motifs and rituals, from sculpted heads and Georgia O'Keefe-like forms to sand painting and hot stone massage. Ultimately Cynthia is transported to a fantastical world and emerges transformed.
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