I came across a quote from British film artist Tacita Dean the other day; it seemed timely, since the New Zealand International Film Festival has just opened and film director Vincent Ward is covering vast tracts of Auckland art real estate: "I am demanding people's time. In a busy world, that is a big demand, but one of the many reasons why art matters is its ability to stop the rush."
The irony is that it is film's own movement that asks us to stop our moving. A film or video work "does not give itself away at a 'glance'; it crafts itself through time," says Alex Monteith, artist and co-curator of the Film Festival's "The Artists Cinema" programme of short films.
Even though film art has been around long enough to have its own substantial canon - including Man Ray, Maya Deren, Andy Warhol, Bill Viola, Michael Snow and, yes, Len Lye - film is not something we always think about before visiting an art gallery. Being unprepared can mean being too impatient or nonplussed to "stop the rush". Earlier this year, Te Tuhi Gallery left Simone Aaberg Kaern's 76-minute, 2006 documentary artwork Smiling in a war zone playing continuously. I would have liked to watch it, but - funnily enough - I hadn't allowed enough time in my schedule that morning to go to the movies.
But what happens if one expects film at an art gallery? This week I went to the Auckland Art Gallery determined to conquer the busy world, and view Home AKL's six video works until all their loops relooped, or closing time, which ever came first.
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The gallery's Janet Lilo commission Under the Radar plays across three screens in the exhibition's first room.
To offset video's slow-reveal, says Monteith, artists often consider "the 'drop-in-drop-out' viewership, and make works where content can be entered into at any given moment". Lilo grabs attention with attractiveness, post-production artificial colour and still silhouettes. But she also holds the viewer's interest by changing the panoramic city shots frequently, making one wonder, "what's next?"
The two works by Jeremy Leatinu'u present a contrasting strategy: they are one-shot documentations of interesting performances rather than pastiche-edited video-art packages, inviting not associations between different images but a steady contemplation of one idea (or a quick sum-up for Monteith's "smorgasbord meanderer").
Like Ward's Inhale at the Gus Fisher Gallery and Wallace Art Centre, two of the other Home AKL works involve not just straight video presentations, but installations incorporating footage of people in water. Leilani Kake's Ariki Tupu'anga projects her son in swirling water on to a tray of still water in a dark alcove; Jim Vivieaere's Negate/Disclose is projected on to salt in the middle of a well-lit main room. Looking into such watery depths is - ahem - immersive.
Angela Tiatia's Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis is the shortest, taking next to no time to deliver its biting message. In contrast, although Monteith admits that length can sometimes feel "flabby and muddy", some of her favourite artworks are "excruciatingly long takes of things".
Film art - worth the wait.