By Marie Verheul
— The Celluloid exhibition is located within the heart of the EYE Film Museum in Amsterdam’s Noord district, and attempts to portray art as pertaining to analogue film. The artistic quality of this film-form emphasizes the unsurpassed power of projected images, which allows the audience to zoom in on the temporal dynamics at work. This is done in order to highlight the artists’ central message, how the digital era has since overtaken, to echo in all corners of the experience.
Upon entering the exhibition’s grandiose dark rooms, classical science-fiction music and the whir of projectors heighten the mysterious atmosphere and provoke a silent awe. The first thing you see is, interestingly, more of a sculpture than a screening, and constructed by Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder. This is directly followed by a giant mound of cellular film freely gathering behind a projector, which through its continuous action allows film to accumulate in the space behind it. There is no one there to cut it off, and the end result is the film rolling infinitely, as if to symbolize how technology has been left to its fate.
Beyond the mound of film lies the work of Rosa Barba, which manifests as a mysterious encounter between two projectors emitting symmetrical sounds, lights and movements. In the next room, Tacita Dean’s silent ode to analogue film is playing; a visual poem consisting of color or black and white celluloid. The array of slow and simple imagery provokes such powerful emotions within the spectator, that it leaves you with that all too familiar sense that “maybe it isn’t so complicated after all”.
Crossing through a dark threshold, pulsating abstract colors following the style of Barnett Newmann and Mark Rothko catch your eye. By simply exposing a negative directly to a source of light, the purest experience of color as hues of red, yellow and orange weave together to create an almost transcendent experience. Following this, you enter a room lit up by the flickering of projectors showcasing short films by João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva, that capture basic life, specific moments of mundane existence. Arriving at this piece after having seen the rest allows you to momentarily pause and link each piece to each other, all due to the authors’ focus on the simplicity, and the mundane rhythm we all live in. Deeply saturated colors and soft contrasts between light and dark further reveal the poetry and magic behind each philosophical film, and thus our own lives.
Following this, as a poignant and stark contrast to the rhythmic ebb and flow the spectator has grown accustomed too, we arrive at an ostrich egg shadowed in to represent a distant planet, a colorful bird spreading its wings, a fur coat rotating in a washing machine, a close up of 2 locals painfully commuting on a train, a man smoking a cigarette in a minute village. The absurdity of life, artistically laid naked before us.
The last corner of the exhibition is reserved for Rosa Barba’s film ‘Bending to Earth’, reflecting technological and societal advances such as solar power plantations through shots of North American landscapes.The combining of images, text and a dramatic, sporadic soundtrack gives the documentary a science-fiction-like quality. Having finished the tour, you are required to retrace your steps to the entrance, allowing for a second encounter with the wide array of installations, and a chance to reflect on the differences in your experience the second time around. This is the final reflection of the exhibition, the difference that lies between an initial, and familiar, experience of the mundane, mixed with the absurd, technology and oblivion.
Celluloid features works from artists Tacita Dean, João Maria Gusmão, Pedro Paiva, Rosa Barba, Sandra Gibson, and Luis Recoder. The exhibition runs from 17 September through 8 January 2017, and can be seen at the EYE Film museum, opposite Central Station in Amsterdam Noord. Regular tickets are € 10, while students can go in for € 8,50. More information can be found at the event’s official website.
Featured image: Rosa Barba, ‘Bending to Earth‘, 2015. The photograph was taken by Studio Hans Wilschut and previously used for an article by Schirn Magazine. All rights belong to the owner, and the image is used here only for illustration purposes.