Director's Note: Contemporary Moving Image Artwork On View Daily
The George Eastman Museum collects, preserves, and exhibits works from the entire history of moving images—from the earliest films of the Lumière brothers to contemporary moving image artworks that are generally presented in museum galleries rather than cinemas. Our commitment to works by contemporary artists is manifest in renowned South African artist William Kentridge’s landmark donation of his complete moving image oeuvre to the Eastman Museum.
Over the past year, during museum hours, the Dryden Theatre has become an exhibition space for such works by contemporary artists. When the museum is open, visitors may enter the Dryden through its interior front doors (near the café) or through two doors from the Colonnade, which extends Alexandre Larose’s brouillard passage #14 (2013) was on view in the Dryden Theatre through February. from the Palm House to the mansion dining room. The works are played on a loop, so that visitors may enter the theater at any time.
I am not aware of any other museum that continually presents moving image artworks in a cinema. When selecting works, we are mindful of the venue’s space and screen. A viewer’s experience of an artwork on the big screen can be notably different—and often more engrossing—than in a museum gallery.
The exhibited artwork changes every few months. To date, we have exhibited Tide Table (2003) by William Kentridge, a suite of three works by photographer Eugene Richards, and brouillard passage #14 (2013) by Canadian film artist Alexandre Larose. Over the course of 2018, we will exhibit three more contemporary works. Starting on March 1, we will present FOLD by Surabhi Saraf (Indian, b. 1983) in the Dryden. This beautiful and transfixing piece will supplement our Stories of Indian Cinema exhibition with a moving image work by a contemporary artist.
From July through October, the Dryden will exhibit Your Views by Gillian Wearing (British, b. 1963), whose artworks include moving images, performance art, and photographs. (Her photograph Me as Talbot is on view through April 22 in our History of Photography Gallery.) Your Views is the result of a globalist, collective project— presciently launched two years before the Brexit vote—in which the artist invited people from around the world to record and submit a very short clip of “curtains or blinds opening to reveal the view from a window.” The submissions were gathered on a website and edited together to form a work that allows us to share the views from the windows of hundreds of people from scores of countries. Your Views will complement our Project Gallery exhibition of Gail Albert Halaban’s Out My Window photographs, which were created in close collaboration with individuals recruited by the artist.
We are hopeful that throughout November and December the Dryden will screen Reanimation (Snow White) by Oliver Beer (British, b. 1985). The artist began by extracting a 40-second clip from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) in which the heroine is making a pie for Grumpy with the help of the animals and singing “Someday My Prince Will Come.” Beer extracted and printed about five hundred unique images that make up all of the frames in the sequence. He sent the printed pages, tracing paper, and instructions to schools around the southeast of France. Schoolchildren were asked to trace the forms faithfully, while completely reinterpreting and re-imagining them. The artist then photographed these color drawings and printed them on 16mm film, reconstituting the famous scene after it had passed through the minds and hands of five hundred children. The result is a hallucinatory, quivering animation, which despite the great variation between each image retains the movement, forms, and rhythms of the original Disney masterpiece.
Moving images are an important form of expression for contemporary artists, and their works are an essential part of the history of the medium. The Dryden Theatre offers visitors to the Eastman Museum a uniquely cinematic experience of these artworks.
Bruce Barnes, Ph.D.
Ron and Donna Fielding Director
March/April 2018 Bulletin