I enjoyed Roelof Bakker‘s exhibition ‘Still’ at Hornsey Town Hall in November, although I personally feel this series is too dispersed or diverse and needs further editing into a smaller group or groups. The images that were of most interest are the few of the large spaces devoid of life such as The Green Room below, The Council Chamber and The Stage (Piano), along with those of stacks of ancient scrolls or plans, creating a honeycomb of history, each numbered with a luggage tag.
Most haunting, however, was the video, which was under-promoted. This included scenes from many more interesting parts of the building than are included in the images exhibited. We appear to have stepped into a 1930s that has been abandoned. It’s as if a major event has devoid the place of life. Perhaps we lost the second world war. Or else something along the lines of the early plot of 28 Days Later has occurred. The space is ready for use but there is no life here.
Many of the spaces we see seem of a peculiar antiquation that is beyond twenty-first or late twentieth century business use yet not like anywhere I have seen conserved as a museum. I can only guess anywhere equivalent has already fallen into disuse and been demolished. The spaces are abandoned, yet feel too fresh, crisp, new and little used, as if we have travelled back in time.
The playing of the piano from the stage provides an eery, melancholic tie to the video. In this there are too many scenes focusing on doors and drawers opening and closing, supposedly by themselves, yet these create intriguing, satisfying, clunky noises, tonally indicating the solidity of the structure and wooden materials of yesteryear.
Similarly Stanisław Lenartowicz’s Portret (Portrait), 1977 (distributed in an Anthology of Polish Experimental Animation), provides a gradually revealing series of panning landscape shots of sections of a still bedroom or dressing room, which build up to create a portrait of the surroundings of a sitter. This is much like the way Simon Armitage, in About His Person, creates a portrait of a deceased person, both physically, visually, and mentally, from the objects about his body.
In contrast to the stillness of these, Stating the Real Sublime by Rosa Barba in Tate Modern‘s Level 2 Gallery distinctively takes film into the fourth dimension with its movement. You could say it takes the notion of the moving picture a step further. In this piece she has fragily suspended a film projector by the loop of film it projects. Hence this sculptural piece swings back and forth, almost dancing in mid-air, as it pulls the film through, moving its projection around the space.