Thursday, June 12, 2014

James Nares’ Street

Where: National Gallery of Art

When: through July 6, 2014

Two firsts for me in this exhibit: my first video display at the National Gallery and my first trip to the Project Room.  Just when you think there's nothing new to see at a museum, you get to experience something out of the ordinary.

In case you've never been to the Project Room either, it's on the Ground Floor.  You go through a doorway (that I confess I've never noticed before) in the exhibit on American Furniture.  The doorway is marked "Lecture Hall," and there is a lecture hall at the end of the hallway, but the Project Room is off to the left, just before you get to the Lecture Hall.  I had no idea any of this was there - makes me wonder what other exhibit spaces I'm missing out on?

James Nares was born in Britain, but has adopted New York City as his home.  This film is an homage to this bustling town, so full of people and traffic and stores, so full of movement.  The technique he used to make the film is complicated, but basically involves taking 6-second shots of street scenes, using very high-definition film.  He then strung these bits of film together to make a sort of movie.  It's as if the people are moving in super slow motion.  They seem to be standing still, but then you'll see movement - a waving hand, or a step forward, and you realize they are moving.

It's difficult to describe, but it's hypnotic to watch.  The full video is about an hour in length, so I didn't have time to watch all of it.  Amazingly enough, I think I could have sat there and watched the whole thing without growing bored, which, considering there's no plot or dialogue, is quite a statement.  I was reminded of the films I've seen at the Hirshhorn: odd, thought-provoking, memorable.  Street is all of that.

Verdict: Don't miss this great video - make a special trip to the National Gallery; it's worth it.

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