Logistical impediments meant that I couldn’t go to see Martin Creed at the Hayward after work, so it was the ICA instead, where I could take advantage of the late gallery opening before an A Nos Amours screening. I had to ask where the ‘Theatre’ was, because it was a space I hadn’t been in at the ICA before, at least not in this decade. The Hito Steyerl show is yet more video. I had limited time before the film, leading me to choose the relatively short How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File first. The repeated motifs here were various incarnations of ‘targets’ used by the US Air Force to calibrate their photographic equipment, ranging from a placard/testcard-sized handheld item to various incarnations in the Californian desert, one of which has been discarded, owing to the obsolescence of analogue imaging, the intriguing arrangement of graded lines and numbers replaced by three large pixels. The various lessons in invisibility were narrated by a slowed-down version of the Weakest Link man. Some rogue pixels strike up mischief, while the Temptations appear towards the end, transposed, excised and re-rendered.
The large screen, complete with proper seating, was showing Liquidity Inc., which includes tales of austerity via German child and adult masked weather presenters – “What is water” – referring to trade winds and “orgone cannons”. (I have a soft-spot for any Wilhelm Reich mentions). The lack of funds appears to affect the making of the video itself, as a stream of e-mails and messages relate the inability to render a raft in 3D –
“even the kid in Moscow is broke”.
Meanwhile, the water itself begins to talk about Jacob Wood and his journey from Vietnam towards Silicon Valley success and then wrestling. I had to leave before the end, and before I’d seen the other three videos, sad to say. It’s on until April 27th.
The main reason for my visit was to see Les Années 80, eighth in the A Nos Amours season of Chantal Akerman productions. I’d been to see the first instalment, and none since (for no good reason), and didn’t know much about this one. In fact, it was a rather extraordinary dissection of the creative process, including most of the bits that would normally be left out. It’s split into two parts, the Audition and the Project itself. Never before have I seen feet activity being assessed, as footage of steps and intimations of dancing are shown, limited to the shin. The structure is deceptively clever, because you see various small sequences and scenes rehearsed many times, by different performers, in different ways, on video. In the Project section, the medium moves to 35mm film and it’s startling when what you’ve seen broken down, with minute direction to the actors/performers, is realised in a proper choreographed performance. The concentration of the actors is very endearing, such as during a musical piece set in a hairdressers, when one of the people washing hair loses track of her hose while singing and drenches the face of her customer, during his own singing. There was lots of laughter in the cinema and I think this was as much from delight as amusement.
“That really caught me off guard”
I heard someone say in the foyer afterwards. My favourite bit of Akerman’s direction was when one of the actors was waiting for a customer in her shop and she was asked to
“present her best commercial smile”,
which she did.
Given that the organisers are promising to show her entire oeuvre, I’m looking forward to seeing the “proper” musical that emerged three years later.
Starting home along the Mall, I peeked into the Mall Galleries, which appeared to be hosting the “Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year” event, denoted by dinner jackets,tables with lots of wine glasses on them and an imposing entry desk. Some kind of radical contrast with Akerman, there…