Persistence of Vision by Urich Lau

Dislocated digital Text-ures

Persistence of Vision by Urich Lau

Persistence of Visions is an ambitious study of found images and the aesthetics of celluloid film, against the artist’s critique of contemporaneity in art. Like his earlier works, Lau is fascinated by how the moving image is constructed, and deconstructed. In Intersection: Video Diptych (2013) , a dual projection from a scene from French film noir, La Haine (1995) is slowed immensely, rendering the dialogue incomprehensible. On close observation, one screen advances in time, and the other is reversed, and the organic grain of 35mm film is replaced by harsh digital pixels. At the point where both linearity cross, presumably at the flash point, we might wish this was another clip altogether. As lead of this exhibition, it challenges our ‘persistence of vision’: first, as the foreword to the catalogue puts it, dislocates our comprehension of time-continuity, effectively reversing the visual effect of motion constituted by our eyes’ and mind’s retention of 24 still frames per second; second, confronts what we think we know from seeing.

The significance of the choice of the scene from La Haine is perhaps less important than the visual effect. Deliberately art house, and black and white to suggest nostalgia, the artist might have wanted the images to linger in our minds. For me, it failed to do so and it might just as well be an excerpt from any other movie. Extending an interpretation of the original film and in the context of contemporary world current affairs, we might say that the artist was referring to the idea of pointless violence. Violence persists, and images of brutality are easily available from the Internet if we searched hard enough. Violence exist in the world for various reasons. Youth violence is sometimes attributed to unemployment, disadvantaged backgrounds and gang affiliations; wars are fought on the basis of ‘a right point of view’ and rooted political impetus. In my view, violence persists, not because of the recurring violent images we make, but possibly because of poverty, distrust, ignorance, hate and utter lack of empathy. Returning to the choice of this La Haine moment, I would think that this choice limits the number of appreciative viewers; another clip might have related better with a Singapore audience. The relationship a Singapore audience might have to cinema, television or youtube, should be taken into consideration.

Dislocation could be said to describe the other pieces. In Stereoscopist:City Conjunction (2013), bodies are used as canvases for a diptych of moving trains, and the nipples “stare out boldly at us, like defiant eyes, doubly disrupting the spectacle” (Dixon, foreword to catalogue, 2013).  The viewer could end up distracted and confused by the juxtaposition of film on a bodily screen. In the age of high definition screens, the choice of using cathode ray tube screens are sentimental, raw, and industrial. Other than formalistic qualities, the artist might have intended for the body to be a symbol for, the site and residual of journeys and personal memories.

In the Orators: Monologues (2011-2013),  excerpts were taken film classics, Welle’s Citizen Kane (1941)  and Chaplin’s Great Dictator (1940). The work consists of two (unrelated) parts: the triptych monitors taking turns to lecture the viewer; and film stills, with film captions, from the videos. The monologues suggest that the absence of an audience, and the characters are speaking to themselves in the context of a play. It doesn’t take long to discover that the audio from the clip is different from the crisp subtitles, and the viewer becomes more attentive to the words that differ. Their subtitles are replaced by the artist’s own speech which critiques the politics surrounding contemporary art.  On analysis, these subtitles could be read as the artist’s statement, or any other artist’s proclamation of what art is or should be. From an art critic’s perspective, the subtitles is asking the viewer to think about the state of art criticism today. The text—referring to subtitles—is more important than the image for once.

6.0 of 10 stars

Persistence of Vision
Space Cottonseed, Gillman Barracks, 6 Sep – 6 Oct 2013

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