Stillness is the Move: Alex Fleming, The lace curtains of his apartment

Alex Fleming, The lace curtains of his apartment
November 20, 2009 – January 9, 2010
Franklin Art Works, Minneapolis, MN

“Stillness is the Move”

Alex Fleming’s first exhibition in Minnesota took place at one of the city’s non-profit art centers, Franklin Art Works, housed in a renovated silent-era movie theater. Fitting, given Fleming’s interest with near-obsolete and anachronistic technology, that his installation takes place in a space filled with history that spills into the present-day. The lace curtains of his apartment was originally installed as one part of Fleming’s first solo-exhibition at Lisa Cooley in New York City. At Franklin, a dimly lit room creates a hermetic atmosphere from which emerges Fleming’s austere corner projection—of blank pages framed by an ornate border, flipped at a casual, yet taciturn speed juxtaposed with a slide projection of an anonymous, middle-aged woman. The gauzy curtains cover two windows that look like stage sets, not opening to the outside world, add to this cloistering effect.

As Barthes is well-known to have pointed out, that a picture always refers to that which is outside it, its silent histories of its making and maker, the relationship of this woman to the installation remains a constant concern. Like the blank pages that turn without end, constantly repeating a motion that refuses legibility, the sitter will, too, remain shrouded in ambiguity, heightened by her portrayal as an anachronism. However, “truth” is rarely grasped at in current art practice where incongruity remains an invariable given, so this is nothing new if not banal. This middle-aged woman, her melancholy posturing, and slightly out-of-focus visage, all her aspect adds up to nothing specific. When truth remains relational, in an installation such as Fleming’s, a rift opens up to affect—a space where emotions and desire commingle into a hazy aura about the subject.

Film theorist Laura U. Marks has taken an interest in the use of outmoded technology in art, particularly how decay creates an affective response in viewers. For Marks, the ephemerality of video, its lack of cognizance of itself as something permanent and authoritative, restores the aura that Benjamin wanted to preserve in the artwork:

“With disappearance, the work accumulates aura.  Mechanically reproduced images supposedly lack aura, but as images decay they become unique again: an unhappy film is unhappy after its own fashion.  The scratches and unintentional jump cuts on our print of X film are ours alone, and even video decays individually in response to temperature, humidity, and the idiosyncrasies of playback machines.”

The lace curtains of his apartment are ours alone, reading into and beyond the empty page.

The title of this review was taken from the same-titled track by The Dirty Projectors off of their 2009 album Bitte Orca.

This quotation from Laura U. Marks comes from her book Touch, p. 97.

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