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Narrative arc


Narrative arc Narrative arc presents the work of four artists, Carter (USA), Ann Lislegaard (Norway), Benoît Maire (France) and Deimantas Narkevičius (Lithuania). Each of these artists have developed distinct oeuvres that have in common an engagement with film and video traditions, and a particular interest in the way in which narrative is constructed. In Narrative arc, individuals and their creative works are the subjects of each artwork. The notion of homage is significant throughout the show, as is a consideration of the way in which the vocations of certain thinkers exert tendrils of influence on artistic practice. A ‘narrative arc’ can be defined as a line that visually represents the level of dramatic tension in a story. The arc emerges from marking the degree of tension (height = y) over the course of a plotline (time = x). The way we encounter this in creative works is often in relation to a generally understood formula, that is, we are given a set-up or introduction, then a series of events unfold, which culminate in a crescendo of narrative tension that tapers off as a story resolves: beginning — middle — climax — end. If we conceive of this progression as the norm, then we can appreciate the familiar devices of the flashback, dream sequence, insert or montage as acts of intervention to a narrative’s formal structure. Experimental filmmakers, like writers or playwrights before them, have exploited the normalisation of narrative arcs to reveal their limitations. Andy Warhol’s first film Sleep (1963), starring the poet John Giorno sleeping, is silent, on black and white filmprint, and runs for six hours, a now famous example of stretching the expectations of narrative on screen. We could say that after the beginning of this film, the narrative tension plateaus. The arc would be minimal. Contrast this with the peaks and ebbs of crafted suspense in an Alfred Hitchcock film. Here, there would be undulations spread across the curve.

In Erased James Franco (2009), Carter invited the American actor James Franco to collaborate on a film where the actor performs as himself playing himself, and references a work made by Robert Rauschenberg, Erased de Kooning (1953) creating a dense meta-narrative. Benoît Maire’s video The Spider Web (2006) deletes what we might expect of visual content and instead foregrounds the sound recording of an interview with the philosopher Arthur C Danto. Maire’s Le berger (The Shepherd) (2011) operates as a more conventional short film that layers references to classical composers and performers with philosophical inquiry. Ann Lislegaard’s Bellona (after Samuel R Delany) (2005) presents a 3D animation of an architectural environment conceived in reference to the fictional city, ‘Bellona’, that features in Delany’s lauded science fiction text Dhalgren (1975). Deimantas Narkevičius’s The Role of a Lifetime (2003) is a film with, and about, the British filmmaker Peter Watkins, who reflects on his life’s work, stridently challenging the conventions of documentary making. We can think of each of these subjects as partproducers of the artists’ works where fundamental attributes of moving image media are exploited — those associated with the visual image and the effects of sound. These artworks have extraordinary potency as amalgams that open and transform the narrative genre. Narrative arc draws out richly textured artworks that touch on themes of trust and permission, naturalness and performance, ephemerality, and the relationship between fiction, recounting and witnessing, as dimensions of narrative.


Erased James Franco 2009 Super 16 mm film transfered to DVD and Digibeta, high resolution video projection on wall, 4:3 letterbox, colour, stereo sound 63 minutes 34 seconds Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York

Carter b. 1970, Norwich, Connecticut, USA

“This is my favorite performance of any that I have ever done.” — James Franco

Erased James Franco is the first feature length film created by Carter, who has developed a fascinating body of work that explores the mutability of identity and the processes of transformation throughout large-scale paintings, digitally altered photography, drawings and films. In many of his works, Carter isolates brushstrokes or pen marks and cuts them out from one surface only to readhere them into new compositions, in a manner reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings of brushstrokes. Carter also approaches parts of the body, like eyes, ears, limbs, hairlines and beard shapes as features that can be depicted as parts of a costume, and makes a powerful statement for identity as a masquerade that can simultaneously reveal and disguise subjectivity. In Erased James Franco, Carter has taken lines delivered by the American actor/artist James Franco in some of his previous roles, along with those performed by Julianne Moore in Todd Haynes’s 1995 film ‘Safe’ and by Rock Hudson in John Frankenheimer’s film ‘Seconds’ (1966). He has created a script through the process of collage. Writing for the Guardian in 2009, Ben Walters

describes Carter’s project as ‘an exercise in conceptual cine-karaoke’, which deftly points to the significance of this performance as being more about the nature of performing than about characterisation. Carter directed Franco to flatten his performance, to deliver at 50%, which gives the film a feeling of disorientation, of being drugged or trapped in a dream state. Carter’s film also concentrates on moments of non-verbal activity, such as the gesturing of hands, and activities of walking, sitting, drinking and pushing. The linking of elements in scripting, staging, performing and editing Erased James Franco has a powerful cumulative effect. While the work’s title talks about erasure, we might think that the actor’s effacement happened more truly in his first level performances. Carter’s work, rather than erasing James Franco, serves instead to re-edify his persona (a concealment?) whilst creating a unique and compelling narrative about narrative.


Bellona (after Samuel R Delany) 2005 3D animation high resolution video projection on wooden leaning screen, 4:3, colour, stereo sound 11 minutes loop Courtesy of the artist and Murray Guy, New York

Ann Lislegaard b. 1962, Tønsberg, Norway

“The miracle of order has run out, and I am left in an unmiraculous place, where anything can happen.” — Voice over, Bellona (after Samuel R Delany) Ann Lislegaard’s Bellona (after Samuel R Delany) (2005) is the first work in a trilogy of 3D animation works that look to the importance of science fiction writing as the oracle of our time. Taking its cue from ‘Bellona’, the city in which Delany’s cult classic Dhalgren (1975) is set, Lislegaard’s work depicts a hermetic environment of domestic rooms and passages modelled with a computer program. The viewer is given the single viewpoint of a camera that meanders through rooms that seem hypothetical, and where an unseen set of instructions colours the spaces in intense primary and complementary hues. While the camera does not remain motionless, it seems caught in a loop from which there is no way out. Pendant globe lights switch on and off, and light through the windows traverses reflective panels and the floors — a clue that a sun or another light source exists and that time is passing — although we cannot be sure how quickly. Samuel R Delany’s text Dhalgren has gained its mammoth reputation due to his proposal of a fictional mid-West American town cut off from all outside communication through an unspecified catastrophe. Government agents have fled, and social norms have disintegrated in Bellona, (named after the Goddess of War, or Waster of Cities). Dhalgren’s male protagonist, called ‘Kid’, is a drifter suffering from amnesia, and Lislegaard’s work eloquently invokes this psychological state.

Lislegaard, however, lifts out and sutures back together various phrases from Delany’s text to create a script. A female voice intermittently intones the new passage. Bellona (after Samuel R Delany) was presented in 2005 at the Danish Pavillion, Venice Biennale (Lislegaard now lives between Copenhagen and New York) and, as with many of Lislegaard’s screen-based artworks, the installation of the work included a built wooden screen that leans into the gallery wall. With this structure to support the projected content out from the wall, Lislegaard offers us an idea of the video image as a substance, like a veil or skin, hanging in space — an object or body itself. While built structures are repeatedly shown throughout Bellona, and seemingly underlined by its sculptural presentation, Lislegaard’s work may be more usefully approached as a crafting of experience where normal expectations about linear time and progression are overturned. Instead, this homage to Delany’s text echoes some of his methods, where a narrative spirals or cycles back on itself. This is subtly illustrated in the way that Lislegaard’s work loops with almost imperceptible beginnings and ends, a device that mirrors the way in which the opening and closing lines of Dhalgren seem to be parts of each other.


The spider web 2006 Digital video transferred to DVD, 4:3, colour, stereo sound 16 minutes 10 seconds Courtesy of the artist and Hollybush Gardens, London; Croy Nielsen, Berlin, and Galerie Cortex Athletico, Bordeaux

Benoît Maire b. 1978, Pessac, France

Benoît Maire’s The spider web (2006) dismantles expectations about what a narrative film might offer. The work’s content is largely given by a sound recording of a discussion between Maire and philosopher Arthur C Danto, the renowned author of many philosophical and art texts including Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective (1992) and After the End of Art (1997). Danto’s work has appeared in numerous works by Maire, along with that of other philosophers, whereby Maire performs ‘visual readings’ of their writing, and sets up contexts in which discussions can follow. Over-titles, or text explanations, set the scene of this interview in which we hear that Maire has constructed a small tableau on a table. Danto attempts to identify a painting reproduced in this assemblage in which a spider’s web is depicted, and to locate the painting within the time of

its production. The only image on screen for the duration of the work is a black and white interference pattern – a glitchy feature of cathoderay tube (CRT) TV monitors. Super-imposed texts emerge sporadically throughout the work, to explain what cannot be understood through vision or sound. For instance, at one point, the philosopher knocks over part of the assemblage, only to realise that the particular placement of a mirror was central to the composition’s equilibrium. As an artistic gesture, Maire’s interruption makes a forceful statement about the importance of art as an internalised concept rather than it being something we apprehend through external surfaces.


Le berger (The Shepherd) 2011 Super 8 film transferred to HD video, 16:9, colour, stereo sound 14 minutes 37 seconds Courtesy of the artist and Hollybush Gardens, London; Croy Nielsen, Berlin, and Galerie Cortex Athletico, Bordeaux

Benoît Maire b. 1978, Pessac, France

Benoît Maire’s most recent film Le berger (The Shepherd) (2011) considers art-making from a philosophical perspective using an amalgam of disparate references. An elderly shepherd, played by French actor Lou Castel, wanders through the rooms of an elegant house fallen into disrepair. The rooms of the house are flooded with strains of classical music. ‘The shepherd’ character acts as a spiritual guide for a young boy who also seeks to measure and understand aspects of his world. The relationship between the master and his young student is paralleled by the enigmatic appearance of a young woman in the house, derived from Søren Kirkegaard’s character ‘Cordelia’ in his Diary of a Seducer (the last section of Either/Or published in

1843). In this novella, a girl is identified as a subject worthy of seduction, but only after she has been raised to the intellectual level desirable by the seducer. The musical refrains are studies by the composer Frédéric Chopin, transcribed for piano by Leopold Godowsky to be performed by the left hand alone, described as among the most difficult pieces ever written for the instrument.[1] Here it is performed by concert pianist Ivan Ilic, who invokes the persona and characteristic tics of avant garde 20th century composer and performer Glenn Gould. Contemporary music is also invoked by a score for three violins written by Paul Roux.

[1] Leopold Godowsky: Etude d’apres Chopin no.5 en ré bémol majeur (Chopin Study no.5 in D flat major), http://soundcloud. com/ivan_ilic/leopold-godowsky-etude-dapr, last viewed 17 September 2012.


Deimantas Narkevičius b. 1964, Utena, Lithuania The Role of a Lifetime (with and about Peter Watkins) 2003 8 mm, Super 8 and 35 mm film transferred to Betacam SP video, high resolution projection on wall, 4:3, colour and black and white, stereo sound, English spoken 16 minutes 49 seconds Image on front cover courtesy of the artist and gb agency, Paris, and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin

“We put images and sounds together, but we never discuss with the audience, with the people, what it means to do this. What effect is this having on society, on our personal feelings, on the way we speak to each other?” — Peter Watkins Deimantas Narkevičius’s film The Role of a Lifetime centres on an interview with Peter Watkins, the controversial British filmmaker who has dedicated his life’s work to challenging the strictures of the documentary genre and massmarket films made for the public. A marginalised figure following the completion of a ‘genre-breaking fictional documentary’[1] The War Game (1965), Watkins lived in self-imposed exile from Britain, including in Vilnius, Lithuania, for many years. The Role of a Lifetime was commissioned by Art & Sacred Places 2003/4 Programme, with St Peter’s Church in Brighton, and was the first occasion on which Narkevičius had been asked to ‘respond to a situation that had no direct connection with his own lived experience.’ [2] ‘He approached this challenge not by making his own commentary, but by borrowing the perspectives of others — a Brighton amateur and a distinguished film director — both of whom had engaged with history through the medium of film.’ [3]

film The Forgotten Faces about the Hungarian uprising of 1956, made in Canterbury, UK using local non-actors), and reflects on the ethics of filmmaking in a moving, self-critical analysis.

The scene of the interview is set in Gruto Park, a swampland in the south of Lithuania, where local entrepreneurs collected old Soviet Realist statuary and re-sited them in a pastoral environment — a problematic theme-park to the post war period. Peter Watkins reflects on his early works as spurning the formulaic, ‘made for TV’ type of documentary that presents historical record through a veneer of objectivity — a method that he sees as inherently fallacious and tending to the ‘Monoform’. Watkins holds himself to account for a responsibility to storytelling, even if that means creatively resorting to substitution (as in his 1960

Narkevičius’s own work has often reflected on the remnants of past ideologies as they emerge in Post-Soviet Lithuania, and the nature of thinking about this past, in the present, necessarily entails thinking about perception as a construction. His practice has explored schisms of social and political time and the charged atmosphere of significant places in works that revisit or remake, that edit, and knowingly critique the forms of truth-telling and meaning making. This is where The Role of a Lifetime offers us a charged and elegaic intersection between Narkevičius’s and Watkins’s respective oeuvres, where both artists are involved in a lifelong pursuit of meaning and creative independence.

Narkevičius accompanies this spoken soundtrack with filming of graphite sketches of the Lithuanian landscape, some depicting the melancholic and tragic monuments of Lenin, Marx and Soviet soldiers. Ink portraits of Peter Watkins, scratchy and provisional, stand in for this figure whose image is never shown on the screen. These drawings are done by Mindaugas Lukošaitis, also not pictured apart from the activity of his hands. The documentary style of The Role of A Lifetime is supported and simultaneously dismantled by Narkevičius’s inclusion of grainy film footage taken in and around Brighton, UK. These scenes were captured by an amateur film enthusiast, Geoffrey Cook, and deposited at the South East Film and Video Archive.

[1] Art and Sacred Places, ‘New film commission by Deimantas Narkevicius’, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/ new-film-commission-by-deimantas-narkevicius/, 27 October 2003, last viewed 13 September 2012. [2] Art and Sacred Places, ‘Deimantas Narkevicius: The Role of a Lifetime’, http://www.artandsacredplaces.org/DN.html, last viewed 13 September 2012. [3] ibid.


Narrative arc

Carter, Ann Lislegaard, Benoît Maire, Deimantas Narkevičius 20 September to 10 November 2012 Curated by Naomi Evans (GUAG Curator) Griffith University Art Gallery Queensland College of Art Griffith University South Bank campus 226 Grey Street South Bank, Brisbane Q 4101 AUSTRALIA Gallery open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am – 4pm Catalogue: ISBN: 978-1-921760-86-0 Printed by Fine Print, Brisbane Designer: Niqui Toldi Front cover image: Deimantas Narkevičius, The Role of a Lifetime (with and about Peter Watkins) 2003. Courtesy of the artist and gb agency, Paris, and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin Griffith Artworks + Griffith University Art Gallery Administrator: Karen La Rocca Curator: Naomi Evans Exhibitions and Public Programs Officer: Dr Christopher Bennie Art Collection Manager: Jo Duke Curatorial and Collections Officer: Camille Serisier Assistant Curatorial and Collections Officer: Kat Sawyer Director: Simon P Wright Acknowledgements: The curator wishes to thank all of the artists for their collaboration and participation in Narrative arc: Carter, Ann Lislegaard, Benoît Maire and Deimantas Narkevičius. Thank you also goes to their galleries and representatives, including: Alissa Friedman, Sarah Walzer and Victoria Keddie at Salon 94, New York; Janice Guy of Murray Guy, New York; Malin Stahl of Hollybush Gardens, London, and Solene Guillier of gb agency, Paris. Thank you to Simon P. Wright, Director GAW+GUAG, for his constant support; to Dr Chris Bennie for tirelessly running the Exhibition coordination and Public Programs, and to all of our colleagues at GUAG and Griffith Artworks. We were fortunate to work with skilled technical consultant Steve Gooding (Grass is Greener), and with a team of terrific art preparators: Audrey Lam, Daniel Sala, Liam O’Brien, Dan McCabe and Michael Littler. Thank you for your hard work on the installation. Thanks also go to Kim Machan (Director, MAAP) and John Francia (Exhibitions Project Officer, Audio Visual, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art) for facilitating equipment loans. Thank you to Danny Brew and his team for the exhibition build; Matt Rees Signs; David Sargent, Jacqui Hancox and Niqui Toldi at Liveworm, the professional graphic design studio at Queensland College of Art . And lastly, a personal thank you - to Brett, and Elsje. Supported by:

Narrative Arc 2012  

Curated by Naomi Evans Griffith University Art Gallery GUAG

Narrative Arc 2012  

Curated by Naomi Evans Griffith University Art Gallery GUAG

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