Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Very Eye of Night

Jancar Gallery has consistently supported the work of women artists working in a feminist vein. Their current exhibition continues this legacy with a group of works inspired by Maya Deren's final film, The Very Eye of Night. Deren's 1958 work features inverted images of dancers moving through a starry sky like satellites on a celestial journey. Bodies glide and hover as their ghosted forms overlap and mingle. Deren used the Milky Way to evoke common themes in her oeuvre, including the primitive, mystical power of the natural world, and the psychological and somatic expressions of human life.

Like Deren, the artists in Jancar Gallery’s thoughtful exhibition explore temporality, poetic movement, and mortality through symbolism and repetition The show includes works by Anne Colvin, Dorit Cypis, Micol Hebron, Sofie Bird Moller, Tricia Lawless Murray and Elizabeth Tremante.

Down the Line, a video by Sofie Bird Moeller, features clips borrowed from several filmed black-and-white versions of the Invisible Man dressing and undressing. Moeller choreographs movement across the screen as clothing appears to float and twist of its own volition. Fabric is contorted through the body’s gestures into hovering veil-like forms that infer ghosts, or other harbingers of death. The frequent cuts and shifts of space destabilize any coherent narrative contained in the original films and develop a dreamscape composed of recurring images.

Like Moeller, Anne Colvin uses found footage to create an uncanny and haunting work. Her magenta-drenched video, The Study, offers an eerie scenario as a group of figures move languidly in reverse through a shallow space. Excerpted from Maya Deren’s Ritual in Transfigured Time, the footage maintains the surreal tenor of the original as Colvin heightens tension through tight repetition. Colvin’s actors are trapped in a loop that evokes the terror of a perpetual trauma, not unlike slow-motion clips of the JFK assassination.

Still from Anne Colvin's The Study, 2009

Revers-ability (diptych) Dorit Cypis’ two large-format photographs show the artist standing with her camera in a frozen posture of turning away. The artist is dwarfed by the vastness of space as she poses for the eye of the camera as well as the eyes of the viewer. The space of the photograph is a duplicate, but the body is a mirror as each image shows Cypis’ torso arcing in the opposite direction.

The mirror and the eye also play a significant role in Tricia Lawless Murray’s Solar Annulus, a work comprised of three dioramas contained inside square wooden boxes. Like Duchamp's Étant donnés, the works can only be viewed through a small peephole. The viewer is forced into an intimate position with Murray’s erotic and fragmented imagery of the female body and nature. She uses mirrored surfaces and spinning mechanisms to disorient the optical experience of each work. The third box incorporates a small video screen that features a silhouetted woman waving a cloth into the night wind. She appears weightless much like the dancers who float across Deren’s dark sky. 

front of the exhibition invitation

Deren has referred to her use of time as vertical, a poetic structure where space and time may interleave simultaneously without the constraints of the linear narrative. The works in The Very Eye of Night pay homage to this structure and to Deren's visionary exploration of the intersections between the internal and external movements of the body.
In the still of the night we believe we will be held - until then we we hold our own bodies stiff. The legacy of psychoanalysis allows us to see that bodies can be endlessly remade, re-choreographed, outside the traditional architectonics of human reproduction. Psychic health is in part contingent upon the body finding its rhythm in words and time. Choreography and psychoanalysis would do well to join in a conversation about the body's time.         
--Immobile legs, stalled words: psychoanalysis and moving deaths, Peggy Phelan   

The Very Eye of the Night is on view at Jancar Gallery June 30-July 28, 2012                                                                       

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