September 10–October 27, 2021
HD Video (originally IMAX)
8:28, color, sound
Cityscape is one of the family of my works dealing with camera motion, an interest dating back to Wavelength. My friend Graeme Ferguson, one of the originators of IMAX, suggested doing a version of La Région Centrale (1971) in that format after seeing the film, but for me the idea held little interest. I felt La Région Centrale was complete and I had accomplished my purpose.
Years later, I was approached again to make a short film with IMAX, now in digital format. This time, instead of a landscape film, vast and unpopulated, I was interested in looking at my own city through a more linear view. The part of Toronto visible in Cityscape is actually rarely seen by its citizens. We seldom think of Lake Ontario at the foot of Yonge Street, but the skyline viewed from the islands just offshore is interesting. The title makes clear that the city is the subject.
In Cityscape, camera movements—panning and rotating at different speeds—activate the city skyline. The soundtrack is built on the “Amen Brother” drum break, which is central to Drum and Bass and Hip Hop, an expression of the energy of the city. The sound uses playback speed as a compositional element, rhythmically in sync with the camera movements.
Although Cityscape is shot in color, its muted concrete tones link closely with the material monochromatism of Ready Mix, composed with a striking tonal palette. In these and La Région Centrale, camera movement drives the structure subtly but in substantial ways. The latter is cosmic, spanning twenty-four hours and the entire firmament. Cityscape is an urban landscape and appropriately scaled. Ready Mix looks closely at the narrative of turning rock into concrete and is resolutely earthbound.
Michael Snow was born in Toronto in 1928 and is a filmmaker and artist.
To view the work, visit the website here.
Vertical Roll, (1972)
19:38; black-and-white video
Lucy Raven/Joan Jonas
When asked to choose a work to pair with Lucy Raven’s Ready Mix, my mind went immediately to the work of the men that so conspicuously occupy Dia’s large space in Beacon. After all, Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), much of Michael Heizer’s work, and Richard Serra’s work with both concrete and his film Railroad Turnbridge (1976) have obvious connections to Raven’s film documenting the making of concrete blocks. It didn’t quite seem right, though. I think of Lucy as a feminist occupying the materials of her patriarchal forebearers in a particularly interesting way. Watching the first eight minutes of Ready Mix, as the barrel of a cement truck rolls over and over, an alternative came to mind. The flatness of the surface, punctuated by a line of shadow, persisted for a duration that allowed my mind to wander to Joan Jonas’s 1972 work, Vertical Roll.
I liked the connection. Jonas’s embrace of a durational structure was an influence on my own work as well as younger artists like Raven. As you move through Vertical Roll, the piece unfolds slowly. Similarly, Ready Mix reveals itself. It is only after the truck moves out of frame that you understand what you’ve been watching, and a complete understanding of the work is withheld until the final block finds its place, concluding the film. In the last two minutes of Jonas’s film, the artist’s face slowly enters the frame. This breaks the flatness of the screen you’ve been watching, creates a three-dimensional space, and literally inserts her body in between the screen and the camera, confronting viewers with her stare. While Jonas’s subject is the female body and its representation, Vertical Roll’s form connotes the industrial, as the stark black and white of early video is combined with the technological in its interrupted video signal, and the raw metallic sound of a spoon marking the time. The importance of Jonas to those of us who think of video as a performative and spatial endeavor cannot be overstated. As Raven occupies Dia’s Chelsea space with her ode to industry, it seems fitting to acknowledge this with a work by one of the women included in Dia’s collection.
Sharon Lockhart was born in Norwood, Massachusetts, in 1964, and is a filmmaker and artist.
Joan Jonas was born in New York in 1936. She is an artist and the subject of an exhibition opening at Dia Beacon on October 8, 2021.