elegiac contemplation of the quotidian

Posted: November 10, 2015 in galleries
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Invention, an installation at The Power Plant gallery, by Mark Lewis.

The main part of the exhibit consists of 3 short films shot in Toronto.
When I first saw it, I thought that the films were older, perhaps from the 60s or 70s.

below:  A short film begins with a pan over part of downtown Toronto.  It circles back to the Robarts Library and focuses on a woman standing in the window of one of the upper floors.  After zooming in on the woman, the film “enters” the room she’s in and turns back to focus on what her view out the window looks like.

Two women are standing in the semi darkness in a room in an art gallery, watching a black and white film that is showing on a large screen in front of them. The image on the screen is the back of the upper part of a woman as she stands in front of a window in the Robarts Library in Toronto. The scene outside the window is clearly visible, winter time, University of Torotno campus. She is holding a book in her hands.

below:  Another exhibit is a film comprised of segments filmed at a number of locations around City Hall this past winter.   The image below is shot from the upper ramp at Nathan Phillips Square, looking south.   Old City hall is on the left.   There are no people in the picture.  There are also no commercial images such as billboards or signs on the buildings.  Slow moving, quiet.

An older couple are sitting on a bench at an art gallery. They are watching a black and white film that is showing on a large screen in front of them. The image on the screen is a shot of the upper ramp at Nathan Phillips Square, looking south, in the winter with snow on the ground. There are no people in the picture on the screen.

It wasn’t until I looked more closely at the images that I realized that the films had to have been made recently… for example, the recently built stage area in Nathan Phillips Square.  So I watched the films again looking for details.

One of the images shown in an art installation on a large wall screen, a black and white picture overlooking Nathan Phillips Square in the winter.

A little perplexed, I tried to find out why Lewis made these films, and why they were considered to be “art”. It wasn’t easy; it was probably made more difficult by my love/hate relationship with contemporary art.  The title of this post comes from a paragraph I found on The Power Plant website description of this installation: “Together, the elements that make up Mark Lewis’ films culminate in a body of work that is as astute as it is elegiac in its contemplation of the quotidian, offering an experience of the flux of time that is as elating in its duration as it is haunting for its sense of passing.”  Well, um, okay.

It also wasn’t easy because of the scope of the questions that Lewis seems to be tackling.  One of his interest lies in discovering what it might have felt like when film revolutionized they way we looked at ourselves and at the world around us.   That’s a tough one.  We are a society that is immersed in moving images of all kinds. Movies and TV have been part of our lives for many generations.  Can anyone truly imagine what it might have been like to see a film for the first time?

As we all know, digital technology has put video production into the hands of anyone with a cellphone.   Even my three year old granddaughter asks me to make videos of her and I’m sure it won’t be long before she’s producing them.  And that leads to another question that Lewis is interested in examining – what are the implications of these technological changes?  Not only can see video, we can be in control of making our own whenever we want.

But that’s not all.  Lewis is also interested in architectural surfaces so walls, windows, pavements and reflective glass amongst others play a role in his films.   Urban architecture; urban landscapes.  Cinema made of the ordinary everyday life of living in the city and everyday life in the city is cinema.  24/7 movie making.  You are part of the cast; you are the camera.

What I have presented here are just three pictures and I’m not sure the pictures do the films justice.   If you want to see these films, they are at The Power Plant gallery until 3 Jan 2016.


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