PLAY² | FILM GRAMMAR
30 May - 31 Jul 2018
PLAY² @ Federation Square | screening Thursday 28 June 5.45pm
and opening at BLINDSIDE till 7.30pm
PLAY² is a BLINDSIDE Satellite Project and can be viewed on the public screen at |
Federation Square, Melbourne; Bunjil Place, Narre Warren; Harmony Square, Dandenong; Liverpool, Sydney; Fairfield, Sydney
Curated by Bridie Lunney
Exhibition text by Emma Nixon
The navigation of cinematic tropes in the work of Tommaso Nervegna-Reed draws from the histories of video art and film, and repudiates conventional narrative structures. Appropriation, collage and erasure are the tools with which he interrogates traditional cinema and the ways we passively consume it. Here in this presentation of Film Grammar 2018 - a compilation of four short videos - Nervegna-Reed focuses on the syntax of cinema and by deconstructing iconic films creates something original.
Untitled (14 Films), 2016, frames a synthesis of colours, characters and recontextualized narratives. The work splices together fragments of cult movie classics, each film represented as a vertical stripe. Instead of exposing the principal characters or crucial scenes of the films, we witness the ephemeral moments in between: an extended hand, a game of pool, the view from a train’s window. These fleeting glimpses of incidental details reveal to us the atmosphere of each of the films and hint at their untold stories. Nervegna-Reed chose the films unsystematically, usually for their rich visual tendencies and pop icon status, and across various genres. The cut and paste technique is in the spirit of collage, but Nervegna-Reed here also attempts to construct a viewing experience that is parallel to an abstract painting using film as his material. The blatant appropriation of the films sets up the first of Nervegna-Reed’s disruption of narrative and acts as a forewarning for the interrogation of cinema that further unfolds in the three videos to come.
By contrast, Untitled (Eurydice’s Carpark), 2017, is the only video to use Nervegna-Reed’s own footage, here employing the device of a single hand held tracking shot, which continuously loops. The camera follows his young female protagonist as she navigates a multistory car park at night, her actions punctuated by her unexplained discarding and rescuing of an unidentified DVD. Her presence is strong and in control but her vulnerability still seeps through, a backwards glance, a darting eye. The unsettling atmosphere of her empty environment is amplified by her piercing look straight into the camera lens that builds to a tension that never actualizes. Nervegna-Reed relishes the ability to elicit frustration in his viewer – any resolution to the narrative is displaced by the continuous, hypnotic repetition of the same footage. Habitually we wait for answers to come in the next scene, only for the video to loop, and to find ourselves stuck in the quasi underworld with no conclusion.
The loop is only broken when one video merges into another; the tracking shot appears to move through the young woman, and returns to the other side in the next video, Untitled (Persona), 2016. The blank screen is inscribed with the subtitle, “You would not do such a thing” - the first sentence of a scene in Persona, Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 Swedish psychological drama. Nervegna-Reed consciously omits the film’s visual information leaving only the English subtitles, to elicit the idea that we are watching a script. The subtitles themselves are littered with subtle mistakes, partially due to the nature of translation and partially because they remain true to how they were sourced.
Unseen and unheard, the characters continue their existential conversation about reality, fiction, silence, melancholia and not knowing yourself. Disconnected from their narrative context and point of reference, the free-floating words are further abstracted, and take on poetic meanings of their own as viewers begin to visualize their own narratives.
The erasure of key elements is echoed in the final video Untitled (Shock Corridor), 2018, in which Nervegna-Reed borrows footage from the 1963 American drama by Samuel Fuller set in a mental asylum. Irritation in the viewer is provoked again, now through the visual obfuscation of the characters’ figures. The natural desire to recognize and understand what is presented is thwarted by the jet black shadow with which Nervegna-Reed veils his characters, evoking the familiar, tender frustration of someone only telling you half a secret. As the video continues, glimpses of a nose, a chin, a smile are teased, as if rewarding the audience for holding their focus, while balancing the tension between revelation and concealment.
Nervegna-Reed systematically withholds information in order to activate his viewer. He obscures our expectations of what a film is meant to be and asks us to fill in the gaps his erasure leaves. When played in succession, these four videos allude to answers and responses that are different to those they would separately receive. Each video adds something different to the cycle and we read them in relation to one another. The protagonist of Untitled (Eurydice’s Carpark) is almost the only face the audience sees in this 25-minute montage. Is she then the natural choice for the unseen characters in the final two videos? Could the DVD she drops actually be one of the films from the collage in Untitled (14 films)? Has the black from the subtitled scene of Untitled (Persona) morphed into a shadow that follows the characters in Untitled (Shock Corridor)? Such speculations might linger in our minds as we travel through the four distinct filmic landscapes that Nervegna-Reed has run together, ignoring the conventions of titles or credits, so that we read the sequenced videos as a nuanced and layered totality.
Conscious of the gaps between seeing and understanding, Tommaso Nervegna-Reed is a multidisciplinary artist. With an ongoing interest in architecture and film, he creates propositional works that include video, sculpture, installation and works on paper. His work addresses a number of themes, including perception and the anti-climactic, and through erasure and deconstruction he obscures conventional narrative to create new meaning within artworks. Tommaso Nervegna-Reed is undertaking a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Monash University, Melbourne. Recent exhibitions include Loopholes, Intermission Gallery, Melbourne, 2018; Gertrude Street Projection Festival, Melbourne, 2017 and Everything that is outside of us, Prato, Italy, 2017.
Emma Nixon is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Art History and Curating at Monash University, Melbourne. She has just completed a collaborative writing component at Bus Projects in conjunction with the show ‘Being As Becoming’ curated by Freek Loome and Channon Goodwin. Nixon works as a volunteer at Daine Singer Gallery and is the Gallery Assistant at the MADA Gallery, Monash University. She recently curated her first show Text and Abstraction at Intermission Gallery, Melbourne.
Combining practices of sculpture and durational performance, Bridie Lunney acknowledges the body as a conduit between our emotional and psychological selves and the physical world. Her work suggests a reconfiguration of hierarchical relationships between architectural space, objects and the body. Upcoming projects include From Will to Form, Tarrawarra Biennale 2018. Recent projects include Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture, Federation Square, 2017, for which she was the recipient of the Professional Development Award. Lunney is a lecturer in Contemporary Practice at Monash Art Design and Architecture and in Sculpture and Spatial Practice at Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne University and is currently a PhD candidate at Monash University.
IMAGE: Tommaso Nervegna-Reed, Untitled (Shock Corridor), 2018, in Film Grammar, 2018, High Definition digital video, 16:9, no sound, 25:37min | Courtesy the artist