by Laura Elizabeth Barone
White Flag Projects, St. Louis, MO
September 8-October 22, 2011
Amy Granat’s films are the result of deliberate interaction with the object of the spectacle itself – the actual 16mm black and white film reels. A thirty-something native St. Louisan, Granat is known across the country and Europe for her experimental cutting, scratching, and manipulation of film to create painterly effects that translate poetically onto the screen. White Flag Projects presents a solid variety of Granat’s filmic work that engages with abstraction, narrative, and nature from the past decade.
Ghostrider, a silent 16mm black and white film transferred to DVD confronts viewers immediately as they walk into the gallery. On a large, floor-to-ceiling screen, the film, consisting of constantly moving and evolving black shapes on a white background, is a mesmerizing and classic example of Granat’s ability to simply and effectively use the medium of film, the moving picture. While trying to identify direct shapes or objects may be futile (a butterfly? Railroad tracks?), it is clear that the constant negotiation of positive and negative space using only black and white creates a hypnotic effect that is peaceful amidst the constant change.
Amy Granat, Still from Ghostrider, 2006, silent 16mm black and white film transferred to DVD. Courtesy White Flag Projects.
Amy Granat, Still from Felicia in Zurich, 2009, silent 16mm color film transferred to DVD. Courtesy White Flag Projects.
While Walking with Truffles, Painted Faces, Strip/Stripe, Faces, Driving West (2006-09), a film presented on a television on the ground recalls the kind of raw, dis-oriented ‘day in a life of’ style of legendary avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas, and Felicia in Zurich (2009-11) features a dancer in a way that parallels the movement, light, and sound that film gets its own power from, it was really Lines in the Sand (2010) that drew me in for a closer look. A two-channel projection, the black 16mm and white film, transferred to DVD shows a person with a stick drawing lines in the sand. No head or identifying features or shown, just the person’s arms, legs, and that stick, making simplistic designs in the sand. Yet, when one puts on the headphones that are provided, it changes the entire viewing experience. The music accompanying the film is a majestic, thrilling orchestra piece, full, luscious and resonating with accomplishment, all for this simple act. Yet that music points to something much bigger than the act being shown, but rather could be a celebration of actually doing, actually creating. In a world full of talk, predictions, and statistics, I think that Lines in the Sand playfully commemorates the act of being alive and human and recognizing that such an existence should include action and experimentation.
Amy Granat, Still from Lines in the Sand, 2009, two channel projection, black and white 16mm film with sound, transferred to DVD. Courtesy White Flag Projects.Finally, upstairs in White Flag’s library space is a treat: four 16mm projectors are set up in front of a wall, along with a motion sensor, that displays beautiful, naturalistic images of waves in El Matador (X5) (2010). Viewers can hear and see the film going in and out of the projectors, creating a nostalgic feel, and a desire to reach out and touch the projected color images, slightly moving and undulating, like breathing postcards you want to take home with you and collect.
At once breaking all the rules and staying true to her medium, it is truly a privilege to have a good-sized exhibition of Granat’s work come to her hometown, presenting film in radical and classic ways in a place that provides ample space to spend some time with it.
“Amy Granat” continues through October 22, 2011. White Flag Projects is located at 4568 Manchester Avenue, St. Louis, MO. 314/531-3442. The Gallery is free & open to the public Tuesday–Saturday, 12-5 p.m.
Laura Barone is currently completing her Master's Degree in Art History with a focus on contemporary photography. She recently served as a Curatorial Intern at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis. For comments or inquiries, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.